Tribute is made using 100% native yeast fermentation. When fermentation is complete, the free-run wine is drained from the fermentors straight into barrels.
Barrels are transported to our underground caves, where the wine undergoes natural malolactic fermentation in barrel from November through January. Two or three times a year the wine is racked and put back into barrels on the full moon. We have observed during this stage of the calendar, the gravitational pull naturally compresses sediment in the wine which gives the wine greater clarity.
Each of our estate's 29 blocks are picked, crushed and aged separately. We taste the wines weekly and begin blending in March. All of the wine is blended by May, after which it goes to barrel. Total barrel aging is 20 to 22 months. In June or July of the second year, the wine is bottled. Tribute is held in bottle one year before release.
One to two days before picking, all compromised fruit is dropped. The decision to pick is ultimately dependent on the flavor and tannin quality of the grapes. That is the single most critical decision a winemaker will make and it is made solely on the basis of the taste. When a grape is ready to give it color, flavor, tannin and textural components, the wine almost makes itself.
For maximum freshness, grapes are picked in the cool morning hours, often before 6:00 a.m. Grapes are field sorted and culled again before they are carried to the winery, just a few hundred feet away. They are crushed immediately using the latest equipment, which treats the grapes gently,while extracting maximum flavor and minimum bitterness.
The building blocks of nature - earth, fire, air and water - are revealed in the spirit of our Sonoma Mountain Estate wine. "Mike Benziger has merged with this land and the land has merged with him," observes Biodynamics Consultant Alan York. "They are one, which is part of the authenticity of Tribute-no one can replicate this wine."