For most of the 20th century, wines would be segmented into two major categories— French wine and everything else!
Wine aficionados doubted anything could be finer than the vines in Burgundy and Bordeaux. However, during a historic blind wine tasting in 1976, Californian wines bested France’s finest and changed the world of wine forever. The judgment transformed the way new world wineries perceived themselves and heralded the rise of Californian wines in the global market. Today, from Napa to Sonoma all the way through to Lake and Solano, California has a celebrated wine industry of its own, boasting not just global wine brands but also a slew of mom and pop wineries. We sure can raise our glasses to that.
Behind the scenes of these palate-pleasing wines lie numerous winemaking solution providers—the unsung heroes—who are passionately innovating new-age winemaking techniques and streamlining blend development processes to help the local wineries mature the highest quality wines. And among them, a name that often emerges as a symbol of trust, reliability, innovation, integrity, and collaboration for wineries in the Central Coast area is Monterey Wine Company (MWC). Founded as a juicing facility in 2002 in King City, CA, MWC is the home to world-class winemaking, with state-of-the-art humidified and temperature-controlled barrel rooms, case goods storage, bottling hall, and a well-equipped quality assurance laboratory.
“We got you covered from grape to bottle.”
One of the biggest strengths of MWC is its strategically located medium-sized custom crush facility. Currently, MWC’s facility can cooperage wine in the range of 900 to 56,000 gallons, develop programs for up to 20,000 tons of crush, and complete 250,000 cases of bottling. By the end of 2021, MWC’s bottling capacity is expected to triple in numbers and inch closer to a million cases, which will further benefit the company and its clients.
While local wineries leverage this facility to expand their production and explore new markets without an upfront capital investment, bigger wine companies seek MWC’s expertise to meet their excess market demands at a lesser cost. In addition to that, for budding winemakers with no winery, MWC helps in sourcing the grapes, processing the wine according to their formula and recipe, and bottling the final product at its facility.
Clients Always Come First
Today, a number of wine traditionalists, inventors, and entrepreneurs have come to appreciate MWC’s commitment to superior service delivery, which is apparent in its growing clientele. Notably, MWC’s dedication to establishing and maintaining long-running relationships—with clients and employees alike—stems from its ‘people-centric’ mentality. “We become the eyes and ears of our clients who might be hundreds of miles away,” says Shannon Valladarez, director of finance and personnel/general manager at MWC. So, whether it is updating on daily progress, discussing new ideas, or getting their buy-in for every activity, MWC never shies away from communicating with their clients.
Such a client-centric business strategy has enabled the company to carry on the usual volume of wine production for its clients even in a trying year like 2020, not getting bogged down by crises like the COVID-19 pandemic or California wildfires.
“These uncalled-for catastrophes forced a lot of wineries to shut down their facilities or lay off some of their seasonal intern staff. Not only did we provide our facility to help them continue their production, but we also provided housing and seasonal employment to some of the interns that were displaced due to these devastating circumstances up North. We are committed to our clients and each year, our focus is on strengthening their relationship with us,” mentions Shannon.
At the Cutting Edge of Winemaking
From the beginning, the company has always embraced new and innovative technologies and offered them to clients as a tool to help craft high-quality wines. “All of our winemaking techniques are developed and perfected in collaboration with wine and food companies from Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Australia,” explains Corneliu Dane, director of winemaking at MWC.
All of our wine making techniques are developed and perfected in collaboration with wine and food companies from Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Australia
For instance, to improve the quality of the red wines, MWC uses a partial thermovinification process that was developed by leveraging the Italian horizontal macerators to improve the structure, stabilize the color, and remove the green character from the Merlot and Cabernet grape varieties from the region. In 2009, the company also installed the first commercial Flash Détente unit procured from France in the U.S. This offered thermovinification process with a full vacuum flash cooling— allowing for better and almost instantaneous extraction of grape’s color and tannins while reducing pyrazine compounds and the aromas associated with rot and mold. “The wines produced by this method are also valuable for Kosher and organic wines by reducing the microflora and offering quicker and better-controlled fermentations at a colder temperature to preserve the character of the fruit,” informs Dane.
In addition to the innovative Flash Détente process, MWC is now exploring ways to enhance grape color and extract tannins without using thermal technologies. To that end, MWC is conducting trials for two technologies at an industrial level: pulsemaster PEF technology from France and the Netherlands, and ultrasound technology from Spain.
As much as the red wines, MWC is equally invested in producing high-quality white wines. For the latter, MWC uses an ultra-filtration technique that removes the colors and high phenolics from the heavy pressed white and rosé juice fractions—to match the same composition as the free-run juice. This not only improves the outcome (reduces the bitterness of the wine and mends its color) but, from the production side, also cuts the cost of the entire process.
MWC, in collaboration with a research firm from Spain, has also developed a special activation process of a selective resin for white and rosé wines to remove a considerable concentration of polyphenols and ensure the reduction of color without adversely altering its organoleptic qualities. This process can also be applied to rosé wines that are too colored and need an adjustment or to the old wines that are oxidized and require some help with its freshness.
“We also use a similar process with another type of selective resin to remove the potassium from wine, lowering the pH without affecting the acidity while stabilizing the wine. This improves the fermentation process without using costly tartaric acid additions,” explains the winemaking maven.
Blossoming at Heart and Soul of the Wine Country
Today, these proven capabilities have made MWC a real catalyst for innovation in the U.S. winemaking space. Apart from the leading winemaking services, MWC is also known for its flagship wine brand called Poppy (named after the Californian flower), which is handcrafted exclusively by Dane and distributed across the U.S. and abroad.
In the years ahead, as much as MWC desires to keep making strides in its own winemaking journey, it also wants to be a guide for more budding and established winemakers, helping them embrace technology on a commercial level to maneuver the art of modern wine crafting.