From the vineyard to the glass, winemaker Joe Otos’ meticulous craftsmanship is present. Working in some of California’s most prestigious winemaking regions provides unique opportunities to produce wines of stunning character – but it doesn’t come easily.
Walking the vineyards throughout the year, Joe checks on the grapes’ progress and oversees their development, paying attention to such details as the vineyard’s watering schedule, the pruning of the vines and the timing of fertilizer additions. “Spending time in the vineyard, chatting with the vineyard managers and getting to know the soils are key parts of getting the best out of each site,” Joe says. “You can only maximize the potential of the grapes if you have been a part of how they were farmed.”
As soon as Joe determines they are optimally ripe, the grapes for Willowbrook Cellars’ wines are hand-picked pre-dawn to ensure they arrive at the winery in the best possible condition. They are then manually sorted and carefully fermented in small batches. Joe refuses to inoculate his grapes with commercial wine yeast. “The only way to achieve true depth and complexity in a wine,” he notes, “is to allow fermentations to start naturally with yeasts native to the area and winery. To me, this is a part of what people call terroir and it helps bring out the innate character of each variety.”
After overseeing the pressing of the fermented grapes Joe ages his wines in premium French oak barrels, carefully selected for each particular wine. After at least fifteen months, during which Joe will periodically taste and monitor (while leaving the wines as undisturbed as possible) the finest barrels will be blended and bottled, each bottling to be released only when showing its best. “Pinot noir, in particular, needs time in bottle before it is going to drink well,” attests Joe. “It will be at least two years from harvest to release – absolutely no cutting corners.”
Willowbrook Cellars’ wines are the product of taking it slow – and paying attention to the details. Reviewers, critics and Joe’s avid wine fans agree that each vintage is well worth the wait.