Cuvaison Winery was one of the early innovators in Napa Valley. Established in 1969 in Carneros, in the southern tip of Napa, the family-owned winery boasts more than 200 acres, producing delicious estate chardonnays, pinot noirs and sauvignon blancs, as well as an even wider variety of rare, small lot wines. We interview Steven Rogstad Cuvaison Winery Winemaker to learn more.
What type of wine do you specialize in?
Steven Rogstad Cuvaison Winery Winemaker: Cuvaison specializes in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc – all from our historic estate vineyard in Los Carneros, Napa.
What makes your wine unique?
Steven Rogstad: These are first of all, single-vineyard wines from one specific place, and our winemaking style is to let the land tell its story without a heavy-handed winemaking signature.
Share a popular tasting experience at Cuvaison Winery
Steven Rogstad: With it’s dry climate, cool mornings and warm afternoons, Cuvaison’s Carneros vineyards offer the ideal site for cool-weather Burgundian varietals. The tasting room is nestled in the vineyards, offering beautiful views to complement the wine and food options. The Winemaker’s Tasting offers a curated opportunity to savor the wine and learn about the winery. Cuvaison also offers a warm weather Vineyard Hike Tasting, which includes a boxed lunch.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?
Steven Rogstad: That it’s a small, family-owned winery, producing wines from our estate vineyard, and we’ve been doing it for over 50 years! That is becoming quite rare in Napa Velley.
Favorite Wine and Food Pairing?
Steven Rogstad: I love our Méthode Béton Sauvignon Blanc. This is a wine that is fermented in concrete eggs and aged on its lees for 11 months before bottling. The wine develops a great mouthfeel, very lush, but without any oak influence so it really respects the terroir. My favorite food pairing with this wine are raw oysters (the brinier the better), ceviche and roast chicken.
Describe your winemaking approach.
Steven Rogstad: To have a purpose for each wine we craft and then start that process in the vineyard and allow the fruit to guide you through. We are always looking for concentration in our wines, but with balance, so the wines are delightful to drink and not fatiguing.
How did you get started in the wine industry?
Steven Rogstad: I had an opportunity to live in France after college (I studied literature) and immediately became enamored with wine. It was completely foreign to me but endlessly fascinating, so after meeting some French wine producers I decided I’d move to California and study winemaking.
What do you enjoy about winemaking?
Steven Rogstad: The seasonality of it. You start each wine with a new growing season a new vintage and you are on the same wild ride as the grapes you are growing. I’ve been making wines for 30 years, which really means I’ve only had 30 chances to make wine. Unlike cooking or brewing where you can practice endlessly, winemaking is a long, slow learning process and something you never actually master.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with wine?
Steven Rogstad: In Paris, I had a classmate that wanted to do everything Hemingway did, including drinking Mâcon-Villages with sandwiches on the infield of the horse races at Longchamp. Not only was the wine perfect, but you could see how wine was a different beverage—it turned any meal into a celebration.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the winemaking process?
Steven Rogstad: Have a good idea of the wine you want to make very early on, because it all starts in the vineyard. Once the harvest begins you can then adapt to how the season shaped the starting material. Be flexible in your approach; it’s not a recipe.
Do you have a favorite story about working at your winery?
Steven Rogstad: I always love getting the team out in the vineyards, and not just the winemaking team but the administrative team and the hospitality team. Hand them some pruning shears in the winter and ask them to prune a vine and watch their faces as they try and puzzle through how to prune one vine. After they’ve struggled through one without cutting a finger, remind them there are 200,000 more vines to do.
Do you have any winery traditions with your team?
Steven Rogstad: We always bring in a handful of foreign interns for harvest, students form other wine countries that want to experience a harvest in Napa Valley. It’s a baptism of fire for them and we all look forward to a cellar feast at the end of harvest followed by a night of bowling.
How does your team help you as a winemaker?
They are the ones executing the vision we have for the different wines we craft. As such they are the first line of quality control in the cellar, ensuring that everything is done to our standards and keeping an eye on every last tank and barrel.