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Stage Left Cellars Journal

EVENTS

THE LIST

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THE CLUB

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DEINVENTING THE WHEEL

Great fruit equals great wine. And while we're fans of new winemaking technology, for all intents and purposes, we're old school. That whole saying about 80% of a great wine is made in the vineyard? We tend to think it's more like 90%. Some think we say that to keep our winemaker's ego in check. No comment.

Everything at Stage Left is done by hand, in small lots. We hand-pick and hand-sort every last cluster of fruit, and only the best raw material makes it through to production. We don't use any beastly pumps or augers, either. It's extra work, but we eliminate excess handling. For the most part, we simply smooth things along so mother nature can do her thing. And then we try all kinds of crazy experiments on micro lots to see if we can outdo her.

WEIRD SCIENCE

We don't really bring alot to the table in this whole equation. Maybe a little science. OK, alot of science (you should see our trial plan every year - all our other winemaker friends think we're nuts). And a ton of passion. Then we taste a lot. As you can imagine, it's tough finding volunteers to help with this one.

TRICKERY & WITCHCRAFT

There's a ton of chatter about the evils of fining and filtration these days. And then there's the wild yeast versus commercial yeast thing, the use of enzymes, tannin additions... oh my! If you ask us, winemaking is full of choices. And those choices sometimes benefit from the use of the occasional voodoo tool.

So here's where we stand. As a general rule, we avoid fining and filtration wherever possible. Our winemaker tends to lightly fine his whites (he likes 'em clear), cringes at the thought of fining his reds (swears he hasn't had to do it), and in general REALLY dislikes filtration. But we try to avoid that whole "never" thing.

Stage Left's winemaking style is centered on experimentation. As a result, we try lots of new things. Sure, we've tried macerating enzymes. We definitely mix it up with commercial yeast. We've even run trials on tannins to gauge their anti-oxidative effects to lower the use of SO2. But not one of us inhaled. In the end, we still lean the old fashioned way. We're fortunate to have amazing vineyards and fruit that can allow us to limit our intervention. But we'll continue to push the limits of our knowledge. Why? Sometimes it's more important to know what not to do.

TO OAK OR NOT TO OAK

We like oak. But you can definitely have too much of a good thing. We use only the finest French, American, Russian and Hungarian barrels available. And we use them as a chef uses a spice rack - to add complexity, depth, and interest - not to make you feel like you're chewing on the leg of Aunt Freeda's coffee table.

For the record, some of our wines never see oak. We're actually big fans of the new breed of stainless steel barrels. Especially with our Viognier and Roussanne.

TERROIR

Ahh, terroir. We love the concept. In fact, some of our favorite juice is terroir-driven. But we want to make the best wines we can make, period. If that means blending, we blend. If that means a wine that singularly expresses its varietal, vineyard, and climate, then terroir it is.