We have enormous respect for our growers; each is a conscientious guardian of some of the best vineyards in Washington's Columbia Valley.
By working closely with them throughout the year the vineyards yield the grapes we want, the way we want. Low yields (between 2 and 3.5 tons/acre depending on the variety and vineyard) and sound viticultural practices assure us of concentrated, complex fruit.
Our grapes come from specific vines, in designated rows of our selected vineyards. Each individual lot is between one and three tons each and we end up with about 55 cases of finished wine from a ton of grapes.
We've had one way of making wine since that first vintage, 1997: keep it small, keep it simple and keep it focused. In our first vintage we produced about 150 cases total; and we leveled out at 3500 cases a few years ago. We've limited ourselves to a quantity we can watch over, in the vineyard and the cellar.
By working with selected, dedicated grape growers and employing methods that we believe craft superior wine, we hope to create wines of individual character, a blend of richness, balance and pleasure. Our winemaking focuses on the purity of the individual varieties and the vineyards they come from. We do those things that a small winery has the luxury of doing: we know every barrel.
Bob makes the wines here. His pursuit started in the early 1970's when he and Cathy criss-crossed European vineyards to better understand the why and how of crafting fine wine. His philosophy today is pretty simple: focus on what the vineyards have provided. Start with the highest quality fruit you can, treat it vigorously when necessary, gently most of the time, and stay out of its way but watch it closely. Allow the wines to develop slowly, and make sure they provide pleasure.
Bob holds the degree of Master of Wine (MW), a designation awarded by the Institute of Masters of Wine in London. With a pass rate of about 12% it's a grueling process that's well worth the effort. The Institute of Masters of Wine promotes excellence and achievement in the wine industry. Candidates for the MW are required to pass the most rigorous testing in the wine industry which includes written theory and tasting exams. A graduate thesis on a specific winemaking topic must also be completed: Bob's focus was on the interaction of wine and barrels during the maturation process. In completing the exams Bob was given two additional awards: the Villa Maria Award, for the highest scores on the viticultural exam, and the Robert Mondavi Award, for the highest overall scores in all theory exams. We designed the winery to reinforce our winemaking priorities: barrels stored underground at a constant cool temperature, ceilings are high to accommodate our gravity flow techniques, concrete and metal materials used for efficient sanitation, floor drains set in the right place, plenty of space to move equipment around.