Oak barrels have been used in wine production since the Roman Empire. The terms “barrel fermentation” and “barrel aging” are often used interchangeably, but they are in fact different processes.  In this week’s Wine Wednesday, we’ll dive into the difference, as well as what we do for some of our white wines. .

Barrel Fermentation

In all fermentation, yeast consume sugar and convert it into alcohol and CO2.  This process, for wine, can happen in a stainless-steel tank or in an oak barrel. When wine is fermented in the barrel, the fresh fruit aromas take on a more dried fruit quality as the yeasts extract the toasted, vanilla-like flavors from the wood. Additionally, a secondary fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation (ML) can occur. This months-long fermentation is caused by bacteria (Oenococcus oeni) rather than yeast. The bacteria convert malic acid (like in green apples) into lactic acid (like in cream). The conversion makes the wine creamier and rounder. A byproduct of ML is diacetyl, which is what makes butter taste like butter! This is why wines that have undergone ML might have a buttery flavor.

Barrel Aging

Oak aging has the ability to add length, depth, intensity, and complexity to a wine. It can add aromatic compounds like vanilla, tea, tobacco, and caramel, and can add tannin too. Wines can become softer, taste richer, and feel more substantial after oak aging. Oak is porous, meaning it allows for the perfect amount of water and alcohol to evaporate, and gives oxygen to access the wine. There are two main types of oak used in the United States for wine production: French and American. French oak tends to be more popular, as it adds more subtle flavors of vanilla and baking spices.  American oak is more commonly used for bourbon and scotch, and adds intense flavors of dill, coconut, and even more vanilla. The impact of barrel aging depends on if the barrel is new or “seasoned” (used). New barrels will impart the most flavor and texture to a wine, whereas seasoned will have a more neutral impact. After about four uses, a barrel is considered neutral.

The Difference

Karen MacNeil best summarizes the difference between barrel fermenting and barrel aging in The Wine Bible: “Imagine a batch of chardonnay that is fermented in oak and then aged in oak for six months. Imaging a second batch that is fermented in stainless steel and then aged in oak for the same period. Although you might expect that the wine receiving two doses of oak would have the most pronounced oak and vanilla flavors, the opposite is actually true.”  When the yeast from a barrel-fermented wine are removed, some of the oak flavors bind to the yeast and are removed alongside, meaning the wine will taste less oaky. Conversely, when a wine is put into a barrel without any yeast, like the stainless-steel-fermented batch, the wood flavors will stay in the wine, and it will therefore taste more oaky.

Hawk Haven Barrel Chardonnay and Reserve Chardonnay

At Hawk Haven, we produce our Barrel Chardonnay and our Reserve Chardonnay with both barrel fermentation and barrel aging. Our Barrel Chardonnay is fermented and then aged for 6 months, and only partially undergoes Malolactic fermentation, meaning that there is still some beautiful acidity in the wine. Our Reserve Chardonnay is made with premium, Dijon-clone grapes to wonderfully represent the classic Chardonnay style. We believe that using both barrel fermentation and aging perfectly balances our wines to be deliciously creamy, but still have some fruit character. Stop in soon to get your new favorite Chardonnay, and taste the difference!



Some drinkers swear off sweet wines, and others refuse anything else. Dessert wines can come in a variety of sweetness levels and pair with a wide range of foods. At Hawk Haven, we are excited to announce the release of our 2010 White Port this upcoming August 24th weekend. In this week’s Wine Wednesday, we’ll explore a few common types of dessert wine and our newest release.

Four Common Types of Dessert Wines

“Dessert wine” covers a large group of wines and styles.  There are several different categorizations, , but we’ll be focusing on four popular types: Sparkling, Lightly Sweet, Very Sweet, and Fortified:

  • Sparkling Dessert Wine Sparkling wine is a go-to for food pairing, as bubbles make everything better. Sparkling wine has a great acidity that lightens heavier dishes, and fruit-forward styles complement fruit-based desserts. Moscato d’Asti is the perfect pairing for birthday/wedding cake. Look for Demi-Sec or Semi-Secco for off-dry, and Doux or Dolce for sweet.
  • Lightly Sweet Wines Off-dry and semi sweet wines are slightly sweeter than table wine. The Sweet and Fortified Wine Association classifies off-dry as 0.5-1.9% residual sugar (RS), and semi sweet as 2-6% RS. These wines are fantastic for pairing with spicy cuisines, like Indian and Southeast Asian, as the sweetness helps mellow the heat. Fresh fruit tarts, light custards, and biscotti cookies also pair excellently with lightly sweet wines.
  • Very Sweet Wines According to the European Union, a sweet wine must have at least 4.5% RS. That being said, many well-known sweet dessert wines have considerably more residual sugar than 4.5%. These wines are achieved by several different methods, but the common goal is concentrating the sugar in the grapes. One method is by leaving the grapes on the vines for a longer time, or having a “late harvest.” Germany’s Spätlese and France’s Vendage Tardive wines are done in this style. Another method is by exposing the grapes to “Noble Rot,” or Botrytis cinerea. This fun-guy is a benevolent fungus that concentrates the grape flavors and sugars in wines. Famous Noble Rot wines include Sauternes from France and Tokaji from Hungary. Another very sweet wine is Ice Wine, or Eiswein. Famously produced in Canada and upstate New York, this method is achieved by leaving the grapes on the vines to freeze and concentrate the sugars.
  • Fortified Wines These wines are traditionally thought of as dessert wines, but can branch out into dry wines. Fortified wines, such as Port and Sherry, are made by adding a neutral spirit to an incomplete wine to stop the fermentation process. This addition increases the alcohol content and can leave a high residual sugar, up to 10%. These wines can be nutty and complex with extended aging, and are fantastic with crème brûlée or pecan pie.

Hawk Haven 2010 White PortWhite port is a traditional but rare style of Port made in Portugal. We make ours using Moscato grapes, and add a traditional neutral brandy to stop fermentation. (For more information on that process, check out this fantastic blog by Lynsie about our 2008 White Port!) Moscato’s familiar aromas of mandarin orange, ripe pear, and orange blossom are beautifully transformed through this process into notes of orange marmalade, caramelized pear, and fig. We age our Port in partially-full barrels to encourage oxidation. Our extended aging process brings out a beautiful smoothness and nuttiness in the wine. It’s best served between 42-50°F. Remember that this wine has a high alcohol content (around 18%), so the standard serving size is 3 oz. If you don’t have a Port glass, you can absolutely serve this in a white wine glass instead. Stop in this weekend to pick up your bottle of hand-signed Hawk Haven 2010 White Port!


Storing wine properly can make or break a bottle. Serving wine at the proper temperature can also greatly impact your experience enjoying it. In this week’s Wine Wednesday, we’ll explore the best way to store wine, serve wine, and how long to save wine after its been opened.

Storing – Temperature, Light, Humidity, Positioning

The ideal temperature for storing wine is between 45-65°F, with 55°F being almost perfect. It’s best to avoid long-term storage where temperatures exceed 70 degrees, as the aromas can start to change. Don’t store bottles in the refrigerator for long periods of time either, since most refrigerators are set well below 45°F. Additionally, the lack of moisture in refrigerators can dry out corks, allowing air into the bottle. Sunlight is an enemy of wine, so store your wine away from direct sunlight. Think about a cave – cool, damp, and dark. Lastly, if your bottle has a cork, store it on its side to keep the cork from drying out. If you have tannic red wines, storing on the side will also help settle the sediment (which is harmless but most people don’t like it in their glass).

Ideal Serving Temperatures

Serving white wine straight out of the fridge and red wine at room temperature is fine, but not ideal. Here are some general guidelines for different types of wines:

  • Fruity sparkling wine: 41-45° (up to two hours in the fridge)
  • Champagne: 45-50°F
  • Light, dry whites (ex. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling): 45-49°F (refrigerate about 90 minutes before serving)
  • Full bodied whites (ex. Chardonnay, Albariño, Viognier): 50-55°F (refrigerate one hour before serving) The less oaky the wine, the colder it should be.
  • Rosé: 48-55°F (refrigerate about one hour before serving)
  • Lighter rosés: 45-49°F (refrigerate about 90 minutes before serving)
  • Light to medium bodied reds (ex. Pinot Noir, Grenache, Cabernet Franc): 54-60°F (refrigerate about 45 to 60 minutes before serving)

Lastly, full-bodied reds and port should be served between 60-65°F. This range is just cooler than room temperature, and warmer than cellar temperature. The slightly cooler temperature helps de-emphasize bitter components and highlight tannins. A quick 25 minutes in the fridge will help chill this right down. Pull any wines from the cellar out for about 30 minutes to warm up and hit the ideal.

Can you Save Wine After Opening It?

Wine is a fleeting experience – once you open a bottle, that bottle and experience can never be enjoyed the same way again. We’ve heard there are people out there that open a bottle of wine and don’t finish it. Shocking, I know! But it’s okay, wine can still be enjoyed a day or so after opened. Sparkling wine will start to lose those bubbles once it’s opened, but can last about a day in the refrigerator when properly re-sealed to keep the carbonation in. Light white wine, sweet wine, and rosé can last 5-7 days in the fridge with a cork; full bodied whites should be ok for about 2-5 days in the fridge with a cork. Red wine can last 3-5 days in a cool, dark place with a cork. Ultimately it’s best to enjoy the bottles the same day they’re opened (responsibly of course), but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t.

Stock Up with Hawk Haven Wines

Our tasting room staff is always more than happy to answer any questions you have about storing and serving wine. Come in soon to try your new favorites to stock up!


Wine tasting has become a popular activity, but it can sometimes seem intimidating. How do people pick up those different flavors and aromas? Why doesn’t anyone say it tastes like grapes? Can any person learn how to taste wine like a pro? In this week’s Wine Wednesday, we’ll explore how to strengthen your palate for tasting wine.

Origin of Wine Tasting – Sommeliers

Back in the 14th century, sommeliers would check the King’s wine and food for poison. Nowadays, a sommelier’s main task is to help diners choose wines they’ll enjoy. They study different grape varietals and wine styles, and train their palates by tasting wine all the time (sounds like a great job, no?). While sommeliers are professionally trained, you are the master of your own palate. You know what your favorite foods are because you’ve been tasting food all your life. The next step, especially for wine tasting, is to hone your ability to put a name to the flavors you like and dislike.

Isolate & Associate – Identifying Aromas

As mentioned in our Aromas in Wine article, flavor is the combination of aroma and taste. People often believe that sommeliers have a gifted palate or super nose, but this is not always the case. Instead, sommeliers train their memory to isolate and associate aromas. Smell is our least-used sense, so start smelling everything! Freshly cut grass, forest floor, and a hot rainy sidewalk are three wine smells that you may have never tasted, but know from memory. Smell your food before you take a bite, and start to keep an aroma journal. Associating smells with different emotions or memories can help build your food memory. Think of your food memory as your aroma bank – the more you put in, the stronger it gets.

Start out by trying to break wine aromas into 4 main categories: fruit, non-fruit, earth, and mineral. For whites, fruit aromas include citrus, apple/pear, stone fruit, tropical fruit, and melon. For reds, there’s red fruit, black fruit, and blue fruit. Start with these broader descriptions, then try to describe further: if citrus, is it lemon or grapefruit? For red fruit, is it pomegranate or raspberry? The other three categories (non-fruit, earth, and mineral) can be a bit harder to identify, but can be mastered with practice.. Non-fruit can include floral, herbal, spice, and oak notes. Earth can include forest floor, and mushrooms. Mineral can describe wet stone, chalk, slate, and flint.

Tasting the Wine

While aroma is incredibly important for understanding wine, other components fill out what’s in your glass. Sweetness, acidity, tannin, and alcohol make up the wine’s structure (check out our article about all that!) and impact the body of the wine. Wines are either light, medium, or full-bodied. The best comparison is with milk: light-bodied wines feel like skim milk, medium-bodied like whole milk, and full-bodied like cream. Learning varietal characteristics can help you become an even better taster!

It’s important to remember that strengthening your palate is a process, and different people are at different tasting levels. Be patient with yourself and kind to others when group tasting wines. Other palates can help you learn, and you’ll soon be surprised at how much you can identify in your glass!

Hawk Haven Wine Tastings

One of the best ways to strengthen your palate is to taste different wines. Here at Hawk Haven, our tasting is pre-set to help guests expand their wine knowledge. Our staff loves to talk about wine and help people find their new favorites. Come in and do a tasting to build up your wine memory today!