The perfect climate and unique terroir of California’s Sonoma and Napa Valleys are critical components in En Garde’s acclaimed wines; wines which showcase the lush, fruit-forward style of California with the complexity and finesse of Europe. Old world meets new world in the bottle resulting in wine that is aromatic, silky and never boring! It will make you come back for more!
"We have the advantage of perfect climate of Napa and Sonoma that makes our job an easy one. Take lead from Mother Nature, go with the flow and trust the outcome with outmost respect."
My job as a winemaker begins with the decision of when to pick the fruit. After an entire year’s hard work in the vineyard it's crucial not to pick the grapes too early or we will end up with vegetative flavors in the final product. Harvesting too late leads to wine which loses its inherent characteristics and becomes too jammy. With high elevation Cabs I always wait for the tannins to soften and the grape nuts to brown. At the coast I wait for the acids to mellow and the flavors to deepen. Patience is a virtue and extended "hang time" for the fruit is always welcomed. We usually harvest at night when temperatures are colder and, as the sun rises over Sonoma and Napa, we are transporting our grapes to the crush pad.
All of the members of the En Garde team take part in the winemaking process. We take pride in collaborating and value each person’s perspectives and fortes. Our grapes are sorted and destemmed but never crushed. Additions of whole clusters are not uncommon- especially for our Pinot Noirs. Gorgeous bins of grapes- which look like plump blueberries- "chill" for a few days before we begin the fermentation process. This process, called “cold soaking” allows the wine to take on important, water soluble flavors.
I allow native yeasts to kick off the fermentation process in small tanks. This usually occurs about five days after harvest and cold soaking. I then introduce naturally occurring yeast strains- selected from around the world- to create complexity and to ensure controlled fermentation. Our team (including our son Adam!) takes turns punching down the cap by hand. This gentle process avoids bruising the grapes and preserves the delicate, fruity flavors.
When fermentation is complete the pomace is loaded into the press. The juice is pumped directly into barrels as it leaves the press. This process allows us to separate the free-run from the lightly-pressed juices.
I transform sharp-tasting malic acids (think of tart apples) to lactic acids (think of milk) by adding a special “culture” to the wine. This will create a creamy mouthfeel in the final product. During the winter months following the harvest I periodically stir the lees (grape particles and residual yeast from the fermentation process) in the wine and then allow it to rest (think of apple cider settling out and becoming clear apple juice). This process also enhances the final product’s flavor and texture. At ten months I do my first racking, the gentle process of moving wine from one barrel to another and leaving sediment behind (I save these lees for future vintages). Generally, I use only gravity and a “Bulldog pressure tube”- a simple device which uses inert gas to pressurize the barrel and move liquid- when I rack. Again, this is a very gentle process and allows no air to be introduced into the barrel.
After a year and a half to two years in the cellar the wine is ready for bottling. My wife Sandy and I select the best barrels for our reserve wines. She and I also collaborate on the final blend for each wine. The Pinot Noirs get complexity from using different clones while the Cabernets receive tiny amounts of Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. By blending as a couple, we maintain the fine harmony between the female and male perspective. Our goal is to create a unique flavor that shows off the strengths of the vintage (regardless of that season’s growing conditions). If we do our job successfully you will find that our style of winemaking consistently delivers an aromatic, complex, lush and juicy product. We apply old world finesse to luxurious California style.
Egészségedre! To your health!
-Csaba Szakál, Founder & Winemaker
tel: (707) 282-9216
We are located on the corner of Highway 12 and Shaw Avenue. Between Cafe Citti and VJB Cellars. Walk in visitors welcome.
9077 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, California 95452