Jeff Gaffner Xtant winemaker Jeff Gaffner is a third generation winegrower who began his career at Chateau St. Jean under the tutelage of renowned vintner Richard Arrowood. Jeff credits Arrowood with teaching him the importance of being as passionate about spending time in the vineyard as well as the cellar. While at Chateau St. Jean, Jeff was part of the winemaking team responsible for the winery’s celebrated 1996 Cinq Cepages, Wine Spectator Magazine’s Wine of the Year. In the years since, Jeff has become one of the most sought after winemakers for artisan labels, having gained critical acclaim and a loyal following for his vineyard focus and elegant style. The Wall Street Journal has said that they “love his vineyard voice”, while the Wine Spectator has lauded his winemaking as “deft”.
In 2001, Jeff O’Neill turned to Gaffner, who had been the winemaker at O’Neill’s Edgewood Estate, to help him create Xtant; a singular Bordeaux-style blend from top Napa Valley vineyards, including St. Helena’s historic Lewelling Vineyard. Xtant’s inaugural 2001 release was heralded as “outstanding” by the Wine Spectator, which scored the wine 92 points, and named Xtant to their list of “Napa’s Impressive Newcomers”. In 2005 the winery introduced a second label, Petit Batard, crafted by Jeff from barrels not used in Xtant.
In addition to Xtant, Jeff consults with a number of high-end boutique producers and makes his own Saxon Brown wines; a limited production line of single vineyard bottlings that pay homage to his “Valley of the Moon” roots.
Grapes from the Lewelling, Kletter, and Oakville Station vineyards are picked in the cool of early morning, and immediately transported to thewinery. All lots – whether destined for Xtant or our second label, Petit Batard - are treated identically throughout the winemaking process, and vineyard character.
After picking, the grapes undergo meticulous sorting both in the vineyard and again in the winery before and after destemming. Once destemmed, the fruit is transferred to small 4-5 ton fermentation tanksand cold soaked for three days to extract more elegant flavors. We inoculate with a cultivated Bordeaux yeast, monitor temperatures for a long slow fermentation, and punch down or pump over 3-4 times a day to optimize fruit and tannin extraction. At 0 brix, the wine is pressed gently - to minimize astringency - to barrel for secondary fermentation. Once the wine completes malolactic fermentation, we remove it from the gross lees and cold stabilize it to 35 degrees for one week before returning it to barrel for extended aging in 75% new French oak.
Throughout aging winemaker Jeff Gaffner constantly reviews the barrels, beginning the process of culling and blending those that meet the criteria for Xtant. After 40 months in French oak, Gaffner undertakes a last, exhaustive review of all barrels to determine the final blend. Barrels not selected for Xtant, are reserved for our second label, Petit Batard. Xtant undergoes an additional 12 months of bottle aging, and Petit Batard an additional six months, prior to release.