Every winter, new French and American oak barrels are crafted and delivered to the winery for aging our youngest vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon. I always take the opportunity to visit Nadalié cooperage in Calistoga, one of our barrel makers, to monitor the making of our American oak barrels in action. (Nadalié also makes our French oak barrels in France.) We like to work with coopers, such as Nadalié, that preserve many hands-on, old-world techniques when making oak barrels.
As I mentioned in last winter’s new barrel inspection video, the smell of a new barrel is like catnip for a cellarmaster. Getting to smell a new oak barrel toasting over an open fire is one of the more enjoyable parts of my job. We use a combination of used and new French oak barrels in our winemaking because we don’t want the new oak flavors to overpower the fruit flavors in the wine, so new barrels account for only one-third of the oak vessels in the Jordan cellar. But I always look forward to inspecting every one of them.
French oak barrels for aging our Chardonnay arrive in August, so the barrel making and inspecting process will start again very soon.