Continuum Estate’s winery above the clouds
December 17th, 2013
Since breaking ground two years ago, we have looked forward to the day when Continuum’s winery would be ready to open. On September 2nd, 2013, we were ready! The first fruit was harvested and brought to the winery for sorting and crushing before being placed in oak or concrete tanks for fermentation. At Continuum, each of our 36 vineyard blocks are harvested, sorted, crushed and fermented independently of the rest, so our estate winery was specially designed and constructed to work in harmony with this magnificent site. Situated at the highest point on the property, the winery was designed and engineered by Backen, Gillam & Kroeger, Architects, with all construction managed and contracted by Grassi & Associates. The winery design, informed by the number of vineyard blocks and varied aspects, has a variety of specially designed oak and cement fermentation tanks so the winemaker has a number of options with which to protect the purity of fruit and enhance each block’s unique character.
Estate based design-
The winery fermentation vessels are a combination of Taransaud and Francois Fouderie oak, ranging from 2.5- 8 tons in size (75%), Sonoma Cast Stone and Nomblot concrete vessels 3- 6 tons sizes (20%) with a small amount (10%) of fermentation in oak barrels and ¾ ton open bins. All wood and concrete fermentation tanks are equipped with automated pump over air pumps and temperature control sensors to ensure a gentle and timely extraction. In this way, with each lot handled independently, all receive the correct temperature, extraction and timing, guaranteeing a carefully tracked and balanced fermentation. In addition each fermentation area was equipped with higher ceilings, allowing for easy top of tank access.
Continuum uses a variety of gentle techniques including Burgundian manual punchdowns, Bordelais rack and returns, and automated pump overs to keep the cap wet and well incorporated into the must. In addition, the wine lees that settle after fermentation on the bottom of the tank, are stirred regularly to nourish and enrich the wine and polish the tannins. After fermentation is complete, all lots are drained and placed in 225 liter French oak barrels from various coopers, mainly Taransaud and François Freres for elevage.
At the estate, situated on top of a mountain, water is a sparse commodity and so a unique water system has been created. Developed with the assistance of Professor Roger Boulton at U.C. Davis, all rainwater is collected, filtered, ozonated and stored in a specially designed tank in a cave within the hillside behind the winery, providing more than enough water for all production needs. In addition, solar thermal panel technology heats the water for winery use.
Another unique element is the removal of carbon dioxide produced during fermentation. The Co2 is vented away so that the winery more easily maintains optimum temperature and humidity levels during crush, thereby reducing energy and equipment needs.
The winery is unusually quiet and clutter free with design elements developed by Tim Mondavi. Winery equipment is provided with shock absorbers and rubber casters to keep the facility relatively quiet even during crush. Additionally, Tim’s design removes the exhaust and noise produced by winery pumps by venting it into the ground and so away from the winery building. Whenever possible, equipment is mobile and so, after use, is put in storage.
All of us are thrilled with how well the winery has worked this first harvest; we think it’s the beginning of a beautiful estate and winery friendship.