The winemaking team at von Strasser has a combined 50 years of experience making Napa Valley Wines. Rudy von Strasser, a graduate of the University of California, Davis Enology program, has been making wine since 1984, is at the helm. His 34 years of experience includes working the cellars Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Newton Vineyard and Trefethen Vineyard. Juan Alfaro has been Rudy’s loyal assistant since 2000 and oversees the day-to-day operations.
Rudy’s most important winemaking tool is his palate: he draws on his years of experience to understand and analyze each vineyard’s wine potential through the tasting of the grapes. This allows the grapes to reach that magical point where their flavors are peaking and their tannins have become ripe and soft.
Based on these harvest decisions, a targeted combination of fermentation and aging techniques (including cold soaking, fermentation protocols, extended maceration, aeration, and French-oak barrel aging) are employed to maximize each wines character. Each wine in the portfolio is treated different with a goal of creating a unique wine: one where the grape and the site (terroir) work together to create a memorable wine.
Lava Vine draws its fruit from 3 distinct north-coast appellations: Napa valley, Mendocino, and Suisun Valley. The white wines and the rosé are styled to showcase the varietal character of the wine rather than the winemaking. To do this we pick the grapes earlier than most wineries, employ temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation, and bottle after a short sur-lees aging. This makes for a wine lower in alcohol, higher in acidity, and full of personality.
The red varietals are all treated differently depending on their nature. For instance, the Pinot Noir is fermented at a cooler temperature and in open-top tanks. The Grenache is co-fermented with skins from Petite Sirah or Syrah to give added complexity and color, and the Bordeaux grapes are fermented warmer, in small closed-top tanks, and get longer barrel aging. The underlying philosophy, much like the whites, is to allow the fruit and terroir to shine through in the final blends.
Von Strasser Winery has a track record of producing some of the most sophisticated Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced on Diamond Mountain (vineyard link). This elegance is one of Rudy’s main stylistic goals, and can trace its origins to the great wines he saw while working at Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. While the trend in Napa Valley over the past dozen years has been higher alcohol and more extraction, Rudy remains true to the style he pioneered in the late 1980s and employs techniques to make a more balanced and graceful wine, which ironically lets the wines age longer and better. New York Times Winewriter Frank Prial once said at a 10 year vintage retrospective ‘This may be the best Cabernet I have ever tasted: you are a lucky man if you have one in your cellar’
Each of our two brands has a limited-production reserve wine. For von Strasser, it is simply called ‘RESERVE’, and is a blend of Bordeaux grapes anchored by Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. For Lava Vine, it is called ‘A’a, named after a volcanic lava flow, and is a new-world blend based on Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah. Both these wines originate from our best vineyard sources, and are aged for a longer period of time in our best new French oak barrels. They are truly something special, and we consider them the pinnacle of our enological and viticultural efforts.