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Duke the beagle is the boss of Assistant Winemaker Stewart Cameron, and the official winery dog of Ancient Peaks.
Today, we present "A Day in The Life of Duke" to show off his many talents, including vineyard management, staff training, winemaking and hospitality.
We salute Duke and all of the hard-working winery dogs out there!
We present our Oyster Ridge red blend as the crowning achievement of each vintage. While the blend varies from year to year, it is based upon Cabernet Sauvignon, which typically ranges from 55 to 70 percent of the total blend.
And when we tell people that all of Oyster Ridge’s Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in 100-percent new French oak barrels (including those by Taransaud, pictured here), it often elicits the question: doesn’t that “over oak” the wine? In fact, it doesn’t…
Assistant Winemaker Stewart Cameron says that there are two key factors that enable us to age our Oyster Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon lots in 100-percent new French oak: (1) tight wood grain; (2) fruit quality.
Stewart explains that there are a dozen different identifiable flavor and aroma compounds that come from oak. Because the chosen barrels are “tightly grained,” they allow for a slow release of these compounds over an extended period of time—ideal for a wine like Oyster Ridge, which is aged for a full two years prior to bottling.
“The tighter grain of the Taransaud barrels is respectful of the fruit and character of the wine,” Stewart says. “So we get the complexity benefits of new oak without the oak influence getting too aggressive or out of balance.”
Fruit quality is the other factor. The Oyster Ridge blend is assembled around the finest Cabernet Sauvignon blocks at our estate Margarita Vineyard. The fruit from these blocks exhibits exceptional depth and structure, allowing it to gracefully handle the new oak.
“Someone once said that there’s no such thing as an over-oaked wine—just an ‘under-vineyard’ wine,” Stewart says. “That may be an exaggeration, but there’s a grain of truth to it, too.”
Would you like to try a barrel sample of our 2011 Syrah? How about 177 barrel samples? It’s hard work, but someone has to do it…
Indeed, the painstaking approach of our winemaking team was never more evident than when they recently deconstructed our 2011 Syrah.
First, our Cellar Master Octavio and his crew removed all 177 of our Syrah barrels from the barrel stacks, two at a time on racks that were gently forklifted to the ground. Then, Winemaker Mike Sinor and Assistant Winemaker Stewart Cameron tasted every single barrel to assess the quality of each. Because they were spitting, they were still standing!
Two goals were achieved. First, Mike and Stewart determined which barrels will be targeted for our 2011 Renegade blend. Based on what he tasted, Mike reported that “the 2011 Renegade is going to rock.”
Along the way, Mike and Stewart also resolved to create our first-ever Syrah for our White Label reserve tier, which will be made from the best four barrels, and representing just 2.25 percent of our Syrah from the 2011 vintage. That wine should rock, too.
Stay tuned—first for the 2011 Renegade by summer, and then the 2011 Syrah White Label after that.