by Don Baumhefner, winemaker
Why would any winemaker want to age their wine for 20 years before releasing it?
Particularly when it comes to my En Tirage sparkling wine explorations, that’s one of the questions my wife, life and work partner, Kay, keeps asking me every step of the way. As both a professional chef and devoted home cook throughout our continuing decades together, Kay is also quite naturally focused on the critical issues of tasting, timing and flavor development. So to answer that question for you too, here’s the backstory on my parallel realizations about the possibilities extending en tirage has to offer us all.
I started the wine program for John Ash & Co. in 1980, while I was working part time with Joseph Swan Vineyards in Forestville. Then in 1982, I started working full time with Joe. I was his only employee and helped with the pruning, cellar work, bottling and bookkeeping (on an Apple Lisa, the first computer with an internal hard drive).
Kermit Lynch and Joe returned from their annual summer trip to Burgundy in August, 1983. Joe observed that I had not cut off enough fruit during the summer thinning. He went into the vineyard and cut off hundreds of beautiful, red bunches of Pinot Noir, so as to concentrate the energy of the vines into fewer bunches as he had seen them do in Burgundy that summer. I asked if I could gather up the bunches and make something with them. That was fine with him. The grapes were not quite ripe enough to make a regular table wine, but they were ripe enough to make a sparkling wine. So that’s what started my méthode champenoise discoveries. . . .