Beneath the Cork – A strive to EXCELLENCE in all we do.

In everything that we do, everything we accomplish, we always combine the ‘best of the best’ to assure that your wine tasting experience with us at Sokol Vineyards is above any other experience available. 

As with the carefully selected oak barrels within which we embrace our wines, we are just as discerning with the cork that we insert in our glass bottles.  We desire to work with family-owned cork purveyors with multiple generations of experience and with ‘cutting edge’ technology to assure purity and consistency.

After considerable research and discussions with several top quality producers, our family chose to entrust the family purveyors of Lafitte Cork

Lafitte is a French family with a reputation in the cork industry for supplying the finest product for over four generations. Beginning in France, the company moved its major production site to Northern Portugal in 1956. This allowed them to be directly involved in the selection of fine cork from the most thriving and sustainable cork forests in the world. In 2003, Lafitte purchased a second processing plant in Portugal to meet an increasing demand for quality cork production.

Lafitte Cork has earned the trust of wineries throughout the industry that demand high standards of quality. Lafitte is a founding member of the Cork Quality Council (CQC), which sets stringent standards on corks to be sold in the U.S. market. Since 1995, Lafitte California has operated a state of the art QC laboratory with an ozone-infused moisturizing room to aid in ensuring cork sterility, the first of its kind in the U.S.

Like wine making, cork production is a meticulous art form. Many vital measures are involved in the transformation of cork oak bark into high quality wine cork stoppers. Lafitte is continually striving to improve the quality of their wine cork production using the latest available research.

Our family at Sokol Vineyards will spare no expense to provide a wonderful wine experience for you and your loved ones. We chose Lafitte not only because of their generations of experience, but also for their commitment to be the ‘best of the best.’  We selected their ultra-premium corks, Flower Quality, which are ‘hand selected’ by highly trained analysts of Lafitte. 

Few companies are as focused and driven as Lafitte. A commitment to innovation and quality paired with a generational family approach to business. Their demanding quality standards are measured at each phase of production. They employ advanced testing and measurement techniques. The standard of other cork producers is to ‘test’ the purity of their product by selecting a sample from each batch produced. Lafitte has brought the revolutionary technology of the ELECTVS System to elevation their production standards even higher.  This ELECTVS system provides a scientific method of single cork analysis to ensure the highest level of quality in ultra-premium corks. We at Sokol Vineyards are taking advantage of this inspiring new technology. As we often say “We would not serve you a product that we would not serve to our family first.” Quality is our priority to you, our family of customers. 

From our table to yours…..Na zdravie! [Cheers!]

All videos are used with expressed permission of Lafitte.

The Oak of France –

Tonnelleries Doreau and Vernou

We will not purchase barrels from a tonnelliere that is too close to major thoroughfares or located in seemingly congested French villages.  We will only purchase from tonnellieres that we have personally and individually identified as located in or near the forests used to source ‘traceable’ barrel staves machined in their own mills far from car and truck fumes and other invasive chemicals, smells or dust generated by more populous areas.

We then decide on our oak needs based on the ‘styles’ for each vintage which changes based on the content level of acids, sugars, phenols, etc. as; Old World (location or terroir driven), New World (driven by the character of our grapes), International (known as ‘extracted’ styles for very tannic years), Australian (very fruit-forward with very little oak nuance) or a mix of one or more of these styles.  Add to this the ‘toasting’ levels selected for the barrel staves and barrel heads and you begin to approach a ‘profile’ plan for our wines year by year.

Next, when using French oak, we must choose the actual forest location for each barrel(s) to assure the proper ‘profile’ development.  At Sokol Vineyards we have wonderful forest options in France through our French barrel makers, Doreau Tonnellieres and Tonnelliere Vernou:

·       Allier – the grain is generally fine and its porosity brings supple tannins to the wine

·       Tronçais – comes from the famous 21,000 acre forest, east of the Cher valley which provides elegance and delicacy with roundness, suppleness, and complexity.

·       Vosges (Bourgogne, Argonne, Ardennes, Haute-Saône and Yonne) – the wood here is grown at much higher elevations which results in a distinctive intense character.

Given that we use barrels at this time only for our red wines, we do not incorporate wood from the forests in Nevers, Bertranges, Jupille and the West of France as these are better for certain white wine profiles.

Finally, we select small, exceptional quality tonnelleires for our completed barrels.  We selected Doreau and Vernou because of their consistent production of barrels known to provide finesse and elegance to wine combined with ‘hand-crafted’ techniques assuring a personal touch to a flawless product.

The work of time. Tonnellerie Doreau perpetuates its traditional know-how by mastering every stage of production, including natural drying. Doreau selectively sources only the finest French oak from the top forests in France. All French oak is air dried and seasoned for 36+ months at carefully controlled seasoning yards.

Like great winemaking, great barrel making is a noble craft. Steeped in age-old traditions, both rely on sheer human creativity, prowess and discipline to transform sensational fruits of nature into elegant, awe-inspiring human creations.

At Tonnellerie Doreau the essential objectives and challenges of both wine and barrel making are similar: to bring forth from a naturally variable and selectively picked ingredient only its finest, most desired sensory attributes and craft them into inspired flavorful recipes that are balanced and consistent — season after season, barrel after barrel, and bottle after bottle.

Tonnellerie Doreau celebrates the finest enduring traditions of cooperage by individually building, toasting and finishing every barrel by hand. The coopers swing hammers and toast barrels one by one over an open fire. Doreau chooses to work this way because they believe making a barrel right requires the constant judgment of a gifted cooper using his trained skills and senses to select and apply the right staves, the right toast and the right touch.

Tonnellerie Vernou maintains a production site in Gensac la Pallue near Cognac, 2 merranderies in Genouillac and Piègut, and a site in Sigogne, specializing In the production of large containers and Cognac casks.

Based on its experience and reputation, the Vernou cooperage has remained faithful to the Cognac market since its creation. It has also proved its worth in the high-end market of French and foreign wines. Tonnellerie Vernou’s positioning stems from the proximity it maintains with winegrowers, vintners and distillers, some for 2 generations, but also homes of Cognacs and prestigious French wineries.

A unique heating process, or bousinage, reveals all the aromatic potential of the oak. The cooper must give its characteristic to each barrel by reproducing a precise heating profile. He must use all his experience, controlling the intensity of the fire of his brazier and the time of heating.

Na zdravie (Cheers!)

So, why do we at Sokol Vineyards prize the use of Hungarian Oak? There is a long history of Hungarian Tonnelleries and gorgeous oak craftsmanship supporting the development of premium red wines!

Oak from the Baltic States, Serbia and particularly Hungary was very highly prized by barrel makers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The oak species throughout a crescent-shaped area, ranging from northern Portugal up through France to the Baltic states and down through Hungary and Romania, belong to the Quercus petraea and Quercus robur families. Yet a good deal of diversity in flavor and structure is evident depending on the precise microclimate, soil structure and density in which the trees grow.

Kadar SokolTraditionally, the oak of the Hungarian forests of the northeast was highly sought after by French coopers. The most notable quote comes from French Consul Billecoeq, who stated in 1849: “there is no such a good quality of wood as the one provided by the Romanian Principates”. The taste of French oak, now considered integral to the flavor of red Bordeaux, was not appreciated in Bordeaux’s traditional market in the early and mid-nineteenth century. Winemakers preferred the softer, smoother texture Hungarian oak offered their wines. The substitution of French oak for Baltic and Hungarian oak was prompted by political difficulties, including the Napoleonic wars.

The location of the oak says it all! As a result of the harsh growing conditions of the North Hungarian Range, the oak forests of Romania are composed almost exclusively of sessile oak or Quercus Petraea, literally translated as Oak of the Rocks. Winemakers understand the critical importance of terroir for wine. Coopers and oak researchers also understand how great differences can be between forest regions, even within the same country. For this reason, Kádár Tonnelliere sources oak from only one particular forest terroir, one with very unique and specific conditions for oak.

Carpathian Mountians

On the northern edge of the Danubian Basin lie the Inner Northern Carpathian Mountains, one of the youngest volcanic mountain range in Europe. The majority of  Kádár oak grows in the North Hungarian Range particularly, in the Tokaj region. Composed of 1,500 extinct volcanoes ranging to 2,500 feet in elevation, the Tokaj Eperjesi Mountains are steep, rocky and cold. The continental climate of cold winters and dry summers combines with the steep slopes and the thin rocky soils of the young volcanic mountain range to produce Quercus Petraea oak that grows some 30% slower and denser than in other European oak forests.

Thus, our ‘best of the best” Hungarian oak barrel selection offers very similar flavors to French oak, but its most attractive characteristics include high aromatic concentration matched with low tannic content resulting in wines of complex aromas, enhanced fruit character with tension and brightness, and a soft, creamy mouth texture.  Na zdravie! (cheers)

All images and video used with expressed permission of Kádár Hungary.


At Sokol Vineyards we spend extensive time considering, comparing, and planning the flavor profile of our wines. Our goal is to bring your tasting experience to a new level. During this ‘labor of love’ we look at all barrel (barrique) options from differing barrel artists (Baronnier/Tonnelière).  The single American Tonnelière we use is the ‘best of the best’. Canton Barrel

Our slow growing and ultra-tight grained American Oak is harvested in Minnesota and built in the heart of Kentucky at Canton Cooperage. We chose to select their Grand Cru Limited Edition barrels which are open air-seasoned for four years. This process of seasoning allows the oak to amplify the personality of the wine without contributing an overt oak character. Canton Cooperage seasons their wood in a specific area called the “The Creek Yard”. It is here, neighboring a stream and shaded by trees, that an ideal microclimate of enzymatic activity allows the oak to develop the exclusive nuances which will translate to the wine.

All oak staves are hand-selected to ensure fine to extra-fine grain and tightness to the wood. The extra-fine grain grants a longer aging period in the barrels. Overall aging time is between 18-24 months depending on the taste profile desired by the winemaker. The fine grain allows the fruit forward accents to subtly emerge by softening and integrating tannins. There is a softer, more round mouth feel for the wine that will glisten in your glass.

Our premium red blends love the texture and silky tannins delivered by this premium barrel; our targeted flavor profile incorporating the essence of this premium wood provides enjoyment in every bottle of this limited edition wine.  Na zdravie! Cheers!