Ground to Glass
Ground to Glass is a slogan the Carhartts feel encompasses their way of life. From the vineyard where the grapes are grown, through the winemaking process on the ranch, to the world’s smallest tasting room where the wine is poured, there will be the mark of a Carhartt family member. They believe that the only way to maintain a consistent style, uphold quality, and preserve their values is to literally have a hand in every step.
Carhartt Vineyard is built from a small but mighty team. Mike Carhartt is the head grape grower. Brooke and Chase Carhartt make the wine. The Carhartt’s right hand men Agustin Hernandez (a 20 year veteran), and Danny Toscano (7 years and counting) run the day-to-day operations on the ranch, which include all vineyard and labor, plus making wine. Joe Ramos, is the wine club manager and alongside a small but dedicated team, oversee the tasting room and all back office duties. The Carhartt Team even package and ship every single order on the property, hand-done by family. In other words, it takes a village!
Read more about our Family History.
Why We Do It
Farming is a 24/7 job. It’s a ton of work, but it’s what I know.”
The Carhartts take extreme pride in farming their own fruit sustainably and with the utmost care and consideration for the environment. Any top-drawer grape-grower/winemaker would say that 80% or more of winemaking begins with the vineyard.
In other words, if there is not quality fruit, it is impossible to make quality wine. When asked about the history of the vineyard, Mike says “Originally we were just going to be growers, but Billy Wathen (co-owner/winemaker of Foxen Winery) said it was the ‘circle of life’ to grow the grapes and make the wine. In fact, we needed to sell wine to support the farming costs. Farming is a 24/7 job. It’s a ton of work, but it’s what I know.”
Every year the Carhartts grow nitrogen-fixing cover crops in every other row in the vineyard. At the end of their life cycle, they gently disk and incorporate them into the soil to replenish vital nutrients. In addition, they annually compost green waste to create an organic liquid “tea,” and spread it under the vines to maintain quality topsoil.
W Carhartt Vineyard & Winery treat the wines with equal respect to the vineyard. Come harvest, the entire Carhartt team is up early each morning. On picking days they are all in the vineyard with the crew, helping to pick, run the buckets, and sort fruit. Brooke has always been the boss of fruit sorting, and Mike the captain of the tractor. It is these little details that ensure that fruit grown on the land is pampered and cared for correctly. Once grapes are brought down from the vineyard to the winery and re-sorted, they go through fermentation in small three-quarter-ton fermenting bins. This allows them to have multiple lots of each varietal, to experiment with cap management techniques and yeast strains, all along making sure these small-batch wines maintain excellent nutrient health. With specific red lots, the Carhartts even practice barrel fermentations by removing the head of the barrel. This is an extreme luxury afforded only to small producers, most not wanting to practice the act because of the risks involved in disassembling a barrel. Lucky for the Carhartts, they have a living “Super-Man” a.k.a Agustin! For years he mastered the task of taking apart a brand new barrel, and eventually after ferments, putting it back together without a leak.
In the early winemaking days, Mike and Brooke received generous consultation from some of the living legends of the Santa Ynez Valley, Billy Wathen (Foxen Winery), and Ken Brown (Ken Brown Wines). “It’s a fascinating industry” Brooke says, beaming one of her signature bright smiles. “Everybody supports one another, everyone is willing to share, and there are all these people in our lives who’ve helped make us what we are today.”
In total, Carhartt Vineyard produces 18 different wines. Given their 5,000 case annual production, each of the wines are crafted in small production. As for their estate fruit, Carhartt Vineyard grows Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Sirah, with Cabernet Franc being planted in the spring of 2015. The main vineyard is about ten acres. They also grow three acres of Sangiovese on a nearby property called 11 Oaks. Every day they live their own dream, starting with the rising sun over the ranch and vineyard, and ending with the wines being poured through the world’s smallest tasting room in Los Olivos. Knowing how the grapes are grown, how the wine is made, and where it eventually ends up has always been, and will continue to be the foundation of the Carhartt’s business and philosophy.
Is there a relation to the Carhartt Clothing Line?
Is there a relation to the Carhartt clothing line?” This is for sure one of the most common questions asked in the tasting room. The short answer is, yes! Carhartt Clothing was founded in 1889 by Mike’s great grandfather, Hamilton Carhartt. Its headquarters was, and still is, in Dearborn, Michigan. Originally the company was founded to supply railroad workers with quality overalls, or union suits, as they were often called. Over 125 years later, they not only have expanded to the most trusted work wear clothing line in the United States, but also the largest American-made work wear manufacturer. Mike’s cousin still runs the company today. Although Carhartt Clothing and Carhartt Vineyard are separate, family-owned businesses, they exist in a symbiotic relationship. “We wear the clothes every day, and they drink our wine,” Chase explains. For the 125th anniversary of the company this past April, Carhartt Vineyard created a custom wine that has been distributed as a gift all over the nation to Carhartt Clothing’s biggest and best accounts.
The Future is Bright
The Carhartt family and its dedicated group of team members are working hard everyday not to grow in size, but to enhance every single aspect of the business and lifestyle. From making the wine club the best it can be, to constantly assessing the wines in an effort to improve, they are a dedicated team that loves what they do.
To better understand Chase’s background, here is some history… Chase attended and graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, 2011, for Wine and Viticulture, with a concentration in Enology (winemaking). In 2010 Chase lived and worked a harvest in South Africa (Hermanus), and in 2012 lived and worked a harvest in the Northern Rhone Valley of France (Côte-Rôtie). Chase will be the first to say that the formal education he received from Cal Poly was awesome, but not a necessity in becoming a winemaker. However, along with his experience abroad, his background in winemaking is significantly different than Brooke’s. He is a firm believer that this mother-son collaboration is the key to the Carhartt’s future success. There is huge importance in traveling the world and seeing how other countries/estates treat their fruit and make their wine. Some of his experiences have been priceless. At the same time, there is experience and knowledge gained from the last 17 years at Carhartt Vineyard that only Brooke can understand. To truly know the vineyard, the wines, and to develop a distinct style can take a lifetime. Brooke has already accomplished and surpassed that goal. In the future, the Carhartts as a team will take what is already great, and make it spectacular.