Catching up with Winemaker, Tres Goetting

Tasting with Tres.

Tres Goetting, Robert Biale Vineyards
Tres Goetting, Winemaker at Robert Biale Vineyards

Occasionally in the Biale Bulletin we explore the world of winemaking from the personal viewpoint of Napa native Biale Winemaker, Trester “Tres” Goetting. Tres has a wealth of experience having worked with vineyards and made acclaimed wines from across Napa, Sonoma, and beyond.

Tres, you have made all kinds of wines in your career from Cabernet Sauvignon to Chardonnay to Pinot Noir. What is it about Zinfandel that drives you?

Tres: “Zinfandel can be a real challenge in the vineyard and the winery–doing the bunch by bunch field work, selecting the primary crop, getting the ripeness just right, measuring the sugars and acids and getting the fermentations to cooperate etc. But when we nail it, it’s so exciting to be tasting those popping flavors and unique character that each of these rare and wonderful vineyards can give us. There is no other grape like it for excitement, pleasure, fun, drinkability, food pairing.”

Biale talks a lot about “Burgundian style” winemaking. What is different about the Burgundy method from other regions?

Tres: “Well, when Bob, Dave, Al, and Aldo, started Biale in 1991 with the idea of being a house of Zinfandel, they latched on to an assumption, rightly so, that their Oak Knoll Zinfandel being a thin-skinned, cool climate grape should be treated more like Pinot noir. A lot of winemakers had been ripening and extracting the heck out of it at the time…so-called “fruit bomb” wines.  So, they decided to take a more gentle, natural, less interventionist approach to Zinfandel to get the most expression directly from the vineyard… old, rare vines that have a unique story to tell. Burgundian winemaking is a more gentle, less-intrusive approach: open top fermenters allow for gentle punching down; pressing is lighter and more sensitive; there is less handling, jostling around, and racking – so we use a pressurize-barrels method of transferring wine from barrel to barrel without pumps; I  have stuck to the basic recipe, but I have refined protocols to be even cleaner and more efficient, and I have upped our game on barrels. We spend a lot for exceptional barrels from French forests and craftsmen that are usually used for expensive Pinot noir and Burgundy wines. They are shorter, thicker, heavier, toastier staves that enhance the natural character of the fruit and have more nuanced and sublime undertones. Too much new oak hides the vineyards natural personality so I am very careful not to hit them with new barrels too hard.”

Do you have a favorite Biale vineyard or wine that you like to make?

Bob Biale and Tres Goetting at Stagecoach Vineyards in Napa Valley.
Bob Biale and Tres Goetting at Stagecoach Vineyards in Napa Valley.

Tres:“This repertoire of vineyards that Bob and Dave have gathered over the years is amazing – all are real gems on great sites. They’re still there because they are winners – the old timers sure had a keen sense of where to plant vines in Napa, Sonoma, across California, really. There are a few new small projects coming on line that are exciting. The vineyard at Stagecoach is special for me because I got to know that ranch so well – walking it daily and wine-making for the founders of Stagecoach the Krupp Brothers. Aldo’s has a “wow factor’ because of that silky, sexy texture combined with amazing, deep fruit. But if I had to say, I think the grand dame of all Zinfandel vineyards would be Monte Rosso. The site, the red soil, age of the huge old vines make for some incredible flavors and structure. It goes beyond great Zinfandel and into the realm of world-class red wine. Such a fun and gratifying wine to make – it’s a privilege!”

Oh yeah, and Tres is a Rockstar! Man of many talents.