At Petroni, our winemaking philosophy is to craft elegant wines of Italian and Bordeaux varietal wines with an expressive sense of place.
Each bottle speaks directly to the unique AVA of Moon Mountain from which the fruit is from – volcanic soil, foggy mornings and warm, sun-drenched afternoons, much like those of Tuscany. Grown organically, we leave Mother Nature to do a majority of our farming, while we remain stewards of the land, guiding the process from vineyards to glass. Moon Mountain District, as part of the Mayacamas Mountain range that encompasses Napa and Sonoma, has a rich history in California wine production. Adjacent vineyards include the famous Monti Rosso vineyard that created a number of firsts in the history of wine production, and lies immediately to the east of Petroni. Red mineral rich soils from volcanic activity lie between the rocks and boulders providing a unique quality to the wines. The result is rich and flavorsome fruit while always retaining an elegance difficult to find on the valley floor. The elevation sits the vineyard above the fog line allowing for high sunshine hours while retaining the pleasing acidity, helped also by the access to the cooling afternoon breezes that come from San Pablo Bay.
Each fall, grapes are hand-harvested in small batches
during the cool early morning hours, then gently crushed and de-stemmed at the winery. We employ classic winemaking techniques for all of our estate wines, including sur lie aging prior to racking to enhance complexity and depth, and barrel aging in French oak for overall balance in the final blend. The most important decision our winemaker, Martin Mackenzie, makes in the course of the season is when to pick, using his vast experience and the knowledge garnered from more than a decade farming the property to make his decisions. Each varietal is picked with the style and characteristics desired in mind. While grapes are tested for pH, acidity and sugar levels, decisions invariably come down to the flavors, tannin ripeness and condition of the fruit; all things that hinge on the abilities of the winemaker’s experience and palate.
Forgoing the latest technological tools to sort fruit berry by berry, believing that this lends itself to the homogenization of wine found these days, Petroni utilizes basic but gentle equipment for processing the fruit. The goal is to produce wines that truly represent the best aspects of the land rather than attempting to make the same style of wine as everybody else. Why source from a unique property just to make something that is no different than any other property? Bunch selection takes place on the slow moving conveyor that feeds a classic destemmer with optional crusher. The destemmer does have custom made plastic cages with specific hole sizes allowing for different sized berries. The plastic is far more gentle than steel which has a tendency to shear the fruit and strip the stalks.
Fermentation occurs in small vats according to the volume of fruit coming in or the volume that suits the target of production for any given wine. Sometimes we split lots and ferment the identical fruit separately using differing methods or yeasts. This is for the purpose for research or to make two wines from the same fruit in contrasting styles, for two different finished wines. We monitor ferments very closely with a great deal of attention to detail. Fermentation procedures vary between lots according to the stylistic goal of each batch. The fermentation discussed above are the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of winemaking and gives the winemaker the greatest opportunity to impart his or her style.
Following fermentation the wine is pressed from the skins either near the end of fermentation or up to 40 days after the completion of fermentation. Once again this is dependent on the style desired. Press decisions also need to take into account the vagaries of the season; how much tannin each batch has, the quality of the tannin and the fruit as a whole. An example might be that our Franc is more easily over-extracted while we are also looking for a softer palate than other wines. In contrast we generally keep Sangiovese on skins for four weeks, despite the low color content. Part of the reason for this is the much longer cellaring time for our Sangiovese, the long life we desire it to have in bottle but also that Lorenzo Petroni craved the “biblical fermentation”; forty days and forty nights. While not really a scientific process it nevertheless represents a unique attribute that makes Petroni wines unique from the rest.
Ultimately we seek to create wines that respect the unique environment for where they came.
While astutely adjusting the vintage to hit the balance required, acid, tannin and alcohol we aim to maintain the desired flavor and structure of the land. To quote a mentor of mine, we are farming for flavors.