Above all, the driving force here at Angeline Winery is the dedication to providing peerless quality, which consistently over-delivers on our everyday wines. Great care is taken in every step in the winemaking process, from the source of our fruit, clear through bottling, to ensure our customers are receiving nothing short of the best. The adage is that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. But come on, it’s a little bit about the destination. No one wants to talk about the journey when your destination was Vegas, and you wound up broken down twenty miles outside of Barstow. It is in that approach that we strive to deliver to our customers wines that stay true to their varietal in the highest of standards. Our favorite compliments about our wines are generally the ones that start with “This is great! I love your guys’ wine. It actually tastes like Pinot.”
Although it sounds cliché, it is not untrue that great wines start in the vineyard. And it is in this sentiment, that we consider ourselves lucky. Not only is our home in the center of the Russian River Valley (one of the most highly acclaimed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir regions in the world), but outside of that, we are given the opportunity to source our grapes from throughout the coastal regions of the state. This allows us to exploit the qualities of countless micro-climates, each individually suited to different varieties and styles. From the southern portion of the state, in the coastal gaps of Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles, to the warm, sunny, inland valleys of Northern Mendocino, we hand-select the best and most unique of what each region has to offer.
A lot of time, effort, and careful consideration goes into every step of production from the moment the grapes are culled from the vine. Our vineyard lots are hand-picked into bins and delivered to the winery, where white grapes are sent to our state-of-the-art Willmes press as whole clusters, and red grapes are destemmed, without being crushed, directly to the chilled tanks they will be fermented in.
Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay juice is cold settled for two days at low temperatures to settle out potentially bitter solids. Sauvignon Blanc is then racked to other stainless steel tanks, where single vineyards will often be separated so as to utilize different yeast strains that all contribute and accentuate either flavor, mouthfeel, or bright aromatics. Primary fermentation of our Sauvignon Blanc can often take up to a month at low temperatures, and is stopped immediately upon reaching dryness in order to fully maintain its natural bright acidity and tropical aromas. Chardonnay, on the other hand, is inoculated then racked to barrels, where it will spend the entirety of its primary and malolactic fermentations. During these months, the barrels are stirred twice a month to maximize lees contact with the wine which creates a plush, silky mouthfeel.
As with all our wines, but particularly our Pinot Noir, the point is to let the fruit do all the talking. Longer fermentations at low to moderate temperatures, maintained with gentle overhead sprinklers, allow us to promote this from the very start. When primary fermentation is finished, the wine is allowed to sit on the skins for a few short days before being separately drained to one tank and pressed to another, to keep the drain juice free from bitter compounds. The lots are then barreled down to undergo malo-lactic fermentation, where they will stay until final blending and bottling.
The key with our heavier reds, our Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, is extended skin contact to tame tannins and soften mouthfeel. As with our Pinot Noir, the grapes are only destemmed without crushing in order to keep the skins and seeds intact and minimize the extraction of bitter compounds. Thanks to our sources in Napa Valley and Paso Robles, these varietals are naturally fruit-forward, so warm fermentations and extended maceration are utilized for body and approachability. As with our Pinots, the press cuts on these wines are kept separate, and the wine is barreled down to complete malolactic fermentation, and beyond that, many months of aging.
Although there are many wineries that are known for utilizing a single cooper or barrel type, we find that it does us no favors to paint all of our wines with the same brush. Every vintage we evaluate each lot, from our Chardonnay to our Cabernet, and select only the barrels that aid us in playing to each wine's strengths. A barrel type that may be too burly for our Cabernet might be perfect for our big, brooding Merlot. Likewise, we tend to favor lower impact French oak for our Pinot Noirs, so as not to mask its natural aromas and flavors, but support them. Our Chardonnay sees a healthy amount of new French oak each year, but again, we select each barrel for the purpose of integration; not to make each Chardonnay lot uniformly taste like toasted vanilla.
Every vintage is another opportunity for us to build upon the previous year, and improve the quality of our wines through new techniques, new equipment, and just being open to different points of view, without straying from our mission to let the character of the wines speak for themselves.