As of 2016, we finally completed a long but exciting project...underground caves. By having caves we no longer have to use outside energy (ie:air conditioning) to keep them temperature cool at all times and the humidity just right. In the caves, the temperature is consistently cool at 58 - 60 degrees F and the humidity is naturally always at 75% - 80%. Also, air conditioning dries out the air which results in evaporation and loss of wine. Therefore, by no longer using it, we will have less evaporation and more wine. Lastly, we will be able to contain a more stable alcohol percentage with our wines as before it would increase .2-.3% due to the evaporation. The first vintage to be completely aged in the caves will be the 2016 vintage which is where we will see the advantages of this consistency.
In terms of aging we use first and foremost French oak. Because of its origin and texture, it does not require the same toasting as other oak. Stephans chooses a long, soft and deep toasting, allowing a true respect of the fruit and wine characteristics. This provides rich, soft, stable tannins and subtle vanilla and toast characteristics to the wines. Our barrels come from a variety of master coopers providing a range of barrel profiles which Stephan uses to create subtle and balanced blends. Stephan's several years works with these professionals helps him in obtaining his ideal combination of barrels from which to create his wines.
On top of aging in oak, we have also introduced some clay and cement to some of our Rhone blends. The amphora (clay) we believe, keeps more the primary aspect, aromas and freshness. The concrete limits the micro oxygenation which also keeps more vibrancy, freshness and authentic varietal aromas. Overall, the blend of oak, concrete and clay will bring (we hope) a touch more complexity to our blends.
One of the most beautiful aspect of our caves, is our exposed limestone wall. Located 50ft under our Mourvedre block it is the best representation of what our terroir is truly like.