The Manton Valley Viticultural Area boasts some of the best grape growing conditions in California. The vineyards in this area are capable of producing world-class wine grapes year after year and Cedar Crest in no exception.
The Grapes we grow:
- Cabernet Sauvignon clones; FPS 7 (Concannon), Entav 191 (French clone) FPS 31 (Heritage Disney/Silverado)
- Cabernet Franc clone FPS2
- Petite Sirah clone FPS3
- Viognier clone FPS2
Almost all our grapes are certified bud wood and certified rootstock selected to achieve the maximum quality from our specific site. Most are Foundation Plant Services from UC Davis.
Our vineyard is planted on 4 acres of rocky volcanic soils with southwest exposure. These soils are well drained and near perfect for growing fruit-forward concentrated wine grapes. We have an advantage over many other regions because of the long dry fall season that allows us to let the grapes reach their maximum potential every year. The downslope winds which blow across the vineyard quickly dry the plants after a rain so mildew is seldom a problem.
We at Cedar Crest are very proud of our vineyard practices. We believe in a vineyard philosophy that minimizes human impacts to the soils and ecosystem of the vineyard and rely on nature to provide protection against pests. Our philosophy starts at the ground level, we never till our soils, never use herbicides or pesticides of any kind and control weeds by mowing between the rows and planting beneficial ground cover. Harmful insects are controlled with a virtual army of beneficial insects and bird, in some years the populations of Preying Mantis numbers in the thousands. Fertilization is via drip irrigation using fish based fertilizers and through the practice of mowing and mulching. Additional nutrients are added by spreading the composted grapes from the previous year.
Vineyard management is very hands on with each an every plant being careful pruned and tended to on a continual basis throughout the growing season. We use a system known as VPS or vertical shoot positioning that allows us to maintain a balance between the amount of fruit and the amount of vegetative growth. This system is augmented throughout the year by thinning and leaving the canopy to ensure proper airflow and sunlight exposure. Sounds labor intensive and it is! We believe that great wine starts in the vineyard and do everything we can to grow the very best fruit possible.
We harvest our fruit at peak ripeness. We measure the fruit as it ripens several times per week, monitoring sugar levels, pH and acids, but most importantly, we taste and taste and taste. Grapes may appear to be “ripe” but only when we feel that the fruit flavors are concentrated do we make the decision to pick.
Our harvest techniques are another part of the process that we are very proud of. All of our fruit is hand picked and only the best fruit is selected, anything that is marginal and does not meet our rigorous standards is discarded. This means even ripeness in each bunch, no bird peck, no raisins or anything else that is out of the ordinary. Because of this selection about 10% of our fruit is discarded in the field.
Fruit is picked very early in the morning and immediately sent to the crusher in small lots of less than 35 pound, so the time between pick and crush is measured in minutes not hours. We believe this is the best way to bring out the attributes of our little vineyard. We might seem a little crazed at the extent we will go to in order to get the best out of our fruit, but we believe that attention to detail will be evident in the bottle for years to come.
Cedar Crest is a small lot winery, with the majority of our wines being produced in quantities of 150 cases or less. Our winemaking philosophy mirrors our vineyard practices in that we believe in using the best available techniques and materials to achieve the best possible end product. Do we always succeed? No, but we strive for continual improvement which is all anyone can really do.
Our winemaking starts on the crush pad minutes after the fruit is picked individual totes of 35 pounds or less are placed in the crusher/destemmer where the grapes are lightly crushed and the stems and MOG (material other than grapes) is removed. The result of this process is what is known as MUST a combination of juice, grape matter and seeds. The initial step is the same for both red and white wines.
Red wines are fermented on skins, this means that the MUST is inoculated with yeast and the entire mass is allowed to ferment. This first step is known as primary fermentation and takes anywhere from 7-12 days depending on temperatures and yeast strain. Primary fermentations generate heat so the MUST temperature might reach as high as 85F. Fermentation is monitored daily and the entire volume is stirred or “punched down” twice daily by hand. After primary fermentation has completed or slowed the MUST is allowed to undergo an extended maceration process that extracts additional color and tannin from the grape skins, this is also the time that we imitate a secondary fermentation known as malo-lactic which helps mellow the wine.
After extended maceration, usually 3 weeks or so after crush, the newly made wine is pressed off the skins and seeds. We use a press that gently extracts the majority of the juice, but that does not over press and release harsh tannins from the seeds or skins. This newly pressed juice is transferred into a tank for initial clarification. Once the new wine has clarified and most of the pulp and other matter has dropped to the bottom of the tank, the wine is then carefully racked on to oak for the aging process. Cedar Crest sources only the best oak available for a given wine, our philosophy is that oak should enhance the natural flavors of the wine and not overpower the pallet. Our red wines generally spend anywhere from 18-24 months on oak prior to bottling.
White wines are processed differently. We do not want to extract tannins from the grape skins or seeds but instead want to bring out the fruit notes and aromas. The newly crushed MUST is immediately pressed off into a stainless steel tank and allowed to settle out overnight. The clear juice that results from this initial clarification is then transferred into a temperature controlled fermentation tank and inoculated with yeast. The fermentation is controlled at approximately 42-52 F depending on the varietal and yeast used. Fermentation takes upwards of a month to complete. The made wine is then matured for 4-6 months utilizing a French process called “sur lee” which is a technique of stirring the dead yeast cells back into the wine to extract flavors and help stabilize the wine. After this maturation is completed the wine is racked off the yeast and undergoes a series of settling and clarification steps until it is virtually as clear as water. We measure the turbidity of all our wines very closely and only when they are perfectly clear and bright do we bottle. All of Cedar Crest wines are unfiltered including our white wines we believe that gravity and patience does a much better job and is easier on the wine.