Less is More
We shepherd the uniqueness of each site from vineyard to bottle with as little adulteration as possible. Clusters for REX Hill are handpicked and promptly delivered to the winery to preserve freshness. At the winery, gravity gently moves the clusters to the sorting line where they are examined by hand and rejected or passed to the next step. Sorting is critical so that only the best grapes become REX HILL wine.
As Certified Biodynamic farmers, we have a strong preference for Biodynamic and organic fruit across the REX HILL program. While our wines are not Biodynamically certified (we don’t find the prescribed Biodynamic winery practices make the highest quality wines), we do find that the fruit from Biodynamically managed vines offer more intensity, purity and balance across vintages.
The next crucial decision is to destem or not. REX HILL uses a generous portion of whole clusters (0% to 100% with the average being around 25% – 30%) to give aromatic lift, added complexity, and great length to the wines. However, not every clone, block, or vineyard is suitable for whole cluster inclusion, so we assess each lot with care.
We use gravity to transfer the chosen clusters to small tanks. Using gravity as much as possible is important to prevent quality degradation through the shearing effect of moving grapes, juice, or wine through a pump. Once in tank, the grapes undergo a 7 to 14 day cold soak. This process is very important to the REX HILL style as it allows for an aqueous extraction that highlights the vineyard by extracting aromas, color, and flavor without harsh tannins. After the cold soak, the fermentation starts naturally.
Balance, Harmony, and Transparency
Fermentation and extraction decisions vary according to three guiding principles: balance, harmony, and transparency. This trinity sits at the center to guide all our decisions. In practice, we make winemaking decisions (punch down frequency, temperature, length of cuvaison, etc…) by using two tools- tasting and experience.
Once the wines are ready, we gently press and rack to small French oak barrels. Choice of cooper and barrel age is highly personal and lot dependent, but we generally use a blend of coopers and on average 40% new oak, with the oak in service to the aromas and flavors of the particular vineyard and not the other way around. After an appropriate time in barrel (12 – 18 months), the wine tells us it is ready to be bottled.
We hand-pick the fruit at optimal ripeness. This decision varies according to site, clone, vine-age, and season. We strive to make barrel-fermented Chardonnay with freshness and vitality with equal emphasis on aromatics, flavors, texture, and richness. The fruit is transported to the winery and whole cluster pressed to develop the truest expression of site.
Our Chardonnays typically reflect 25-30% new French oak and are aged on lees in barrel (or concrete egg) for 15 months. This extended ageing tempers the most obvious primary fruit characteristics and allow some secondary fruit characteristics to come to the fore, creating length and presence while adding layers on the palate.
As with our approach to REX HILL red-winemaking, we want the site to be most prominent while we also work to honestly reflect the vintage and keep the winemaking process in the background. Our philosophy is very simple – respect the vintage, vineyards and lots to achieve balance, harmony and transparency, knowing that less is more. We have no winemaking ‘recipe.’