Inspired by some of the experimentation in barrel size we had done with the red wines (see 2014 H3.4 and 2015 P5.5), we decided to tailor our fermentation vessel selection by varietal to enhance characteristics. Most specifically, we were interested in using vessels to enhance the reductive characters of Sauvignon Blanc. Our hypothesis was that using 500- and 600-liter puncheons as well as stainless steel drums for fermentation and aging would accentuate the flinty notes of Sauvignon Blanc.
At harvest, the Sauvignon Blanc from Carneros was whole cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel drums. The Sonoma Mountain Sauvignon Blanc was given two days of skin contact and then pressed into both a 500-liter and 600-liter puncheons for fermentation. These wines were tasted, and notes were taken through fermentation and up until blending in January.
After observing how larger aging vessels drove our red wines toward the reductive pathway in 2014 and 2015, we thought to increase that expression in our whites by increasing our fermentation volume or reducing the available oxygen. We were pleasantly surprised with how well this worked. Sauvignon Blanc can be an incredibly aromatic varietal and some subtle notes of reduction give it great depth and intrigue. This has now become our standard practice for Sauvignon Blanc and provides a roadmap for playing with other varietals.