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Monte De Oro Winery started making wine from its estate vineyards with the 2005 harvest. A majority of the red grape harvest was retained, while the white grape production was sold.
Monte De Oro’s wines are made under an exclusive custom crush, winemaking relationship with Temecula Valley Winery Management. Tim Kramer, Monte De Oro’s primary supervising winemaker, works closely with Monte De Oro’s managing member and the winery’s Napa Valley wine consultant in the cultivation of unique and quality wines. This three-way winemaking partnership has resulted in several award-winning wines from Monte De Oro’s 2006 and 2007 vintages.
Giving Special Attention to Our Grapes
Monte De Oro firmly believes that quality wine starts with quality grapes. Each year, the first signs of annual grape budding (in March and April) are eagerly awaited, after which meticulous vineyard management practices are followed.
With guidance from Monte De Oro’s winemaking team, Monte De Oro’s farming team (Stage Ranch Farm Management, a premier farming company in Temecula Valley) carefully monitors grape development all summer long: thinning shoots, culling grape clusters, monitoring grape veraison, conducting a last cluster thinning, managing vineyard canopy designs for optimal sun/shade interaction and planning effective water strategies for full-bodied, yet concentrated grapes to ensure a quality harvest.
Monte De Oro’s white grapes are generally ready for harvest in late August/early September, while its red grapes are ready in late September/early October.
Our Investment in the Wine Aging Process
Grape crush generally follows within six hours of grape harvest. Our grapes are weighed and sorted to remove any stems, leaves or other debris and the fermentation process is begun in either steel tanks or manual punch-down bins. Monte De Oro’s white wines are then tank fermented for up to eight months before bottling. Our red wines ferment for 30–60 days after which the grapes are pressed to optimize juice color and then racked into barrels.
Monte De Oro makes a tremendous investment – one critical to the end product – in the purchase of brand new French Oak barrels annually. In fact, Monte De Oro is one of only a very few wineries in Temecula to do so; the average cost is in excess of $1,200 per barrel. Monte De Oro’s red wine barrel regime, on average, calls for 25–35% brand new French Oak Barrels, 15–25% one-year-old French Oak barrels and the balance (up to 60%) in 2– to 3-year-old French Oak barrels.
One exception to this French barrel regime is Monte De Oro’s Zinfandel wine, which requires the special qualities of American Oak to bring out the varietal’s characteristics.
Following barrel racking, Monte De Oro’s wines are delicately racked periodically to separate wine liquid from any layers of solids. Racking is moving wine from one container to another without transferring the sediment. This labor-intensive process is less intrusive than filtering the wine, which removes more of the desirable elements. Additionally, the wines are “topped” monthly by adding wine to the barrels to minimize any barrel headspace and reduce the risk of oxidization during bulk wine storage and aging.
Monte De Oro’s red wine barrels age for 16–22 months. Just prior to final racking, several wine blending sessions are held to carefully determine each year’s wine compositions – for example, 90% of one wine with just a touch of another wine and a touch yet another wine – to accentuate the main wine’s characteristics. Once this is done, a final racking and fine-filtering is conducted as part of the bottling process.