The idea of Hourglass originated from a place, but would eventually become a human journey of discovery. The interplay of terroir and artistic intent produces wines with a unique personality that possess an intriguing dialectic: rich in layers of concentration yet lively with an edge of tension; classically structured yet silky in texture; undoubtedly modern but with traditional stripes.
Tony Biagi is a postmodernist, in life and how he practices his craft as a winemaker. One of his many unique talents is his ability to synthesize traditional techniques with cutting-edge theory - a classicist/modernist yin and yang. He approaches winemaking as an artist informed by science, accepting that there is a certain alchemy to winemaking that may never be fully understood.
Tony explains: “Think of winemaking as putting together a complex puzzle, and each puzzle piece has a synergistic response to the other. Change one of the pieces and you change the whole picture. We want the photo to have certain focal points and counterpoints. Within each vintage, we make meticulous decisions in our farming and winemaking based on the differences each year brings - shaping each puzzle piece - to give us the most vibrant, multi-dimensional picture: with our Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, a piece of pure black fruit for depth, a tangy sour piece for lift, a color piece to match with a tannic piece to affect the refined structure; one for smooth texture, one for length, one for aromatics, etc… Then we start combining the individual pieces together as early as possible and we give them 22 months in French oak so that they can integrate into a whole.”
As demonstrated in his 2012 debut year with Hourglass, Tony approaches the puzzle from the middle and builds his wines from the inside out. He first establishes a classical structural core, using the most advanced means to encourage tannin and color to bond in a tight weave. “That relationship between tannin and color is essential to everything else we do; we go to great lengths in our vineyard practices, maceration protocols and cellaring procedures to encourage that," he explains. Once the weave is refined, Tony builds a mouthfeel around it with layers of silky texture depth, highlighting the purity of fruit expression. "I want that my wines are rich, but if that's all they become one-dimensional and monotonous," he outlines. To this end, Tony pairs richness with acidity and minerality, bringing energy into the equation. This counterbalance results in a sum that lives on the palate while he is deeply concentrated.
Jeff and Tony met through a tasting group of Napa's most promising young winemakers, discovered a synergy of ideas and quickly developed what they call a "mutual mentorship". “We had both had 20 years and had followed the pendulum swing of maturity that Napa had experienced. We learned a lot in the process and have very clear ideas about what we want to keep and what we want to refine,” notes Jeff.
Jeff continues by pointing out, “We are in a refining phase of what we started about 20 years ago. Our goal is to edit very precise moments where grape chemistry is in balance. The goal is not to do one or chasing another mythical ideal of a vineyard's "ultimate expression of terroir" as if by magic. The goal is to find our ultimate expression of that vineyard. Terroir is real, but it is subject to interpretation. We drive to find a balance point where the vineyard delivers the dialectical puzzle pieces we're looking for, and if we get that right, Tony's got what he needs to work his magic.