Welcome to WineSmith Consulting, a California based wine production consulting, service and equipment provider to support innovative winemaking techniques to the professional oenological community throughout the world.
Our philosophy is diagrammed as "PostModern Winemaking". It is based on the principles developed by Patrick DuCournau of OenoDev, S.A.R.L. of Madiran, France for building wine structure through the use of Micro-Oxygenation in concert with a sophisticated understanding of the application of oak and lees. To this traditional set of tools we have added ultrafiltration as a phenolic management tool. These techniques taken together are sometimes referred to as "élevage."
Proper élevage work requires new wines rich in flavor, color and tannin. Whether ones goal is that the wine be rich and generous for current consumption or distinctive and long-lived, one will always wish to work with grapes of optimum ripeness. Grapes are often intentionally picked too early, and WineSmith Consulting uses flavor-proof membranes (sometimes called "reverse osmosis") to free the winegrower to harvest at the peak of quality despite these hazards.
The threat of incessant rain can be countered if the winery possesses juice concentration capability. Sunny regions often obtain elevated sugar levels at full maturity, and can benefit from alcohol adjustment. Because ripe grapes are designed to attract birds, occasional Lactobacillus infections on damaged fruit can lead to volatile acidity formation during fermentation of otherwise high quality grapes. Acetic acid and ethyl acetate (together known as "V.A.") can be effectively reduced by a filtration process for which WineSmith Consulting holds worldwide patent rights.
We consider the distinction between viticulture and enology to be a sad and foolish invention of 20th century academia. An integrated approach to winegrowing starts in the winter before vintage with consideration of winemaking goals followed by a vineyard inventory and plan. In our system, Vineyard Enology tracks grape parameters which relate to wine composition, quality and health. These include nitrogen status (best assessed at bloom), water status, soil microbiology, and phenolic maturity assessment.
Optimum winegrowing requires a trained winegrower to monitor the vineyard constantly throughout the season. Vine balance, crop condition, insect and fungal pressures and many other parameters must be considered within the context of the particular site conditions and the desired wine being grown. Water status is a critical parameter in achieving natural balance, disease resistance and optimum quality, and in many California sites we are able to practice Regulated Deficit Irrigation to enhance vine balance and crop quality. We favor leaf water potential to assess directly the vine's water tension, and make irrigation recommendations based on evapo-transpiratory modeling.
The essential element in Vineyard Enology is not knowledge. It is the willingness to show up and do the work!
Careful Vineyard Enology enhances the richness and distinctiveness of musts, thus increases the potential for extraction during fermentation and more effective subsequent élevage. Our philosophy resembles a "winemaking cuisine," which combines the sourcing of high quality starting material with special skills and tools in preparation and preservation based on an understanding of what is pleasing. Our goal is sometimes wine which is rich and generous for current enjoyment, and other times seeks to accentuate distinctiveness and vitality in wines for the cellar.
Enologists have recently learned (or, more probably, re-learned) that wine has a texture caused by its macromolecular structure. It is more than just a simple chemical solution of dissolved molecular substances migrating through it at random. It's less like Kool-aid or Tang; more like chocolate or milk. This structure not only allows a rich, fine texture, but also can act as a buffer for volatile flavors, functioning to integrate the wine's flavors and aromas in a fashion similar to a reduction sauce or chocolate.
Elevage practices succeed best when we are close to the wine. WineSmith Consulting personnel make dozens of visits yearly to manage the careful development of our clients' wines.
I.B.M. is Integrated Brettanomyces Management. We advocate the creation of a post-fermentation "nutrient desert" which helps us control microbial activity during ageing. This is aided by musts of good nutrition which can ferment completely, leaving low levels of micro-nutrients and off aroma precursors. Should infections occur, we are bringing to the U.S. the French techniques of High Temperature-Short Time flash pasteurization and the Thales barrel cleaning / microwave system to combat Brett epidemics.
When wine is near ready for bottling, we find its harmony and balance can often be enhanced by minute adjustments in alcohol content. We run sensory trials we call "Sweet Spot Trials" to determine if quality can be substantially enhanced by this method.
Once we have created a structure in the wine, then we will want to avoid sterile filtration and chill-proofing, practices which stabilize the wine for bottling, but also rob structure. WineSmith Consulting is in the process of developing a suite of alternative stabilization tools which respect the wine's true nature.