“We select only the best fruit to go into Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon,” says Rinaldi. “I get to select the exact rows I want from our spectacular vineyard.”
The inaugural release of Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was the 2001 vintage. It’s a fleshy, well-integrated and subtle wine. “We already have plenty of in-your-face wines,” says Rinaldi. “I want a more polite wine, one that is neither aggressive nor abrasive. You get tired of all the undisciplined, over-the-top Cabernets. Ours is a complex, intellectual wine, one that requires a little effort to uncover and fully appreciate.”
Although the wine is usually 100-percent Cabernet Sauvignon, blending is still an important part of the picture. “One of the most interesting things you learn as a winemaker is that you don’t have to introduce other grape varietals to benefit from blending," explains Rinaldi. “The great thing about Hewitt Vineyard is that its 58 acres deliver an exciting range of flavor and quality.”
In 1992, in response to the threat of phylloxera, Bill Hewitt began upgrading the vineyard by replanting to Cabernet Sauvignon clones 4, 7 and 8 on five different rootstocks (5C, 5BB, 1103-P, 110R, and 039-16) as part of an experiment to identify which performed best on this site. With a variety of clones, rootstocks and soil conditions, Rinaldi can bring different elements to the wine, giving it great depth and intriguing personality.
“Tasting in the vineyard is key,” says Rinaldi. “When those plum, tobacco and olive characters are there in the grape, they’ll be there in the wine, too.”
At the winery, the grapes are destemmed without crushing, so that nearly 30 percent of the fruit goes into primary fermentation as whole berries. In addition, grapes go through two days of cold soaking prior to fermentation. “It's pretty much straightforward Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon winemaking,” Rinaldi says, “only with extensive skin contact to extract rich characters. Thirty to fifty days is our range, and you can really tell how much the wine can take by tasting it.”