Why are JARVIS wines “Estate Grown?”
A common question from people touring the winery is , “Do you use only the grapes you grow on the property or do you also buy grapes?” The answer is that we use only the grapes which are grown on property. In fact, JARVIS is among the few wineries in California that does this. It is somewhat more common in Europe.
Estate is the recognized word in European Wine Law for wineries that grow their own grapes and make wine from those gapes. In France they are called Domaines and in Germany they are called Weinguts.
In the United States the term “Estate Grown” means that 100% of the wine must come from the winery’s own vineyards or those which the winery has control over; both the vineyard and the winery must be in the geographical area specified on the label; and the wine at no time during the wine making process can leave the premises of the winery. In California, wine bottling terminology can be confusing and sometimes even deceiving. For example: a wine with a Napa Valley appellation requires only 75% of its fruit to actually be grown in the Napa Valley. Many California wineries do not have their own vineyards, but instead contract with growers for all of their fruit. Finer larger wineries such as Niebaum Coppola Estate Winery (190 acres) and Sterling Vineyards(741 acres) do have vineyards, but due to their high quantity of production they must supplement their own supply with vineyard contracts and/or brokered juice.
Of course it is not a guarantee of quality, but many of the world’s most sought after wines are produced from estate grown vineyards. Some prime examples that you may recognize include the following Chateau Wineries: Le Pin (5 acres), Cheval Blanc (90 acres), and Petrus (29 acres).
Here at JARVIS we have 37 acres of vineyards planted on the property from which we make all of our wine. These 37 acres are broken down into 21 separate picking zones. Each picking zone receives individualized attention from our full-time vineyard crew under the direction of both myself and our winemaker Dimitri Tchelistcheff. This allows us to maintain zone-specific fertigation, pruning, leafing, hedging, bird-netting, and picking procedures. Each year we are able to adjust these procedures utilizing the knowledge we gained from the vineyard in the previous years.
Most importantly the careful monitoring of each vineyard zone allows us to pick each section of our vineyard at its optimum ripeness. This avoids the problem of picking large zones where some grapes are under ripe and others are over ripe. We even take the extra step of removing all green clusters and second crop clusters from the vines a week or so prior to harvesting so that only the ripe clusters on each vine are left to be picked. Our grapes are hand picked into small 30 pound lugs. We prefer these small picking lugs rather than a larger container to avoid crushing and premature oxygen exposure of the juice during picking and transportation. The full picking lugs are transported within 30 minutes to the cave. A quick trip as all of our vineyards are less than a mile from the cave. Upon arrival they immediately go into the processing phase, of pressing (for our Chardonnay) or de-stemming (for our red wines).
In the winery, each vineyard zone is fermented separately and barrel aged separately so that we are able to maintain the individual characteristics of each zone up to the final blending. When it comes time for blending Dimitri is able to select not only the varietal clone but more specifically the picking zone.
It takes a lot of work and expense to give such attention to our own vineyards but outstanding wines must first be made in the vineyards and that’s where our own fruit pays off.