30 July 2010

Where did my week go?

I can't believe it is Friday and I haven't had a chance to sit down and write.  To be honest I can believe that I haven't had time to sit down and write but it is still hard to believe it is Friday.  This week has been perfect grape growing weather, cool nights (about 50-55F) and warm days (80-85F).  The only problem is that we are still about 2 weeks behind and could use some more heat but I'll take what we can get and if it lasts this is perfect ripening weather.  We also haven't had any rain for about a month and so the new vines, just planted 2 years ago need to be watered by hand.

As the crew is busy pulling leaves to expose the fruit to more sunlight the watering job has defaulted to Mary and me.  We are a little slower and of course are trying to come up with a better, more efficient way while we work so I have spent at least several hours each day this week watering little plants and cheering them one.  The difference in growth from plant to plant is quite interesting and a few are even sporting a cluster or two of grapes.  We do cut the clusters off as they are drawing nutrition from the plant and we would rather all the plant's energy go into growing bigger and stronger.  We also are watering the replacement plants that are mixed in with the mature ones.  Those we water with a bucket with a small hole drilled in it so that the water soaks in where the roots are instead of running over the surface being wasted.  The new blocks we water with a hose attached to the tank being pulled by the tractor.  Mary and I take turns driving and watering and it gives us a great time to stand and talk.

Also this week we have been tasting blends both in the pinot noir and the chardonnay.  The chardonnay we decided really does need a little tweaking and after several trials and retrials we have decided to add a product called Biolees to the portion of the Chardonnay that has been in tank all summer.  Biolees are the cell walls from yeasts that were grown specifically for this product.  It emulates what the yeast lees leftover from fermentation do but better and it doesn't impart any off flavors, a risk you run using regular lees.  Because the cell walls have been broken down in the lab they also act much quicker in the wine.  What we found in the trials is that the Chardonnay was rounder, creamier and the acid was better balanced.  Hopefully you will agree. 
The pinot noir on the other hand came around on its own and in the end we decided on both a Dunn Forest Single Vineyard and a Vintner's Blend.  I must give kudos to my husband for suggesting how I might make a better reserve wine, it worked.  Thanks honey!  I have yet to decide if we will bottle the reserve this fall or wait till next fall.  I'll make that decision in two weeks when I get back from Ohio.

I also started cleaning tanks.  Next week I'll be moving the Chardonnay and Marechal Foch out of barrel and into tank.  This will give the wine a chance to start settling before I have to filter it, also after I get back from Ohio.  Ahh, the work is starting to stack up.  Hope you all have a great weekend.  I must admit that this is the first one in about 8 weeks that we have no projects scheduled to work on around the house.  We get to sit and do nothing if we desire.  Somehow I doubt that will happen!

21 July 2010

Blending trials in the summer

Finally it feels as though summer has arrived.  Everywhere that is except the winery where I sit, though no longer wearing flannel lined jeans, bundled up in a 2 shirts and a fleece and still needing to go outside periodically to warm up my hands.  But once outside I am reminded that summer is here and the grapes are growing!  Just look out how are Chardonnay plant is doing on the left.  Once they start it is amazing how fast they go.  In the Foch the grapes are already pea sized and fruit set looks good.  Fruit set is how many berries are on each cluster, if there are missing berries or if they are of uniform size.  Now we just need to hope for a perfect summer and fall growing season so everything ripens and stays looking as healthy as it does right now.
Marechal Foch
Under the Canopy
New Vines
Next week the guys will start removing leaves from around the grapes so that they get more sun and more air.  Sun helps with the ripening, obviously, and the air helps keep mildew and rot at bay.  If the morning dew or a little rain sits on the fruit it can start to mold and cause other problems lowering the quality of the grapes and making my job a little more difficult.  The better the fruit quality is the less I have to meddle and the better the wine is in the end.
We have also seriously started blending trials and I have to admit that they aren't coming together as smoothly as some years.  Barrels that I thought would make a good reserve wine haven't stood out in the blind tastings and the Willamette Valley blend is nearly indistinguishable from the reserves.  Nor is the Willamette better when I take out my reserve barrel ideas, which is a side benefit I always hope to occur.  We are going to try my third idea tomorrow and see if I have gotten closer to the right blends yet.  If not, we will really discuss whether or not to even make a reserve or any single vineyard wines this year.  The Chardonnay and Foch are mostly cooperating and may just take a little tweaking to get them closer to what I consider ideal.  (Read the end of that last sentence tongue in cheek!)  I'll let you know next week if we are getting anywhere.

13 July 2010

Monthly Group Tasting - methode champenoise

Last night was our second group tasting and as expected it was quite interesting and educational if maybe a slight let down.  The requirement was just that the wines had been made by methode champenoise, which means that the second fermentation occurred in the bottle and then after riddling, slowly collecting the yeast in the neck of the bottle, the wine was disgorged, removing the small amount of sediment and corked.  I did forget my camera so no pretty pictures unless I track down some labels on the web.  We tasted 11 wines, from all over:  California, Oregon (3), Washington, Australia, Italy (2), France (2), England.  I think the let down came from the fact that the wines were at different temperatures and so not all showed as well as they might and I believe there were two corked wines.  Both were quite subtle though they did get worse as the evening went on, a sign of cork taint, and unfortunately the taint made both wines seem quite simple.
We did taste them blind this time and the group ranked them before the unveiling so there were some surprises.  Interestingly for me, the overall winner was one of my least favorites, mostly because it had some reduction problems and even if the wine did get better with air it's not a flaw I easily forgive.  I would have liked to go back and tried it a second time but didn't get the chance.  I did like the second favorite though and, pleasantly, it was a wine out of Oregon and by a friend who recently started his own label.  I didn't even know he was making sparkling wine but I had his pinot noir about 3 months and it was also very well done. 
The group's third ranked wine didn't do much for me, I found it rather boring but non-offensive.  I think it would be good in mimosas, my solution for bubbles that I like but don't love.  Pleasantly surprising for me, the wine I brought was my favorite.  I hadn't had the wine before and bought it purely because it was the only English sparkling I could find in the states.  I attended a lecture at ASEV about England's growing sparkling production and was interested in trying a bottle.  I did order two bottles to help disperse the shipping and am now very glad I did.  I can't wait to try it again after it has had time to settle after shipping.  Side note, I recommend letting wine sit about 2 months after shipping.  That is probably longer than necessary but the wine does go into bottle shock, especially if anyone inadvertently dropped your package, and the time lets it recover. 
My third favorite was one of the corked bottles.  Now how could that be a favorite?  Well let's just say I am guessing.  I really liked what was there, some great fruit and a nice core of acidity, and felt that mostly the wine was dumbed down.  Now I admit that it might not be any better if it were not corked but I think that it has good potential and I'll be tracking it down to try again.  We also had one muscato and it was such a refreshing change from all the others that it stood out.  It was well done, nicely balanced and fun if just a hair too warm for that much sweetness.   It's the label above.
Group 1st ~ 
Roederer Estate Brut, California
My 1st ~ Nyetimber
Blanc de blancs 1996, England
Group 2nd ~ 
J Albin Blanc de noir, Oregon
My 2nd ~ 
J Albin Blanc de noir, Oregon
Group 3rd ~ Yellow, Australia
My 3rd ~ Lamarca Prosecco, Italy

I always think it's great when an inexpensive, easily available wine shows well in a blind tasting.  I had no idea Yellow was there but looking back at my notes it showed like I would expect.  Nice fruit and honey notes with a lingering sweetness that balances the acidity.  A little to sweet for me, especially as it warmed up, and as I said before nothing remarkable, but to its credit well made and I expect very consistent from bottle to bottle.  Let me repeat myself, perfect for mimosas!  And just to list, in no particular order, the remaining wines; Lucien Albrecht cremant d'Alsace, brut, NV Elk Cove, brut, 1999, Capitello, brut, NV, Domaine St. Michelle, brut, NV, Langlois cremant d'Loire, brut, NV.

So enough dreaming about mimosas on the patio and back to the winery.  This week I am putting together the first blends of the pinot noir.  Mary and I will sit and taste them tomorrow or Thursday and that will give me a starting point.  I hope to have the blends decided by August 8th as that is when I am flying to Ohio to sell wine for a week.  It feels like a difficult time to be leaving the winery but if I stay on track it should be okay.  We'll see.

09 July 2010

A little heat wave

The big news of the week was our little heat wave.  And I have to say that for Oregonians, there was remarkably little complaining heard.  I think it is a sign about how ready we are for summer to be here.  Usually when the thermometer crosses 90F there is an out pouring about how hot it is!  Personally I love it when it gets hot, of course I do work in a place that's about 55F all the time so it doesn't impact me the same and then when I do get to be outside I act like the cats and dogs, find a place in the shade and lie real still.

One of the side benefits to all this heat is that it pushed the vineyard into bloom in a rush.  everything is popping and the scent of bloom is strong in the air.  The smell is hard to describe, it is a bit like fruity soap but very subtle.  There is a cedar note as well as hints of vegetation.  If you get a chance, come out this week and see if you agree with my description.  Our chardonnay plant is blooming and the white spots you can see on the leaves are from the spray Sebastian put on this week.

In the winery I have been tasting through all the barrels and I have to say that in the three weeks since I tasted them last they are really starting to come around.  The tannins in the BeckenRidge pinot especially have started incorporating and are becomeing quite fine grained.  I realize that may sound a little funny but tannins definitely have personality and texture on the tongue.  Some are quite coarse and feel rough and drying while others are soft and almost silky, filling the mouth and providing body.  Those are ideal because they enhance the wine rather than distracting you.  And I have to say that while I don't normally worry about it, this year the color is amazing.