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Superior farming is about listening to the vines, tending to their needs, accentuating their best tendencies. We force nothing onto our vineyard, and in turn, it teaches us about itself. Through the wine we make, our vineyard expresses its emerging, original personality. We use the term winegrowing to express this belief – that the highest expression of wine is, with beauty and character, to reflect its site.
Light of the Vine
The concept of terroir – and our winegrowing philosophy – is simple, composed of just five elements: the soil, the vine, the sun, the rain, and the hand of the winegrower. Wine’s unique beauty and magic is that it coalesces these powerful, natural elements into a form that we can experience intimately and experientially.
“Light of the Vine” is a painting by Chiara Mondavi, Tim’s daughter, which she produced for Continuum. Reproduced on our label, the image captures perfectly the miraculous beauty of winegrowing. In this sprawling image, she expresses how we see the vine and what it means to us: the juxtaposition of simplicity and complexity, the convergence of different organic energies, the sheer brilliance of nature that illuminates our lives.
The painting is a shadow painting of an old Cabernet Franc vine, planted by Tim twenty-five years previously, whose silhouette she captured on canvas at sunset. The original painting, standing twelve feet wide and six feet tall and on display at our estate house, depicts the vine true to size.
Compared to the vineyard, a winery is a simple place. As much a place where the transformation of fermentation occurs, it is a vault whose job it is to safeguard the natural beauty of the harvest until it reaches maturity.
As we strive to keep our Sage Mountain Vineyard in balance with its native surroundings, we conceived our winery with architect Howard Backen to harmonize with the land and reduce its impact. The structure gently emerges from the hillside and anchors deep within the earth, honoring the red volcanic soils. The soaring, airy interior affords a gravitas and stony tranquility that bows its head to the alchemy that takes place within and feels anchored deep in the earth.
Working with Roger Boulton of UC Davis, we ensured the winery asked as little as possible of our precious resources. The roof harvests the rains and fully provides for our winemaking needs. Extra thick walls and insulation protect the wine from the hot sun above and keep the cellar naturally cool. Our tanks are plumbed to sequester the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation and we are proud to host early trials for carbon capture research.
As the winery mirrors its surroundings, our cellar mirrors our vineyard plantings. Each 1-2 acre block of our estate is farmed individually to foster and honor its full potential and unique personality. Thus, every individually farmed vineyard block has a corresponding home in the cellar tailored to its particular size and needs. This alignment between vineyard and cellar respects the integrity of the fruit and farming.
By having the ability to raise each block separately, we gain a witness that expresses the results of our work through time. This allows us to learn, block by block, the personality of each vine and its optimal vinification, year after year. These historical records give us the opportunity to further refine our craft to achieve an ever more faithful expression of this land.
Since our vines are farmed organically, it is important to us that the wines spend their lives in natural mediums. From fermentation through bottling, the wines touch only wood or concrete. Fermentation vessels are a majority of Taransaud and Francois Freres oak foudres, ranging from 2.5 to 8 tons in size, along with concrete vessels of 3 to 6 tons.
The Art of Blending
Much as the combination of notes can become a symphony and the joining of colors can become a painting, the careful merging of our unique components elevates wine into art.
Continuum’s four varietals, grown from 45 unique vineyard blocks, are multiplied in character by numerous distinct barrels and aging vessels, creating for us a full spectrum of colors with which to paint. Each, a component of what will become a seamless composition of layers, power, nuance and delicacy.
Time, too, serves as a multiplier of variables. Each varietal, each block and barrel, evolves over time and must be approached with patience.
This artistic process of tasting, of listening, of waiting, stretches two years. We meet every month, season after season, until each component raises its hand and the winemaker takes notice.
Bit by bit, block by block, barrel by barrel, the blend – the wine – the vintage is harmonized.
The exacting attentiveness, care, and patience in blending, an example of our dedication and attention to detail in everything we do to produce Continuum – a wine that can stand among the best in the world.