The wine-making philosophy at Reverie starts with the grapes. It is a truism that you can only make great wine from great grapes. We work very hard at producing great grapes.
Unlike most large and many smaller wine producers, Reverie is an estate winery. We don’t purchase our grapes; we grow all of them here at Reverie. We also ferment, barrel, and bottle all our wines at the vineyard. A key factor to growing great grapes is consistency. Our full-time vineyard crew has been with Reverie for more than 12 years. This directly impacts our production, since our crew knows the vineyard intimately, including all of its idiosyncrasies. This is significant to the quality of our wines.
Reverie’s style is to make elegant wines which express the characteristics of the vineyard and varietal. By design, we avoided the trend to produce overly ripe, high alcohol, over-the-top, or over-oaked wines.
As the individual sections of grapes are ready for harvesting, our small crew picks them by hand, sorts them while they are high up on the hill, and loads them into half ton bins. Within minutes, the grapes are brought down to the winery where they are sorted again, put onto a conveyor which leads into the de-stemmer, then followed up by a final check for any remaining stems or leaves. We do not crush the grapes, as we aim for starting with whole berries; the result—softer tannins and fruitier flavors. Instead of pumping the de-stemmed grapes (called “must”) into the fermentation tanks, which would break the berries, we gently place the must into the tanks.
After the whole berries are in the tank, we typically do not start fermenting right away. Instead, we lower the temperature in the tanks to approximately 50 degrees and delay fermentation for 5-6 days. Although every lot is treated differently, we find that by giving the whole berries a “cold soak,” we achieve our desired softer, more velvety tannins. After the cold soak is complete, we slowly warm the tanks to about 80 degrees. Although it seems to be vintage related, about half of the tanks will start fermenting without the need to add commercial yeast, because of the indigenous yeast naturally found on grapes. If fermentation does not begin on its own, we will add commercial yeast selected to work best with that varietal. We then start our pump-over regime—with the use of a pump, we pull out a portion of the juice from the bottom of the tank and spray the juice over the “cap” at the top of the tank. This is done every few hours—around the clock. Pump-overs recirculate the wine and allow it to come in contact with the grape skins, thereby extracting flavors and colors. We taste the wine several times each day and check for residual sugars in order to modify the length of the pump-over and the temperature of the tank. When fermentation is complete and the wine is dry, meaning there is no residual sugar; we usually take the contents of the tank out and give it a very gentle press before it is put into barrels. On occasion, we press the wine before it is completely dry, and then continue the process, and sometimes we leave the wine in the tank for an extended period of time, which can soften the tannins.
We then transfer the wine to oak barrels. All of our barrels are made from French oak and produced by five carefully selected barrel makers, or “coopers.” We use a combination of 80% new and 20% second-use barrels for our Bordelaise varietals.
After the wine is in barrel, we add bacteria. This converts malic acid to lactic acid. This malolactic fermentation, or secondary fermentation, softens the wine and is done for virtually all red wines and many white wines. We do not do this for our Roussanne, and actually prevent it from happening, since one of the byproducts of malolactic fermentation is a buttery flavor. Periodically during the 18 months our wine is in barrel, we pump it back into the tanks so we can “rack” the barrels. We remove any dead yeast cells and solids that have precipitated from the wine, check the integrity of the barrels, and wash them before we return the wine to them.
Blending starts about 4-6 months after harvest and continues till bottling. We try various combinations of lots of the principal grape, and other varietals, that make the optimum blend for that wine. We do not filter any of our red wines.
As with most small wineries, we do not have our own bottling equipment. Reverie uses a mobile bottling company with a state-of-the art bottling line mounted inside a large truck. The truck arrives prior to the exact date so that everything can be calibrated and set to go. Normally, bottling takes 2 long days. Our typical production is between 2500-3000 cases a year.