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 passion for crafting great wine drives all my decisions as a winemaker. It all begins with possibly the most important 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 four-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
"This was a delightful surprise as it was an unscheduled stop on our Grapevine wine tour and turned out to be our favorite of the day! We are grateful that, Walter, our driver, was able to introduce us to En Garde and cannot wait to receive our wine club selections!"
"Best tasting we had of our week in Napa and Sonoma. Server was personable, professional, and very knowledgeable."
"We are grateful for Kenwood Winery to recommend our visit to En Garde. First class and excellent wine."
"Fabulous wine and tasting experience! One of our very favorites of the trip!"
"In my opinion, a flight of the best wines I have ever tasted."
"Great wine, great customer service, comfortable environment."
"Fantastic wines, beautiful tasting room, and of course, the amiable Csaba pouring the wines didn't hurt, either. A lovely experience! Thank you!"
"Great visit and opened our eyes to boutique wineries."
"Highly recommend - En Garde is receiving some fantastic coverage/ratings in wine press right now so visit while the wine is still readily available!"
"This is by far my favorite winery! I have been a club member for 5 or so years and can't say enough about this place! Csaba is a brilliant winemaker and everything he makes is A+. "
"The tasting room is elegant, and the staff was very knowledgeable and sincere."
"We really enjoyed our experience & time at the tasting room. Would not hesitate to recommend or purchase any of of the wines offered at En Garde. Csaba was the perfect host! Can't wait til we go back in September!?????"
"En Garde is my new "find" after coming to Napa/Sonoma for 20 years. Cheers!"