Frequently Asked Questions
How do I keep an open bottle of wine from going bad?
The most obvious answer has been a question—why is any wine left in the bottle to go bad? The proper answer has been to do exactly as we do in the tasting room—which is to fill the empty space with an inert gas such as nitrogen or argon, and put the cork back in the bottle. The other method is to remove all of the air from the bottle (a vacuum), so the air doesn’t oxidize the wine and spoil it. I still think the first answer works the best!
Is your winery located in Napa Valley?
No, we’re not. You’ll know it as soon as you step into almost any of the Napa Valley tasting rooms. The fastest way back to any of the Sonoma County wineries is either the Petrified Forest Road, or Highway 121!
Where do you get your grapes?
We source almost all of our grapes from the Roche Family’s historic southern Sonoma Valley ranch off of Hwy 121. On this Carneros property we farm over 120 acres of Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Merlot.
How many bottles are contained in a barrel of wine?
This one always stumps me without a calculator. A standard Burgundian barrel can hold 228 Liters of wine (60.24 gallons), and a bottle holds 0.750 Liters of wine at 20 degrees Celsius, so 228 Liters divided by 0.750 Liters is 304 bottles (25 1/3 cases). A Bordelaise barrel, on the other hand, holds 225 liters of wine (59.45 gallons), so 225 Liters divided by 0.750 Liters is 300 bottles (25 cases).
How long can I age these wines?
This answer is always difficult because of the individualized nature of the question. Personally I like wines that are fresh and lively—full of fruit with many aromas; I prefer not to age my wines for a long time. However, you may want a different balance of barrel-oak, fruit, acid, and oxidative qualities. This balance changes during the aging of wines, and I know it is pleasing to many wine lovers. Many wines can benefit from bottle aging, but these are usually the super-tannic wines such as Cabernet Sauvignons. All wines go through ‘bottle shock,’ for a few months after being bottled, so let them age too.
Do some of the wines you produce here at Roche have different names in other parts of the world?
- For a complete listing of Roche wines we recommend you age as well as those which we suggest you drink now, please click here.
Absolutely. In fact, wine grapes are known by a variety of names. For example, let’s just look at three of the wines we produce here at Roche: Syrah, Muscat Canelli, and Zinfandel. In certain parts of the globe, Syrah is known as “Shiraz”, Muscat Canelli as “Muscat Blanc”, and Zinfandel as “Crljenak Kastelanski”…now try saying that one quickly three times in a row.
Was that supposed to happen?
Of course not! But accidents do happen. In the cellar during harvest a lot of times your success is measured by your lack of failures. Not letting anything major go wrong during the harvest means success. Small problems occur all of the time, and you have to deal with them.
Some years ago some grapes arrived in bins, which we could not dump into the crusher with the forklift. They had to be crushed, so we shoveled and pitch-forked the grapes into bins that could be dumped. All five tons of it!
Many times visitors are watching when something goes wrong during crushing. Sometimes we can fool them into believing all is under control, other times our cursing gives it all away. Whenever I think of harvest, I think of the Clint Eastwood film, “Heartbreak Ridge” where their motto was, “Adapt . . . overcome . . . improvise.”
Does all of this rain hurt the vines?
Usually this question is asked in the middle of winter when it is pouring outside, or after Highway 121 has been closed for a day or two due to flooding. This time of year the vines are dormant, so the rain has no effect unless you have to get into your field with a tractor! The only time that rain really hurts the vines is when the grapes are maturing and the harvest is nearing. In a past harvest we had 1.25” rain right before most of the vineyards in both valleys had been picked. Those vineyards trained in an older, sprawling style of canopy lost a lot of grapes due to mold and rot. At Roche Winery I saw very little (and sometimes no) damage, thus we had a usual high quality harvest.
How does this harvest look?
This is also a difficult question because the answer always depends on the weather, which we know is always unpredictable. The best of all worlds from a winemaking point of view is a light crop that spends a lot of time ripening on the vines to develop flavors. The smaller crop is usually more intense than a larger crop, and the longer ‘hang-time’ lets the flavors really develop. Hot summer days with no clouds don’t usually help, that’s why the foggy mornings in the Carneros produce great grapes.
How many grapes are there in a bottle of wine?
This question is similar to the one above — a calculator is necessary. One ton of grapes (2,000 pounds) yields approximately 165 gallons (624.5 Liters) of wine. 2,000 lbs/624.5 Liters = x lbs/0.750 liters x=2.40 pounds per bottle. 2.40 pounds is about nine clusters of grapes, and nine clusters is about 500 individual grapes.
The question I have heard most often is . . . “Do you stomp the grapes with your feet?” This is usually followed by . . . “Like Lucy?”
The answer becomes second nature to me, “Only when the machinery breaks down!