We are building on a bedrock of limestone (basically an accumulator of time). Limestone is time and weather made into soil, and giving birth to life again in our time.
The vast diurnal temperature swings of Westside Paso's Adelaida District allow us to maintain in the grape, and therefore in the wines, a natural freshness and acidity. In Paso, we bypass the eternal dilemma of California winemaking which is the loss of acidity and the need to add it back into the wine. Paso’s wild temperature variations are what make possible the marriage of power and agility in a wine.
With a foundation of limestone, building blocks of heat and cold, the way we place our personal imprimatur on Paso wine is by allowing low yields to liberate the vineyard from the yoke of fruit-only expression.
The vine once liberated from half its normal fruit load, finds within itself the resources and ability to express its sense of place (terroir). The wines acquire character and interest. Even a neophyte to Paso will taste and say there’s something special here.
The limestone, the temperature swings, the low yields are the main tools. Once these are applied to the beautiful Westside Paso vineyards, the only thing remaining is sweating the small stuff: careful everyday tending of the canopy, achieving balance in the water and nutritional needs of the plant, paying attention to the solar exposure of the fruit, and recognizing that each year is different, and needs a fresh approach, or at least new variant of the proven techniques.
Wine is 90% vineyard, 8% mistake avoidance in the winery, and 2% inspiration by the winemaking team.
What we describe above is therefore 98% of the wine.
What is mistake avoidance? Once you have quality grapes, we believe less is more.
We do not cold soak because we have expressive grapes. We do not correct acidities because the vineyard gives great acidities. We do not need extended skin contact after fermentation to polymerize our tannin structure because our canopy management and leafing of the bunches creates fine-grained and mature tannins on the vine. We do not need to limit our fermentation temperatures because the low yields of our vines provide a lot of “stuffing” in the grapes to be delivered that we like to transmit into the wines.
We do not buy grapes. We consider buying of grapes as a passive position – a receiving attitude. Instead, we partner with growers that share a vision of wine and who show a curiosity to find the limits of their own vineyards - to push the envelope of vine expression. These growers farm to jointly planned strategies.
We admire our growers for being willing to put up with our obsessive compulsive disorder. Maybe they do so because they sense in us a love for their vineyards almost as great as their own.
We walk those vineyards throughout the year, sometimes for no other reason than the pleasure of being there. We believe that when the moment comes in the winery to make that 2% leap of intuition, it can only be done right when the winemaker’s soul is fed of the living memories of that vineyard block. We cannot explain how this works. But we can say that if we did not know the vineyards in & out, we would not be able to make the best choices for the wine.
Our blends ask us for an early integration. Blending is like a Lego set, where the instinct (or craving) to assemble is irresistible. Blending components when they are conceived as such in the vineyard transmit to the winemaker a need for completion. We feel almost an urgency to blend, because both in palate and in nose, while tasting each of the components, the place where the other fits is obvious.
Sometimes the need for a companion shows up early on in the life of the grape. In those cases, if possible, we like to co-ferment the different varieties. Co-fermentation means losing the ability to fine tune and means losing information on each of the varieties. The gains are the early integration, the melding, and the alloying of the varietals rather than cold welding of pieces.