Everybody talks about "leveraging the best vineyards, and carefully making their wines by hand with minimal intervention, in small lots, using the best French barrels." Guess what - that's true for most of us ultra-premium (yes, that means really good, and maybe expensive) Pinot Noir makers. But let's get into this a little more.
Best vineyards - there are a lot of great Pinot Noir vineyards in California (and Oregon, Washington), we are lucky on that front. There are fewer really GREAT vineyards, but still a bunch. So it comes down to a few things: can you get fruit from them, how many other vintners also do, and does the vineyard match your style and goals for winemaking? The last question I feel is the most important, so that you really can make unique wines that reflect your style and preferences. We try to create a bond and learning curve with our vineyards, though we're still in our early days with Russian River fruit vs. our years with Santa Lucia Highlands.
Hand-made with low impact methods - this too is common among the top-tier Pinot Noir winemakers, though styles and methods do vary. I have been fortunate enough to learn from such skilled Pinot Noir experts as Ed Kurtzman, Bill Brosseau, Brian Loring and Adam Lee. That said, it's really about picking great fruit, using common sense and best practices, and letting the vineyard's excellence show through - even with the "commonly believed" tough grape type of Pinot Noir.
What is low impact if you must ask? To us at Twin Oaks Cellars, and our many friends in the industry, it means careful timing on fruit picking, carefully managed and patient cold soaking of grapes to perfectly prep them for fermentation, and diligent but manual processes for primary fermentation, like multiple daily punch downs.
Finally, barrels. There are a multitude of barrels and barrel makers, and choices can be daunting. We know our vineyards, and which wood sources work best for each. Our favorites include Francois Freres (Allier forest) and Remond.
Net-net: we focus intensely on our fruit,
what makes it work well, and work hard to get it there. We're
small, so we can go the extra mile to take our great fruit the last
mile and make it into unique, special wines