What's Old is New Again


As our estate-vineyard Rhône varietal program has developed over the years, we’ve become increasingly passionate about purity of expression in the wines that we produce. To that end, several years ago we began a process of employing more neutral vessels into our aging regime. This started with a greater use of neutral oak barrels and implementation of French oak puncheons (larger barrels), further expanding with the use of terracotta clay amphorae and concrete.

Neutral oak and puncheons have played a pivotal role in enhancing the fruit expression and elegance of our Grenache. We believe that it expresses the pure red berry fruit and delicate savory aromatics shown from our vineyard. The surface ratio in small (228L) neutral French oak barrels allows for an ideal amount of oxygen ingress into the wines, enhancing texture and mouthfeel without the flavor influence of new wood. French oak puncheons are larger barrels (500L), so even when new the larger surface ratio tempers the influence of the wood on flavor.

In 2014, we secured a 500L imported terracotta clay amphora from Tuscany as an aging vessel for Syrah. It’s our belief that the porous surface of unlined clay, its origins of earth and soil, and the high surface ratio would be a compelling influence on our wines. After fermenting Syrah from our newly-planted Mesa C3 Block (ungrafted Estrella clone adjacent to Black Bear Block), we racked a portion into the clay for aging. Excited about the traditional Syrah notes of brambly dark fruit and savory depth, we bottled our 2014 Amphora Syrah. Our newly-released 2015 vintage of Amphora Syrah spent a longer time, 22 months, in the amphora, and was recently awarded 93+ points by Antonio Galloni. In 2016 we secured a second clay amphora, this one 800L, and have further developed our amphorae aging program by aging top lots of Grenache and Mourvèdrè for our Recusant-Amphora. Recusant is a blend of our top Grenache and Mourvèdrè, with separate bottlings from aging in amphora, concrete tanks, and neutral French oak. 2016 is the inaugural vintage, with a 2019 release scheduled for Recusant 3-packs (1 each, aged in Amphora, Concrete, and Neutral Oak respectively).

2016 saw the debut of two 1056 gallon “Eiffel” shaped Nico Vela tanks from Italy, whose shape and colors have earned them our nickname of “Los Elefantes.” For us, the slow micro-oxygenation from unlined concrete, with its porous texture and large surface area allows for a wine showcasing classic red & blue fruits, savory herb & floral depth, and mineral notes – especially with Grenache and Mourvèdrè. We’ve showcased this with the 2016 Recusant-Concrete bottling, as well as in our new 2016 Inceptive Red Blend. Inceptive is a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdrè, and Grenache aged in a combination of concrete and neutral oak barrels, succinctly expressing our mission to grow and produce honest, compelling and profound expressions of Rhône-varietals from our estate vineyard.

In the world of wine, what’s old is often new again. We’re continuing to innovate with old-world techniques in the cellar and are excited for you to try the wines!

-- Matt Mauldin | WSET Advanced | Wholesale Sales Manager