The Significance of Barrel Steaming

When our cellar team isn’t keeping the winery spotless, they’re on the front lines of our winemaking process. A step that’s rarely seen by visitors is barrel steaming.

Contrary to popular belief, the steam isn’t for cleaning. Instead, steam is primarily used to help maintain moisture in the barrels and to prep the barrels for filling. With steam, the barrel staves expand ever so slightly—very important to prevent leaking when the barrels are filled. As a reminder, wine barrels are held together by force—not glue!

At our Napa Valley Winery in Oakville, the barrels are steamed individually by hand. At our Alexander Valley Winery in Healdsburg, our new and once-used barrels are efficiently steamed four at a time using equipment.

Steaming a Silver Oak wine barrel by hand

For all things Cabernet, subscribe to our Cabernet Life email.