I apologize. John wrote this blog back in July, and he thought I had posted it, and I thought he had. So here’s late news!
This is my first-ever blog entry. As the winegrower, I spend little time in the tasting room compared to my wife, Sue. I am out in the vines and in the winery. This time of year is very transitional. After much work in the vines I am content that the fruit is in good shape with no disease, that the canopy is hedged, and that the shoots are in position to maximize sun and airflow.
The weather has been pretty good. No real extremes and not too much rain. [Okay, since John wrote this the rains came, but things still looking god.] Now I turn my attention to the winery.
In the winery, I am making sure the equipment is all in good shape and clean. Our press is a massive beast (6,500 pounds of German iron and stainless steel) going on its 4th decade of service. We named him “Puff”. Puff needs TLC. That means glycerin on the rubber bladder, a couple of new high pressure valves, some gasket repacking, and gear oil on the chains that turn the drum. When Puff is fully loaded he holds 1 ½ tons of fruit that he spins and squeezes under my careful control.
Next I finalized my barrel order for the coming harvest. I have to consider what kinds of cooperage I want to add to my existing inventory. I am using a combination of French oak barrels from the Allier Forest in France, Hungarian oak from the Kadar Forest, and American oak primarily from Missouri.
One of the more challenging and confusing things that are critical to a successful vintage is yeast. There are many dozens of yeast strains available. Most of them are isolated from famous areas that are long established wine growing regions. A variable to take into account is the alcohol tolerance of the yeast. As the yeast consumes the sugar in the must (grape juice) it converts the sugar to alcohol and CO2. High Brix yeast can easily kill off some yeasts leaving the winemaker with the dreaded “stuck fermentation.” Some yeasts can only tolerate lower levels of alcohol but have other attributes that make them highly desirable. Temperature is another variable that needs to be considered. During fermentation a lot of heat is given off by the activity of the yeast. The highest I have recorded is Pinot Noir (2010) at about 100 degrees F. Scary! All of the whites ferment in temperature controlled tanks at low temperatures (about 55 degrees F.) for a couple of weeks. The whites are kept cold to help retain the fruity esters that can volatize leaving the wine without much varietal character.
Soon I will begin to test the grapes for sugar levels and ph. As the fruit matures I also taste the juice, chew the skins and seeds to check the level of tannin maturity, and keep an eye out for disease that may erupt. Now I just wish for no rain until November.
[In fact, we have started the harvest. Last Friday we harvested the Pinot Noir, and tomorrow the Gewurtztraminer will come in.]