Modus Operandi Cellars
We produce wines that make people happy and proud to be a part of. We have dedicated our life to the pursuit of making great wine. Our mission is to produce wines that make people happy and proud to be a part of.
Located in the heart of Napa, California
- Producing wines that make people happy and proud to be a part of.
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You know, wine is one of those things that to many people, can incite a tremendous amount of feelings and emotions. Wine is enchanting and mysterious, gives joy, confuses, and inspires. In many cases, these complexities lead to a love which leads to a strong passion for wine. For me it lead to Modus Operandi Cellars.
Practices & Techniques
Determining when to harvest is, stylistically, one of the most important decisions a winemaker has to make. In the past, harvest day was determined by the numbers alone... brix, pH, TA. Nowadays, winemakers tend to rely more so on taste, focusing on ripeness and phenolic maturity. I use both taste and numbers, and I know what I want. The style desired is big, ripe, and Californian because that's what I like and that's what the weather gives us here. I look for flavor, brown seeds, ripe tannins, and slightly flaccid grapes.
When harvesting the grapes I think back to what I know about Chateau d’Yquem in Sauternes. Their harvest crew will go through the vineyards and selectively pick the individual berries that match their criteria so as to only work with grapes that are truly perfect for their wine. By purchasing fruit by the acre I am able to hold myself to similar (although not quite so specific as individual grapes) standards in that I initially only harvest grapes that are fit for my baby to eat. Sorting starts in the vineyard and is continued in the winery. I use stackable, ventilated harvest bins to avoid prematurely crushed grapes. This ensues the freshness and initial health of my fruit.
Small lot fermentations:
As a boutique wine producer, my tonnage is always small thus my fermentations are conducted in one ton bins and barrels converted for fermentation. 100% of the Cabernet Sauvignon is fermented in 100% new French oak barrels. This gives color stability, early oak integration, and a beautiful texture. I feel that this is much more intimate and I can get a real feel for the fermentation, barrel by barrel.
After the fruit is sorted in the vineyard during picking, the whole clusters are sorted pre-destemming to remove damaged or rotten clusters that may of snuck in, then, after being destemmed, the berries are sorted on a REDICULOUS 30 feet of sorting table where a mob of 16 people (the average winery has 5 to 6 people, max) ensure that absolutely nothing but perfect whole berries make it to the fermenter.
Extended maceration or not?
At the completion of alcoholic fermentation the wines are tasted and evaluated for tannin abrasiveness. Although tannins are a necessity for the aging potential and also varietal character of Cabernet Sauvignon, tannins which are too abrasive are off putting and pull the attention away from the other beautiful subtleties of the wine and ultimately throwing the wine off balance. Extended maceration allows the young, short chain tannin molecules to bind together forming softer, more polished, long chain molecules, therefore becoming a delightful subtlety themselves. Maceration times are based on daily tastings, and can last from 10 to 30 days, or even longer.
All of my reds undergo malolactic fermentation (the secondary fermentation which changes the more sharp and tart malic acid, to the softer lactic acid). Weekly lees stirring encourage ML activity while also assisting in autolysis, or the breaking down of yeast cells which effects mouth feel giving the wine a more luscious texture.
Aging and matching fruit to oak:
Different wines age at different rates, again, every wine is different and my focus when it is time to put the wine to rest in barrels is on the amount of fruit and color extraction the wine is showing. The more powerful the fruit, the more powerful the oak and vice versa. Eighteen months is my minimum requirement for aging. I have no maximum... at this and all points, it is a question of taste.
Blending is most often the final process before bottling. All wines are fermented separately, whether they are from different vineyard appellations, different blocks within a vineyard, different clones, different varieties, or even different soil variations within a vineyard. Most often, the wines will have specific, noticeable personality differences within weeks of completing fermentation.
One of the greatest talents a winemaker can have is that of blending to achieve a desired style. For complexity and a true sense of Napa Valley, my plan is to blend from several different vineyards with specific clonal selections. Certain clones for their generous fruit, power, and fleshy mouth feel, and others for their elegance, perfume, and silky texture. The end goal is to create a wine that speaks to Napa Valley as a whole, while still providing a nice balance of power and grace.
Estate Vineyards / AVA
CABERNET SAUVIGNON, COOMBSVILLE
The Rocca Collinetta Vineyard is located in the Coombsville area of Napa. Collinetta is Italian for “little hill,” and reflects the small knoll rising from the center of the property, which gives the vines a 360-degree orientation to the sun. The climate here is cooler than the areas of northern Napa, but its sun-drenched hillside exposure and shallow, rocky soil make it well-suited to growing Bordeaux varieties. Other vineyards in the area are Meteor Vineyard, Ghost Horse, and Caldwell Vineyards.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON, ST. HELENA
Rockledge was planted in 1993 by Jim Barbour. Cabernet sauvignon clone 7 (budwood from the Grace Family and Sycamore vineyards) was field grafted to 3309 rootstock at 10 x 5 spacing. The site is in a part of the St. Helena AVA located in the hillsides above the Silverado Trail. Other vineyards in this area, from north to south, include D.R. Stephens, one of the Bond vineyards, Snowden, and Sloan. The vineyard is on a sloping bench 500 feet above the valley floor with rocky clay loam soils.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON, OAK KNOLL
A vineyard that i had originally passed on buying grapes from... until I helped the vineyard owner make his wine and realized how awesome the fruit was, the Ideology Vineyard in the Oak Knoll region of Napa Valley has been one of my favorite vineyards to work with for the past few years. Its resilient to the point of pure amazement. Powerful and richly structured with darkness and an underbelly of elegance that together, makes this wine as complex as they come.
MERLOT, OAK KNOLL
The vineyard is located in the Oak Knoll Appellation of the Napa Valley which is known for it's slightly cooler climate and clay soils. This environment produces ultra-premium Merlot and Syrah used in some of Napa Valley's most sought after wines. The Boyd's sell over 95% of their grapes to other premium wineries and also produce very limited quantities of ultra-premium wine themselves. These wines are produced using only the best materials and practices in search of creating wines that reflect a full bodied style that express the best attributes of the land. This is classic Merlot... very lush, round, and polished.
CABERNET FRANC, ST. HELENA
The Crocker Vineyard is located on a 50 acre site just south of the town of St. Helena. Due to the well established vines and deep roots, the Cab franc is completely dry farmed. Soils Diva Pam Starr and Viticulture Guru Pete Richman tend these vines to perfection. This vineyard produces powerful wine bursting with baked blueberries and cinnamon spice aromas.
PETITE SIRAH, SIERRA FOOTHILLS
The Naggier Vineyard is located on a 160 acre site with ideal wine grape growing conditions in the Sierra Foothills between Auburn and Grass Valley. The 160 acre site sits on a large knoll with gentle hillside slopes providing good breezes and air circulation while at the same time reasonable hillside tractor access conditions. The site sits at 1300 ft elevation in an open valley with most of the hillsides facing east, south and south west. The site provides for warm days with cooling afternoon breezes and 30F cooler nights. The resulting wine is quite remarkable... literally (almost) black in color with aromas of violets, sandalwood, and sage, the wine is remarkable in its smoothness which is a pleasant surprise when tasting a variety that can easily be overly tannic and hard.
SAUVIGNON BLANC, RUTHERFORD
The Dalla Gaspirina Vineyard is located on Galleron Lane in Rutherford and is my source of some of the valleys best, organically grown sauvignon blanc. The wines created from this vineyard are crafted equally in the vineyard thru careful attention to canopy management, crop levels, and harvest decision, and in the winery where multiple fermentations are created from a single vineyard site. These combined efforts create a complexity, richness, balance, and a freshness that inspires the next sip. Described as having the perfect balance between the two styles of both New Zealand and Napa Valley, this wine will compete with the most elite wines in its category.