Sonoma County region
A new Pinot Noir project from winemaker Arthur O’Connor and his wife Ellen McAleavy, Rondure Wines offers limited-production, artisan wines made via the Spanish Capas winemaking technique.
A native of Australian wine country, Arthur O’Connor was drawn to wine at an early age. He remembers collecting bottles by the time he was 10 and was often reprimanded for “blending” his parents’ wines on the side. It seems Arthur was destined to become a winemaker right from the start. After graduating high school, Arthur jumped right into cellar work for two years and then found his way to Roseworthy College, Australia’s equivalent of UC Davis.
Arthur went on to run several wineries and vineyards in both Australia and the United States, helping convert vineyards to organic farming methods and overseeing the production of red, white, and sparkling wines from boutique winery levels all the way up to multi-million annual case production numbers.
Perhaps Arthur’s most significant position - and greatest challenge - came when he accepted the role of Director of Winemaking at Grupo Codorníu in Barcelona, Spain. Not only did Arthur not speak a bit of Spanish or Catalan, he was also being asked to implement change at a company that had been in the wine and cava business for 450 years, making it the oldest family-run business in Spain and among the oldest in the world. Not surprisingly, Arthur’s ideas were often met with exclamations of, “that’s not the way we do it here” and “it’s not traditional.” Arthur, however, found the answer when he rediscovered a unique traditional fermentation process called “Capas” that became a complete success for Codorníu.
In Spanish, Capas means layers or steps, and that’s exactly how the Rondure wines are made now. While most wine fermentations rely on refrigeration to prevent the temperature from getting too hot, there is no cooling used in the Capas technique. Rather, the grapes are added into the fermenter in layers. The first layer goes in and starts fermenting; when it’s just to the point of getting too hot, another layer of freshly harvested grapes is added, slowing and cooling down the entire fermentation naturally. This process is repeated over and over until the batch is fully fermented. Capas also allows grapes to be harvested at different ripeness levels, which in turn reveals a more diverse range of fruit flavors, a longer, softer mouthfeel, and a full expression of the vineyard’s terroir.
When Arthur established Rondure Wines in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, he knew he wanted to use the Capas process to produce Pinot Noirs with layers of expression. He chose the name ‘Rondure’ (which means roundness) to reflect his creative direction in winemaking, the beautiful curves of nature, and his personal affinity for circular and rounded artwork. We hope our wine of the month subscribers enjoy this introduction to micro-producer, Rondure Wines. Cheers!