Harvest came to our gorgeous sauvignon blanc vineyard at Caspar Estate on August 21st, 2020. As is usual, the fruit was hand-picked in the cool, early-morning hours, then quickly transported to Fayard Winemaking on the south end of Napa Valley, where our delicate fruit continued a journey that started nearly a hundred and forty years ago.
It was back in the 1880’s when Charles Wetmore, founder of Cresta Blanca Winery, brought the first Sauvignon Blanc vines to California from the Sauternes vineyards of Château d’Yquem. Though they were initially planted in the Livermore Valley, the new vintners of Napa quickly got their hands on the new vines, knowing that the soil and climate in their valley closely matched the conditions in Bordeaux, France. The Sauvignon Blanc vines at Caspar Estate – distant relatives of these first immigrants – have their “roots” in this Old World tradition.
Another way that we pay homage to the Old World ways is the method we use when our grapes first arrive at our winemaking facility. Under the supervision of winemaker Julien Fayard – himself a first-generation French immigrant – the grapes are sorted in whole clusters and sent directly to the press. This year, we picked 4.9 tons of grapes: a small number indeed, since we only plant one acre of sauvignon blanc on our estate.
The press only holds room for about four tons of grapes, so we fill the press, do a quick run, then fit the remaining grapes into the press. This extra “press” also extracts just the right amount of tannin from the skins – not enough to become part of the flavor profile, but enough to give the acid just a little kick, making the Caspar Estate Sauvignon Blanc an excellent complement to shellfish and light pastas.
“This wine practically makes itself,” says Fayard. “By closely tending to the vines throughout the growing season, we know that the fruit is going to be gorgeous when we harvest it. Beautiful wines depend on beautiful fruit.”
Originally from Provence, Julien Fayard is one of Napa Valley’s most respected winemakers, with a knack for producing California varietals with French finesse. Formerly of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, he brings two decades of winemaking expertise Caspar Estate’s Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fayard believes that the character of our Sauvignon Blanc, like the fruit grown in Bordeaux, is a result of terroir. “The citrus qualities come from the unique soils of our Estate, from its position above the Rutherford Bench. You cannot manufacture this. This is pure fruit expression.”
Once the juice is pressed, it’s placed in stainless steel tanks for its primary fermentation. Later, the wine will be transferred to French oak barrels, which gives the wine even more complex flavors. “We use oak to draw flavors out of the wine, not to draw flavors out of the oak,” says Fayard. More than anything, our oak treatment is designed to give the wine a round, balanced mouthfeel and a lush but clean finish.
2020 is shaping up to be another excellent vintage in Napa, with a cooler than normal summer despite the heat wave that hit right before the harvest. Our 2019 Caspar Estate Sauvignon Blanc – only our second bottling of this limited-availability wine – was released this month to rave reviews. If you’d like to be among the few who are allocated the 2020 vintage in early spring of next year, sign up on our Allocation List and we’ll let you know how.