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David Girard Vineyards

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Winemaking

At David Girard Vineyards, we are committed to producing terroir-driven wines of distinction, made in small batches with a focus on balance and complexity. We believe that the line between grapegrowing and winemaking is blurry at best, and we are proud to present our wines as an expression of our Estate Vineyard above all. 

The Process

Vineyard Foreman Eli Gonzalez, Harvest 2014
 

Our winemaking (in the strict sense!) begins each year in late summer with judicious harvesting of grapes. We make multiple passes through each vineyard block, taking our time and meticulously sorting out any clusters that don't appear to have ripened in step with the rest. It is not uncommon for one vineyard block to be harvested 6 or 7 different times.

We are a small operation, and a typical day during the "crush" season may see us bring in anywhere from a half to 6 tons of grapes (about 30 to 300-something cases in wine terms). Fermentations take place in small batches in wildly different vessels: some reds ferment in the very bin they were picked in after a foot-stomping, Grenache Blanc always seems to make its way into cement, and many of the whites have both a barrel (usually neutral French oak) and a stainless-steel tank component. In 2014, for example, we picked 50 tons of grapes but had 47 distinct fermentation lots; many wineries put that much into a single tank!

Gravity-filling the cement egg
with Grenache Blanc

Depending on the style, wine may age for as little as four months or as long as almost two years before being bottled. Coda Blanc and Rose, for example, are tank-fermented and aged only as long as it takes to settle them out before bottling. Malolactic fermentation is inhibited in these two wines in order to preserve their primary charcter and make them immediately enjoyable. On the other hand, our Reserve White Wine is blend of the best barrels each year, and these are typically aged from 11-15 months and undergo full malolactic fermentation while in barrel.
For red wines, we age in both standard 225L barrels as well as 500L puncheons, which provide a more gentle oxidation for oxygen-sensitive wines like Grenache. Each varietal is typically fermented and put to barrel separately, and our blends are assembled during the following Spring and Summer. Some wines, like Triptych, will be bottled immediately after blending, while Coda Rouge and any Reserve bottlings will be put back to barrel for further ageing. Though we make both blends and varietal-specific wines, almost all of the wines undergo some form of blending: whether of different grape varieties or of different fermentation lots based on pick date, vineyard block, etc. 

Syrah co-fermenting with Viognier

Throughout the winemaking process, our aim is to respect the tried-and-true, but always be open to experimentation and different ideas in search of wines that most truly express our vineyard. Often this means using techniques that are ancient, rather than vanguard! As mentioned, each batch is very small, and many are side-by-side experiments in different techniques. One bin of Grenache may be fermented with native yeasts, while its neighbor (picked on the same day) will have a cultured yeast which was isolated to express a certain attribute. We often will de-stem one fermentation of Mourvedre, but have a 100% whole-cluster bin right next to it. Over time, we can hone in on what tends to work for a particular vineyard block or grape variety, but this only buys us more time to try new ideas. One of the most exciting developments is a realization that a few of the white grapes do best when they are allowed to soak on their skins for a day or two. A portion of our Vermentino will undergo a full skin-contact fermentation, like a red wine.

Wines We Make

We produce both blended and varietal wines from Rhone varieties, as well as a Merlot-based Bordeaux blend and a rich, dry Rose made in an authentic Provencale style. More than 90% of our wine is Estate Bottled, and our offerings reflect what we have planted. Coda Blanc, our signature white, is a co-fermented field blend of all the white grapes we have planted: Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Vermentino. Coda Rouge, a southern-Rhone inspired red, is based on either Grenache or Mourvedre, and complemented by Syrah and Counoise. We offer varietal Syrah from the high-elevation Fenaughty vineyard in Camino, and an Estate Mourvedre and Grenache as well. Other varietals and a few blends are offered in smaller quantities and often available exclusively through our Wine Club.

Winemaker Grayson Hartley

Grayson began his career in Napa Valley in 2002, learning from such luminaries as Andy Erickson, Abe Schoener, and John Kongsgaard. Prior to that he had the great fortune to study at St. John's College in New Mexico, where he was inspired by alum Warren Winiarski, whom he met at a life-changing "career services" dinner his Senior year. He was the Assistant Winemaker at Schramsberg Vineyards in the mid 2000s, responsible for some of the first vintages of J. Davies, their estate Cabernet blend. After establishing himself as a winemaker shortly thereafter, he made a rare leap to the vineyard -- and the Foothills at the same time -- tending Bill Easton's organic estate of Rhone grapes at Terre Rouge. Grayson's work at David Girard Vineyards respresents the confluence of his aspirations as a vineyardist and winemaker.