MOUNTAIN WINEMAKING: Winemaking

La Jota's estate grapes inherently show such great concentration of fruit character that I never worry about developing flavors; my main job as a mountain winemaker is tannin management. Throughout winemaking—harvest, fermentation and oak aging—I gently control the tannins while allowing full flavor expression of our mountain terroir.
- Chris Carpenter, Winemaker

Harvest

The complexity within our 28-acre vineyard estate requires row-by-row evaluation of grape maturity. We walk the vineyards and taste the grapes constantly until full flavor, tannin development, and the right "crunch" of the ripened grape seeds tell us it's time to start handpicking. The grapes are harvested into 30-pound boxes and then hand-sorted before gentle destemming and light crush.

Fermentation

Still cold from the night, grapes begin a three to four day period of pre-fermentation maceration (cold soaking). This gently extracts flavors, color and tannins from the skins. After we inoculate the must with our favorite yeast, fermentation begins. We keep individual vineyard blocks separate in small stainless steel tanks for quality evaluation, and after the wine has fermented dry, our winemaker may extend maceration for a total of eight to ten days of skin contact. Following gentle pressing in an enclosed membrane press, the wine is transferred to barrels for malolactic fermentation and aging.

Oak Aging

We conduct in-barrel malolactic fermentation for better oak integration, as well as to soften acidity. This results in less pronounced oak vanilla in the wine and the seamless integration of oak spice and fruit character. During approximately 22 months of barrel aging in our caves, we hand-rack the wine five times to increase clarity, enhance flavor development and further soften the tannins. We carefully select the type of French oak, level of toast and age of the barrel that will impart the oak influences that enhance each wine's finest expression. We keep all the vineyard lots separate until July of the second year the wines are in barrel, and then we begin composing the blend for each wine.

Finally, we bottle our wines without fining or filtration.