A crushing success
H&N photo by John StoopscKenzie Masten helps
her father, Ken, clean a wine press on their
ranch, near Bonanza. Twelve Ranch Wines is
near completing the crushing of their grapes
for the season. The Mastens also raise hay,
grain and cattle on their ranch.
November 17, 2005 by HOLLY
BONANZA - Everyone helps out
when it's time to crush grapes for wine at the
Masten ranch - even the cows.
“The cows love the stems when we pull them off,”
said Connie Masten, who with her husband Ken and
their teenage daughter McKenzie have a small winery,
12 Ranch Wines, on a Bonanza-area ranch, where they
also raise hay, grain and cattle.
Connie Masten has been
making wine for more than five years, but first
started selling her wines commercially a year ago.
Masten believes the high sugar content of the stems
and fruit is what elicits help from the ranch's
cattle. When she first started making wine, she put
discarded stems and grapes in the field for the
birds to enjoy, but instead found a different crowd
the next morning.
“Here were these cows lined up next to the fence,”
Since the Mastens don't have their own vineyard,
they buy grapes in half-ton bins from Sams Valley
Vineyards in Medford and Deer Creek Vineyards near
Selma. More than 5 tons of grapes were used for this
The winery, in a garage-sized building, is cooled by
the ranch's well water. Optimal temperature for the
building that houses equipment and wine-filled oak
barrels is in the mid- to high-50s, said Ken Masten.
“Our well water was just the right temperature,”
Connie Masten said.
Finding equipment to fit the
size of their operation took some searching on the
“We're bigger than a home wine maker,” Masten
said, and yet they are also smaller than most
And they don't want the winery get too big.
“We want to stay small. These wines are really
babied,” Masten said. “We don't want to lose the
control that you lose in a bigger winery.”
There are four varieties
produced by 12 Ranch Wines - merlot, cabernet
sauvignon, syrah and chardonnay.
And they have started something new - blends.
“We do have one blend out,”
Masten said. “We didn't plan on making a blend, but
we're doing that now.”
It's called Kinsey Red, a mix of cabernet sauvignon,
Syrah and Merlot.
“It's a lighter wine, just
because of the grapes we used,” Masten said. “It's
gone over very well.”
This year's grape harvest was unusual, Masten said.
Harvest dates were spread out, and that in turn made
their grape crush later.
“This is the first year this
has happened,” Masten said. “We were completely done
by Oct. 8 last year. This is the first year we've
ever crushed with snow on the ground.”
After the grapes are destemmed and crushed, they're
put into bins or stainless steel tanks where they
ferment for five days to two weeks. The fragrant
crushed grapes are put through a press to get the
juices out. The wine is then put into oak barrels
where the sediment settles. The Mastens don't filter
their wines; they let gravity do the work.
“Everything we do is gravity flow. We don't pump at
all,” Masten said. “Our theory is you lose something
every time you run it through a machine. The flavor
difference is quite noticeable.”
The Mastens also use a variety of barrels to achieve
a variety of flavors in their wines. One-year oak,
new oak and neutral oak each lend a different taste.
“What's on new oak tastes completely different from
second year,” Masten said.
But Masten says a wine's taste just boils down to
the source - the grape.
“When you drink our wines you really are tasting the
grapes that year,” Masten said, noting that a grape
variety's flavor can vary from year to year.
The merlot, from crush to bottle, takes about 13 to
14 months, Masten said. For the syrah, it's 19
“We just taste test to see when they're where we
want them,” Masten said.
The Mastens have had favorable reaction during their
first year of commercial production.
“The response has been really great,” Masten said.
“I think they were really skeptical to begin with.”
The winery has sold out of their chardonnay variety,
and it will run out of the merlot before the end of
the year, just in time for this year's press.
And the winery's popularity is growing.
All of Masten's wine varieties are now being
distributed through Rogue Creamery.
But having the winery hasn't changed the Mastens'
“Our lives are ranching,” Masten said.
“We got into this. We enjoy this. We didn't want to
On the Net: www.12ranchwines.com