Lunch with Juan Muñoz-Oca, head winemaker Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Juan with Renae Kochel of Ste Michelle

It was very refreshing to meet Washington-based Juan Muñoz-Oca, head winemaker Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, today in downtown New York.

As you might know, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is one of the largest wine companies in the world.

Juan was in Manhattan today to talk about two new red wine blends he developed with  Ste. Michelle Wine Estates brands. One is the single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon wine called Borne of Fire, and the other is the Cabernet Franc and Malbec blend called INTRINSIC.

The two red wines are unique for very different reasons as you can see below:



Borne Of Fire Winemaking Process:
•        Borne of Fire is aged in large format oak barrels (lightly toasted Hungarian) to add a textural experience without masking the unique, natural flavors of the grapes.
•        Grapes were fermented on the stems to not only integrate the terroir of The Burn into the wine, but to also add texture and complexity.
•        The result is a wine that perfectly bridges the gap of old world elegance with new world fruit character.

INTRINSIC has tremendous complexity and imparts raw characteristics because 50% of the grapes stayed on the skins after fermentation for approximately 9 months (average time from crush to press for red wine is under a month). This extended maceration extracted the intrinsic qualities of the grape, mellowed tannins, and created an unexpected silky texture.
•        The Cabernet Franc juice fermented on the Malbec skins, and the Malbec juice fermented on the Cabernet Franc skins. This technique, which Winemaker Juan has developed over years of passionately blending Cabernet Franc and Malbec and studying the varieties’ phenolic composition, creates a balanced blend that showcases the best of each variety in their rarest form.
•        10% of wine was fermented in concrete tanks, highlighting the mineral character of the wine. 50% of the final blend aged in 100% neutral French oak for 9 months. Small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot added additional layers and complexity to the final blend.

Right now,  Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is in the process of turning it into its own AVA because of its unique soils and microclimate, a process involving many soil scientists and petitions. Juan created the wine to showcase the unique terroir of The Burn, emphasizing that terroir by having the grapes ferment on the stems. It is a structured wine with bright acidity and firm velvet tannins suitable for aging.

It was a delightful time spent with a winemaker though who is still quite young but started his career at Columbia Crest in 2003. Of course, in Argentina his family was in the winemaking business so in certain ways he had been in the field his entire life.

I am excited to look out for the new AVA, which will be called The Burn of Columbia Valley, and see different products that rugged terroir can produce.

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