Whitcraft Winery is a Santa Barbara winemaking institution. Today, it's headed up by Drake Whitcraft, son of Chris and Kathleen. Drake works with over 15 organic growers to produce low-intervention wines in California, from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay and Trousseau.
Photographs by Jimmy Hayes
"For us, everything is moved by gravity. If someone were to watch me make wine for a year they’d be like, “damn, that really is a really simple technique”. Wine is so over-thought, and the really simple way of doing it is often the best."
People: Drake Whitcraft
Place: Santa Barbara, California, USA
Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Trousseau, Gamay
Farming: Organic, biodynamic and/or regenerative (Whitcraft sources from growers with whom they have close relationships)
Did You Know? A pied de cuve (similar to a sourdough starter, but the vineyard version) is used for the Gamay. For everything else, he saves his wine samples (that he takes from the vineyards to decide on a picking date), and puts them together to start fermenting. A genius zero-waste initiative!
“I’m looking for energy, vibrancy and the perfume I remember from smelling Burt’s wines for the first time. With my Pinot, I want it to be really clear that this was made from red fruit.”
It sounds like a simple idea, but it's not so easy. With the hot California sun, red fruit can easily turn into black fruit. The answer? Stems and a gentleness of touch. From using whole bunches, he achieves a spicy character, and to keep extraction gentle, he only macerates for a short period of 11-12 days.
“I look for the baking spices that my dad and Burt always said were the trademark of a great Pinot. I think that’s one of the best aspects of stem inclusion; when you get it right, you get that sort of orange oil taste. When it’s good, it has an ethereal pine kind of smell. Instead of being a weedy, deep green, it’s more fresh; a little like walking in the forest when it’s been raining.”
When it comes to Drake's winemaking philosophy, it has always been simplicity over anything else.