Winemaking and Terroir
Stéphane Derenoncourt has a profound commitment to terroir, the French term that invokes the subtlety, artistry and mystery of deeply respectful vine-tending. Stéphane’s devotion to the interaction between site, soil and climate that gives a wine its defining character is the touchstone of his quest to find authenticity in each wine he makes. This quest always begins with singular vineyards, lovingly tended by skilled vineyard workers who share Stéphane’s passion for growing the purest fruit nature can offer. Stéphane seeks out parcels with ideal soil composition, ample sun exposure, high elevation and low yields. Uncompromising in his belief that he must be attentive to the land in order to make compelling wine, Stéphane spends countless hours among the vines becoming intimately familiar with each plot from which his grapes come. The result is intensely concentrated but delicately sophisticated fruit that reflects the soul of the vineyard.
After hand-sorting the harvested grapes with the utmost care, Stéphane employs only those vinification methods that ensure absolute respect for the fruit and do not interfere with nature’s ability to express itself. He believes that the more discrete the human influence, and the more pronounced the natural, the better. Stéphane thinks of the winemaking process as sculpting liquid – taking what nature provides and carefully shaping it into a pleasurable form that shows the inner beauty of the rough material. Accordingly, Stéphane adapts his winemaking to the demands of each vintage, using traditional techniques designed to preserve the grapes’ inherent freshness and elegance including slow whole-berry fermentation at cool temperatures and punch-down extraction.
Stéphane does not seek to imprint any particular “style” on his wines. Instead, by harvesting the highest quality fruit from the best sites and by using a sensitive hand in the cellar, Stéphane consistently crafts distinctive, terroir-driven wines that exhibit freshness, precision and balance while possessing a palate-pleasing sensuality. Because of his dedication to care and quality, and in view of his many consulting commitments around the globe, Stéphane has ensured that a trusted colleague and kindred spirit, Hélène Mingot, is on the ground full-time in Napa to oversee every detail in the vineyards and the cellar. Hélène collaborated with Stéphane on projects in Europe after working as a winemaker in Bordeaux. Stéphane selected Hélène to be his hands and feet in Napa when his other responsibilities call him away because of their common commitment to the art of terroir expression.
Stéphane and Hélène are pleased to bring to Napa’s distinguished terroir their sensibility – a tireless pursuit of transparency that reminds us to stay humble before the complex work of nature.