(above) The beautiful vineyard slopes of Lava Cap Winery
In our “Poppin’ Bottles” series, we take a closer look at select wineries on BottleSeeker.com to explore their growing region and winemaking styles. The following is a conversation we had with Kevin Jones, Marketing Manager, at Lava Cap Winery located in the Sierra Foothills of California.
BottleSeeker: Lava Cap seems like an interesting name for a winery. How did that come about?
Kevin: My grandfather, David Jones, was a professor of geology and geophysics at Cal Berkeley. He was a home winemaker and had wanted to start a vineyard at some point with a variable that made it unique. Upon searching options in Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, and Amador County, he eventually decided on a site in the Sierra Foothills with volcanic soils. On our vineyard site, we have what miners used to call a “lava cap”, which is a young volcanic material between 4 and 10 million years old. As lava in the area flowed down valleys, this created a lava cap on top of ancient gravels to mine. This volcanic soil we have makes for excellent drainage that contributes to quality fruit production. Geology runs rich in our family to this day. My father and brothers all studied geology and I studied agriculture management. Geology connects everyone in our family and allows us to share that in the product we produce.
BottleSeeker: Are volcanic soils in your area unique to Lava Cap Winery?
Kevin: Yes, it’s fairly unique to us. There is another winery I know of with some lava cap in their vineyard but the lava cap formation usually happens at higher elevations.
BottleSeeker: Do the volcanic soils produce certain aspects in your wines?
Kevin: Yes, we’ve noticed of these vines having more intense fruit flavors and a flinty wet stone characteristic you can taste. This is especially dominant in our white wines where you get that mineral taste across vintages.
Kevin: Sierra Foothills isn’t known for Chardonnay since it’s a hot climate but we’re growing Chardonnay at 2,500 ft elevation. Our property ranges from 2,300 – 2,800 ft elevation, so this allows us many aspects to grow fruit on. What that means for our Chardonnay is we can grow different clones that thrive in varied aspects to build complexity. It’s also our highest produced wine at 3,000 – 4,000 cases per year.
BottleSeeker: It kind of seems like you have your own microclimates?
Kevin: Exactly. And that’s what makes the Sierra Foothills unique because it’s not just one or two primary grape varieties grown like in other AVA’s. There are many growers trying different things because of the changes in elevation and soil types. Our Chardonnay is a fine example of the successful variability that your can have up here.
BottleSeeker: Can you describe the battonage method and what affects you see in your Chardonnay?
Kevin: Battonage is a winemaking technique of stirring the yeast sediment in wine barrels post-fermentation. We’ve noticed this method helps form a heavier body, creaminess, and buiscuity mouthfeel that really goes in harmony with the fruit. It gives it balance, richness, and aids maloactic fermentation.
BottleSeeker: Of the reds, what do you produce?
Kevin: Cabs are our most popular but we also produce quite a bit of Zinfandel and Barbera. Right now we’re finding our niche in the Rhone varieties. We have a Petite Sirah and a Syrah that I really enjoy. We’re very well known for our Petit Sirah. We can get some great intensity in the fruit that I think is due in part to our rocky soils.
BottleSeeker: Are most of your wines offered grown on your estate?
Kevin: Yes, about 90% of what we produce is from our estate of 80 acres.
Interested in trying Lava Cap’s Battonage Chardonnay? Order today from wine.com.