For over two decades, David Rossi has been refining his palate and approach to winemaking. Though he has emerged as a Pinot Noir specialist, he spent years making small-lot wines from a multitude of varieties, as he worked to perfect his own impeccably balanced style. David came to his craft as a home winemaker, a path that allowed him to develop his style with complete freedom, and without the commercially driven dictates that young winemakers often face when starting out in a winery cellar.
A passionate student of wine, David is as inquisitive as he is meticulous. To create complexity and balance, each of the approximately fifty barrels of wine aged in every vintage is unique, offering a different combination of vineyard, clone, yeast, oak, toast level, free run or press wine. This approach enhances complexity and gives David a rich palette to work with during blending.
When winemaker David Rossi founded Fulcrum in 2005, he started by making cold calls to top Pinot Noir growers, working to persuade them into giving him access to small amounts of their fruit. His goal, was to make wines from the finest vineyards, without being constrained by regions or boundaries. After years of earning their respect as a winemaker, today, top growers are happy to work with David. The Fulcrum vineyard program now includes grand cru-caliber vineyards in the Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Carneros and Chalone appellations.
To create luscious wines with the balance, complexity and depth of flavor for which Fulcrum is known, David generally selects slightly warmer sites, in very cool regions. These locations are warm enough to produce perfectly ripe fruit, but cool enough to allow the extended hangtime that builds the complex flavors David seeks. Because David believes in properly managing the fruit in the vineyards, as opposed to manipulating it after the fact in the winery, the viticultural practices of the growers is also key. David selects vineyard partners that emphasize vine balance and meticulous management practices. All of David’s Pinot Noir comes from vines trained on a VSP (vertical shoot positioning) trellis systems, with vines pruned to reduce shading of the fruit and promote ripening, but with enough leaves remaining to keep the vine healthy for decades to come. Crop thinning is practiced to create even ripening and to intensify flavors.
When selecting vineyards, David also evaluates the clonal material to ensure that it is diverse enough to create the complexity he desires for his Pinot Noirs, and that the selected clones produce the most impressive wines from their particular vineyard. To this end, he will select the blocks and rows with the clones he specifically wishes to work with.
Last, but perhaps most important, vineyards are selected because they have track records of excellence, and because they inspire David as a winemaker, with each one offering something distinctive and compelling for Fulcrum’s small portfolio of vineyards- and appellation-designated Pinot Noirs.
Selecting the finest vineyards is just the first step to creating an amazing wine. There are several other critical decisions that must be made.
Clones - Pinot Noir has been planted in the US for over 100 years, but quality has improved over the last 20-30 years as new clones of Pinot have been planted. These newer plantings are often described as Dijon clones which are only known by their numbers like 115, 667, and 777. There are also clones with different parentage like Swan, Pommard, and Martini that have longer histories in North America. We do not have a hard preference, but prefer to pick the clones that produce the most impressive fruit in a particular vineyard.
Harvest Parameters - For David, when to pick is the most important of all the winemaking decisions. While David is often one of the first to harvest grapes from the vineyards he partners with, this can vary by site and season. David seeks both phenolic maturity and physiological ripeness. At the same time, because ageability is fundamental to David’s winemaking vision, natural acidity is also a key consideration. More than anything, the timing of harvest is based on experience and taste. David is constantly in the vineyards in the run-up to harvest, tasting the fruit, cracking the seeds between his teeth, making visual assessments of skin color and texture, and getting a sense of what the quality and flavors of the final wine will be.
During harvest, David rigorously sorts the fruit to eliminate any green berries or unripe clusters. This ensures that the final wine reflects the best the grapes can offer.
The themes of balance, complexity and ageability are at the forefront of how David approaches winemaking at Fulcrum. To achieve his elegant style, David combines time-tested Old World techniques with modern enology, tailoring his methods for each vineyard, clone, and ultimately, every barrel of wine. While his overall approach emphasizes gentle handling of the fruit and wines at every stage of development, it is not a completely hands-off style. To leverage the strengths of each individual clone or lot, David applies a range of methods. Whether it’s cold soaking, fermentation temperatures, punch-down timing and frequency, or yeast selection, each decision is made to accentuate the strengths of the fruit. This intimate, non-standardized approach yields distinctive wines that capture the essence of the exceptional vineyards they come from.
Use of small open top fermentors
The combination of native and cultured yeasts
Manual punch downs
High peak fermentation temperatures
Gentle bladder pressing
Allow Malolactic fermentation to occur in the barrel
Minimize racking and never use pumps in the cellar to move the wine
Use only the finest French oak barrels
Age our wines on their primary lees, stirring through the winter
Cellar in barrel for at least 14 months and bottle age for at least 6 months
While David’s Pinot Noirs are never blended with wine made from other varietals, there are abundant opportunities to blend among vineyards, clones and barrels. Whether for Fulcrum or On Point, the goal of blending is to create a complex, balanced whole, where grace is supported by strength, and each element harmoniously integrates with the others.
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