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Pahlmeyer's "California Mouton:" First-of-their-kind French oak tanks coming to our winery

By Winemaker Kale Anderson, May 20, 2014

In the 1980s, Jayson Pahlmeyer dreamed of creating his own “California Mouton,” a phenomenal Napa Valley Bordeaux-style blend that would drop wine lovers to their knees. Over the past two decades, Pahlmeyer has consistently achieved that goal. This summer, we are adding a bold new element to that reality.

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Five custom-built Seguin Moreau 55-hectaliter French oak tanks are due to arrive at our winery this summer. Not only are they the first of their kind in the U.S., the only others in the world are owned by Mouton Rothschild. But most importantly, I believe they will bring an even higher level of quality to our premier red wines.

Most red wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, with oxygenation accomplished through pump-overs and punch-downs. These aggressive methods make it difficult to manage tannin extraction to a fine degree. Considering that Pahlmeyer reds are crafted from big, bold Napa Valley mountain fruit, with a high skin-to-juice ratio, every advantage in tannin management becomes significant.

The new state-of-the-art tanks will make it possible for us to ferment our principal reds in French oak, creating the slow, gentle micro-oxygenation that only fine oak can provide. They will also feature one clear (plexiglass) stave each, a stunning advancement that will allow us to view the process from top to bottom - the level of juice, the juice-to-cap ratio, the bottom of the tank, even the extraction potential.

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Filled by gravity, the tanks can accommodate five tons of fruit and are equipped with tight-sealing stainless steel tops that allow for the closed fermentation we prefer for our Bordeaux varieties. Cooling and heating coils are housed on the inside, and in addition to fermenting, we’ll use them for racking, blending and even aging.

The Seguin Moreau tank cooperage facility occupies a former shipyard in France, enabling a level of research, development and production not possible for most others. I toured the facility a few years ago, and came to trust that my detailed barrel toast specifications would be met. Maybe it’s because of my high standards, or maybe they just love Pahlmeyer wines as much as the rest of us, but I am thrilled to have received the first shot at these amazing tanks and can’t wait to put them to work.

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Kale Anderson, Winemaker