Winemaking In The Vineyards

State-of-the-art soil-analysis and rootstock selection; proven vineyard practices that encourage optimum grape size and quality; estate facilities that allow sublimely ripe grapes to move from harvest to press within hours-these are just some of the finely tuned elements that characterize the winemaking process at Chimney Rock. Through it all, our goal is to make the choices that result in world-class Cabernets that may be fully enjoyed upon release, or after years of aging.

Though he has always given careful consideration to every aspect of the winemaking process, winemaker Doug Fletcher sights a critical turning point for the development of the Chimney Rock style. When the Chimney Rock vineyards (and most of the Napa Valley) were infected with phylloxera early in the 1990s, he had to replace every vine on the estate. "What could have been a disaster turned out to be a blessing," he says. "It led me to reexamine every step of our vineyard and farming practices and fine tune them to fully realize the potential of this special property."


Great Vines Make Great Wines

All the grapes for Chimney Rock’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux style red blends are grown on the winery’s 131-acre estate at the southern end of the Stags Leap District. The winemakers capture the estate’s unique terroir through an innovative and meticulous approach to vineyard management. In the early 1990s, when most of Napa Valley was infected with phylloxera, then winemaker Doug Fletcher had to replace every vine on the Chimney Rock estate. Fletcher seized the opportunity, “Phylloxera led me to reexamine every step of our vineyard and farming practices and fine-tune them to fully realize the potential of this special property,” he says.


Fletcher’s search for the best farming practices led him to the “Balanced Vine” method – an approach that works with nature instead of against it. A balanced vine will set only the amount of fruit it can ripen. This eliminates the need for manipulation like green harvesting and leaf-pulling, and results in a uniform crop that yields small, concentrated berries. Chimney Rock also pioneered an innovative asymmetrical trellising system, named the Fletcher Lyre, which ensures fruit from both sides of the vine ripen at the same pace.


The result of all this careful attention to the vines at Chimney Rock is a true expression of Stags Leap District “terroir” – wines that resonate with intense flavors of cassis and blackberry. Refined and rich in color, our wines go into the bottle with the kind of balance and finely structured tannins that makes them drinkable upon release, and for many years as they age gracefully.

"Balanced Vine" characteristics include:

  • Moderate water stress by early June, which produces the small berries.
  • Leaves and fruit mostly in the sun, which intensifies color and berry-like aroma.
  • Properly stressed vines produce only the number of leaves required to ripen the small clusters. This assures that the sugar goes to the fruit and not to unnecessary leaves.