Oak barrels. Many winemakers have a love/hate relationship with them. They are expensive and challenging to maintain. However, the subtle flavors that they impart make wines more relaxed, smoother, and more complex. Of course not all wines receive oak treatment, but many do. We were inspired by this barrel photo our friends at Carhartt Vineyard & Winery posted. Barrels are usually stored inside, so seeing them on display outside got us intrigued, we went to the source for answers.
You can follow the Carhartt Vineyard & Winery harvest story on Facebook. You can also follow the Santa Barbara County harvest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #sbcharvest.
We have seen a lot of grape picking photos this harvest but this is the first one of barrels outside. Tell us more about the setting for this shot and how did you get the barrels outside?
Well, we had to bring the barrels outside because we do not have the room in our barrel cellar to properly organize the lineup. We brought the barrels outside using a pallet jack and a forklift, and then wrote the varietal designation in chalk on all the heads. We are not a big winery by any means, but to have 150 or 200 barrels all outside at once was a pretty cool sight, so we decided to snap some photos.
Oak barrel fermentation and aging are important aspects of winemaking for many different types of wines. What is the barrel program at Carhartt? Where do you source your barrels and how long does a barrel last? What happens to Carhartt barrels when they are retired?
The barrel program at Carhartt is fairly diverse. We use about eight different coopers, blending French, Hungarian, and a bit of American oak on select varietals. Within each of the coopers we use a wide range of air-drying, toast levels, and grain densities. A barrel’s life depends on a couple variables, mainly the air-drying time and the toast, but for the most part our barrels are considered neutral (free of oak flavor) after three years. We still use the barrels after three years, but they are just an aging vessel at that point and are part of a collection of new, one year old, and two year old barrels. When Carhartt barrels are retired we try and re-use them by making barrel furniture that we sell in the tasting room.
Carhartt has probably one of the charming and intimate tasting rooms in California. Where did the design inspiration come from?
The design inspiration came from creating a space that feels like home. The tasting room building itself has served many different purposes in the past, but we think it creates a welcoming vibe as a tasting room, and combined with the back patio, some never want to leave! The whole setup has and always will be a work
in progress. The furniture in the back is basically all barrel furniture now and we are proud of the recycling project.
How did Carhartt Vineyards get started? What is the connection to the Carhartt Outerwear company?
Carhartt Vineyard came to be because of Mike Carhartt’s love of farming the ranch he grew up on, and Brooke Carhartt’s incredible work ethic and drive to create a product that not only they love, but many others as well. It feels good to do something with your hands that in turn puts a smile on the faces of others. Our followers, the Rascals as we like to call them, have with Carhartt a chance to truly know where their wine comes from, how it’s made, and who is making it. That connection is the lifeblood of Carhartt Vineyard. The connection with the clothing brand is purely a familial tie. Mike’s great grandfather Hamilton
started the company in 1889, and today it is still run by family. Carhartt Vineyard has nothing to do with the clothes except for wearing them with pride and continuing a legacy of an honest, hard-working family.
Where does the Carhartt team like to go for a pint of local beer?
After a long day, we usually drink a beer on the crush pad. However, if we all have the energy to venture out into the world, we will head straight to Firestone or Fig Brew in Buellton. We are so lucky to have the best beer right in our back yards.