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Ancient Peaks
June 28, 2013 | Winemaking | Ancient Peaks

When All-New Oak Is Just Right

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.”


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