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Beckmen 2.0: The Evolution of 1NGREDIENT Continues

Posted: Mar 25, 2022

Beck­men is a farmer first win­ery. Steve Beckmen’s phi­los­o­phy is to grow great wines, rather than over­come the lim­i­ta­tions of a vine­yard through manip­u­la­tion in the cel­lar. That means fas­tid­i­ous vine­yard man­age­ment uti­liz­ing the tech­niques of bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ing and cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the poten­tial of the rich soils and unique cli­mate that we enjoy at Beck­men Vine­yards. Over the decades, Steve has learned from the land and steadi­ly honed his craft as a grape grow­er to forge one of California’s great vine­yards. Inspired by the evo­lu­tion of Purisi­ma Moun­tain Vine­yard, he want­ed to evolve as a wine­mak­er and bot­tle some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, some­thing that expressed Purisi­ma Moun­tain Vine­yard with a high­er fidelity. 

Steve was dri­ven by both the increased qual­i­ty of fruit com­ing from the Purisi­ma Moun­tain Vine­yard and by the qual­i­ty of tra­di­tion­al white wines that he tast­ed in North­ern Italy, made with skin-con­tact and aged in clay ves­sels. It was in Italy that Steve found Tava Anfore, a Tren­to-based pot­ter of tra­di­tion­al wine­mak­ing ampho­ra. Steve worked with Tava to deter­mine the right com­po­si­tion of clay and sand as well as the right fir­ing tem­per­a­ture to cus­tomize the amount of oxy­gen the wines would be exposed to through­out fer­men­ta­tion. Armed with these bespoke clay pots and some of the best grapes that he’d ever grown, seek­ing a new chal­lenge, 1NGREDIENT was born. 

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1NGREDIENT is Steve Beck­men show­cas­ing his bio­dy­nam­ic fruit through the lens of tra­di­tion­al wine­mak­ing. Wines are made nat­u­ral­ly, with­out oak, addi­tives, preser­v­a­tives or oth­er dis­tor­tions. As a wine­mak­er, this required start­ing over and con­sid­er­ing the process with a fresh per­spec­tive. It remind­ed Steve of his first days mak­ing wine.

Start­ing out Beck­men, we were chas­ing the wine. We didn’t know what it was going to be. With time, you learn how to make the wine do what you want. This project like start­ing over, but with a heck of a lot of knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence to work from.”

Grapes are always the most impor­tant ingre­di­ent in wine, in 1NGREDIENT, they are the only ingre­di­ent. Not all wines that are called nat­ur­al” are made with only one ingre­di­ent. In tru­ly nat­ur­al wine­mak­ing, no chem­i­cals can be added to paint over any errors. Rough edges can’t be smoothed out lat­er through adjust­ments. The first take has to be per­fect. Uti­liz­ing the pro­tec­tion of ampho­ra and the nat­ur­al preser­v­a­tives in the grape skin, tra­di­tion­al­ly craft­ed, addi­tive-free wine can be rich and com­plex, while main­tain­ing a clear expres­sion of fruit. So why doesn’t every­one make wine with just one ingre­di­ent? Well, the secret ingre­di­ents required are heavy addi­tions of hard work, uncer­tain­ty and patience. Steve com­pares con­ver­sion to nat­ur­al wine­mak­ing to con­vert­ing to bio­dy­nam­ic farming.

Con­vert­ing vine­yards to organ­ics or work­ing with a recent­ly con­vert­ed vine­yard takes a lot of extra work, but after a while, it gets eas­i­er. We’re still check­ing the ampho­ra reg­u­lar­ly and fig­ur­ing out the best posi­tion for them with­in the cel­lar. You have to con­sid­er every small improve­ment that you could make.”

Start­ing in the vine­yard, these wines are impos­si­ble to make with­out pris­tine fruit. So-called nat­ur­al” wines that don’t come from pes­ti­cide-free vine­yards betray their implied eco­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples and no longer offer any rewards in the promise of true vine­yard expres­sion (who wants a clear­er expres­sion of a poor vine­yard). Because Beck­men has been farm­ing bio­dy­nam­i­cal­ly since 2002, the chal­lenges real­ly begin in the cel­lar. To cap­ture the Purisi­ma Moun­tain Vine­yard vivid­ly, the wines had to be clean­ly fer­ment­ed and aged, or the pur­pose of the project would be lost. The pots of fer­ment­ing wine are mon­i­tored dai­ly and care­ful­ly topped off to pre­vent oxi­da­tion or con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Wines are racked into a tank to rest where they nat­u­ral­ly evolve and clar­i­fy by grav­i­ty. This is all done by siphon, with­out machine. No fin­ing or fil­tra­tion is used. This process is ardu­ous, and the dif­fi­cul­ty is com­pound­ed by the risk of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in mak­ing a wine with­out preservatives.

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These wines are truly handmade from hand-crushing the grapes to hand-labeling the bottles.

Steve’s wine­mak­ing evo­lu­tion has always been guid­ed by learn­ing from the land and apply­ing these lessons to the next vin­tage. He’s now learn­ing how to lever­age tra­di­tion­al wine­mak­ing to best express Purisi­ma Moun­tain Vine­yard. A les­son learned from the 2018 1NGREDIENT Sauvi­gnon Blanc was to pick slight­ly ear­li­er to bet­ter express the sig­na­ture qual­i­ties of Bal­lard Canyon Sauvi­gnon Blanc. Beck­men Sauvi­gnon Blanc is gen­er­al­ly har­vest­ed over sev­er­al evenings to cap­ture a wider range of the grape’s expres­sions through­out ripen­ing, but for the 2020 1NGREDIENT Sauvi­gnon Blanc, only the ear­li­est har­vest was used. The result is a skin-con­tact white that comes in with a lemon­grass sheen rather than a deep­er orange. The nat­ur­al green­ish tint of Sauvi­gnon Blanc bestows a nat­ur­al radi­ance rarely found in bev­er­age. Rather than the sharp­er tan­nin in some dark­er skin-con­tact whites, the del­i­cate struc­ture of the Sauvi­gnon Blanc acts to embell­ish the chalky lime­stone min­er­al­i­ty of this fruit. 

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Anoth­er les­son learned from the 2018 vin­tage was that nat­ur­al wine­mak­ing requires great patience. The wine finds a nat­ur­al har­mo­ny over a longer peri­od in tank and bot­tle before release. Longer rest­ing helps to inte­grate the tan­nin into the wine and to allow some of the rich stone fruit char­ac­ter to emerge from the pow­er­ful can­died cit­rus fla­vors that dom­i­nate the palate of the young wine. After 10 months on skins in ampho­ra and 2 months in tank, the wine is bot­tled by hand and aged a full year in bot­tle. Over years of mat­u­ra­tion in bot­tle, drinkers will see the apple and pear notes come forth and the tan­nins inte­grate deep­er further. 

The com­bi­na­tion of Sauvi­gnon Blanc’s brisk acid­i­ty and nat­ur­al antiox­i­dant qual­i­ties of grape skins allows this wine to age more grace­ful­ly than typ­i­cal Sauvi­gnon Blanc bot­tlings, all with­out sul­phur diox­ide addi­tions. This release offers a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence a Sauvi­gnon Blanc that con­tin­ues to evolve after days of being open or over decades in your cel­lar. At $50, the 2020 1NGREDIENT Sauvi­gnon Blanc is the least expen­sive of our nat­ur­al wines, but it is in many ways the most invit­ing, approach­able, and sur­pris­ing. If you haven’t tried 1NGREDIENT, this is the time to do it. Only 63 cas­es were produced. 

The Beck­men Vine­yards style is any­thing but bor­ing. Steve has always pushed bound­aries and tak­en risks to make pow­er­ful, expres­sive wines. With 1NGREDIENT wine­mak­ing, the chal­lenges and risks were greater, but the rewards are more sat­is­fy­ing. 1NGREDIENT is the evo­lu­tion of Beck­men Vine­yards, and every vin­tage is anoth­er step in the jour­ney towards reveal­ing the poten­tial for what grapes can become.

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