There are two distinct styles of winemaking—terroir driven winemaking and fruit driven winemaking. Fruit driven winemaking requires high ripeness, lots of oak, and many additives. My style accentuates the voice of the site, the other accentuates purely the fruit flavors. In Chateauneuf du Pape’ and the road regions they refer to the two styles as traditional and modern. I prefer more traditional winemaking although reviewers prefer more modernly styled wines.
WRW wines were barrelled for 15 months. There are a lot of factors when it comes to barrel aging decisions. Some of those factors are: percentage of new oak, dryness of the wine, tannins, microbial stability, and varietal typicity. In general, I prefer bottling earlier and giving the wines more time in bottle to develop rather than risking that development in barrel. My winemaking style is one that emphasizes freshness and site specificity over sheer power and a high percentage of new oak. In general, my winemaking style does not benefit from more barrel age as I manage the wines during fermentation to already have silky tannins as well as using very little new oak. Napa Cabernet, Bordeaux's, Barolo, and Tempranillo typically are varietals that improve with substantial barrel aging when done in a very tannic and new oak driven style. The extra barrel age allows the wines to soften the enormous amount of tannins and still requires more bottle aging to open up. Rhone varietals and Bordeaux's that are executed in a less tannic style tend to only get less interesting with barrel aging. In general though, Paso fruit does not benefit from long barrel aging regimens. Our wines are very fruit driven with silky tannins from day one and very few producers around here exceed 18 months and I would say 14-16 months is most common. Extended barrel aging is also a risk with sites like Split Rock Vineyard as it naturally has relatively high pH’s. The higher pH means the wine has less microbial stability and therefore spoilage organisms have a better chance of taking hold in the wine versus sites in west Paso grown on limestone that have lower pH’s.
Ryan Pease, Winemaker
Steve and our Split Rock Vineyard crew are managing the vineyard to produce a very low per-acre grape yield. Vineyards can produce from 2 to 15 tons per acre, depending on many planning factors including row spacing and canopy management. Of course, each year mother nature produces her own set of variables and this greatly affects each vintage yield. Recognizing the potential of the vineyard for high-quality fruit, Steve is working closely with Ryan to shoot for a low yield of about 1.5-2 tons per acre. This will keep our quality very high and still produce about 10 tons on average per year. That’s about 500 cases or 6,000 bottles per year.
Grant Kirkpatrick, Proprietor