24 September 2010

Sunny days are here again?

According to the weather report we might be due for some sun, that would be excellent and the longer it lasts the better.  Right now it is beautiful outside and warming up nicely.  Sebastian sprayed a ripening agent this morning also in an attempt to urge the grapes on to greater sweetness.  The birds have started arriving, another problem with a later harvest and right now the only grape they are even remotely interested in is the Foch so there is something with sugar out there.  The birds won't eat green fruit and are one kind of indicator of ripeness.
Sebastian on the tractor
Pad filter open and loaded
In the winery we bottled the 2009 Chardonnay and 2009 Marechal Foch.  Both days went well and weren't particularly long.  We have 2 days of 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot noir and a half day of port and 2008 Dunn Forest Pinot noir left for next week.  Yes, we are finally bottling the 2005/2006 port and once we get a label for it you will be able to buy it.  I'll keep you posted.  The 2009 Chardonnay will be out in a few months but the other 2 wines you probably won't see for almost 2 years.  Just imagine them developing in the bottle waiting for you to enjoy.  The pad filter pictured above is at the end of the day.  I opened it so you could see the pads.  The wine only flows through one pad and I can use as many pads and plates as I need to get the job done.  That is always bit of a guess so I usually guess high.  Below we are cleaning the bottler with hot water, it takes about an hour and a half to sterilize the machine in the morning and then another hour to clean it in the evening when we are done.  Mary is cleaning the four jaws that compress the cork in order to get it in the bottle.
Cleaning the bottler
Mary cleaning the corking jaws
If you are looking for something to do this weekend I recommend heading down to the Fall Festival in Corvallis.  The Benton County Wineries Association is trying something new this year.  There will be just one booth and you will be able to taste wines from most of the wineries in the association.  So come down and check out some labels that you might not be as familiar with as well as our own of course.

17 September 2010

Rain, rain go away.

When I started thinking about what I would write about this week there were visions of purple grapes and sun filled skies dancing in my head.  Watching the rain drizzle down I'm not feeling quite to joyful.  But first things first.
Rosario surrounded by Foch vines
Victoria was beautiful and I forgot my camera so no pictures, sorry.  We love visiting Vancouver Island and had another great trip.  Mostly we walk all day so that we can sit down to a great meal in the evening.  This year we stayed at Abigail's, a bed and breakfast just outside of the main downtown area and slept in a four poster king bed that was so high it had little steps so you can climb in.  It was great fun and we laughed the first few times we climbed on the bed, sliding out was good too (hint, hint M&D).  I only mention the sliding out because my parents sleep about 8 inches off the floor and standing up every morning has become a family joke.  The guest bed is a whole 14"!  But I digress.  As for dining we hit our normal haunts: Cafe Brio, Il Terrazzo, and Bon Rouge and for the first time made it to Camille's.  Chad thinks that may be the best meal he has ever eaten.  Certainly the whole experience was amazing from the greeting, the service and the knowledge of the staff to the wine and by no means the least the food.  We had a lovely bottle of 2007 Orofino Pinot noir from BC.  Sadly another wonderful BC wine which is not exported.  British Columbians do too good a job drinking local wine so there is no need for wineries to go through the hassle and expense of exporting to the US.  If you ever make it up to there I highly recommend checking out the wines.  There are some beauties.
Marechal Foch
Pinot noir
Now back to work.  The weather was good while we were gone and the grapes have been progressing.  The Foch is over 50% through veraison and the pinot noir and pinot gris are turning.  There is softening of the berries in the Muller and the Chardonnay, also a good sign.  Of course we are still weeks behind and now it is raining and they are predicting a few more days.  Normally I wouldn't complain as we need a good drink of water this time of year but it does lower the air temperature and we need more warmth.  Of course, all of this is out of my control so there is no use in stressing.  What will be will be.  The crew is out in the vineyard, yes, in the rain, dropping the fruit that is still green.  See Rosario above.  They are looking at every plant, starting with the Foch, and cutting off any clusters of grapes that have not started changing color.  This is the best time to tell which clusters are lagging behind and will lower the overall ripeness of the fruit at harvest.  After color change has completed there is no way to tell visually which clusters are less ripe.  The crew also spent a few days repairing our picking bins, see we haven't given up on harvest yet!
Sebastian and Rosario
 In the winery my yeast fining to remove the copper was exceedingly successful so I finished putting the blend together and the Willamette Valley pinot is ready to bottle.  We are going to start bottling next week.  We have about 5 days and will break them up over two weeks I think.  Bottling days are long but satisfying as I finally feel that the wine is safe once it is in bottle and I can stop worrying about what might happen.

07 September 2010

What does the owner do while Elizabeth makes the wine?

Drink it is the obvious answer but there really is more to do.
Most states we sell in ( 12 ) have monthly reports.  The feds have bimonthly reports!  Bills always take up twice the amount of time as do deposits.  Today I am putting together the spray tank mix for the vineyard.  It includes food for the plants, protection to prevent powdery mildew, and a ripening agent to help Mother Nature during this cooler than normal summer.  Sebastian, our vineyard manager, is repairing our picking bins so hardward, plywood, and screws have been ordered and made available.
Over the weekend I ran the tasting room and served over 90 customers.  They liked what they tasted so I sold them wine as well!  Outdoor tastings are a hit so keeping the grounds looking fantastic requires weeding and landscape planning.  Today it is raining so my usual watering can be delayed!
The dogs need petting and the cat broke his leg so needs extra attention.
Life is good and it is almost time to sample, sample, sample!

03 September 2010

Happy Dance and mournful dirge!

All the pinot noir is out of barrel and in tank! Yeah, happy dance!
Just starting!
3800 gallons to the top.
Let me be slightly more accurate:  the 2009 Willamette Valley is blended and in tank and the 2009 reserve pinot noir has been racked into neutral oak barrels to age another year and be bottled in September 2011.  I was able to rack 80 barrels in 2 days which was a lot of staring at the racking wand and waiting on the pump.  I like to use a pump to get the wine out of barrel because I think that it does a cleaner job and is easier on the barrels.  I have used a piece of equipment called a bulldog's pup which allows me to pressurize the barrel with nitrogen gas and force the wine out with no moving parts.  While I think that is the gentlest way to move the wine I don't think it as good at separating the settled wine from the lees and it is much harder on the barrels.  The pressurization of the barrels and then sudden release, especially if the seal fails on the bulldog, tends to warp the heads and make the barrels more likely to leak in the future.  That combined with the lack of control made me switch back to using a pump a few years ago.

I must admit that I ended up fining some of the pinot barrels with copper in order to remove some reductive aromas.  I consider reduction a flaw and one that can usually be addressed by the winemaker, so while I don't like having to make additions to my wines I will when necessary.  I consider fixing flaws when possible an essential part of good wine making.  I am trying to put the best wine I can on the market not the wine that has been handled the least.  If the two happen to agree that is wonderful but as I have mentioned before they don't always.  So after fining the barrels with copper to clean them up I then wanted to remove some of the copper, I would love to remove all if the copper but I'm not sure that is even possible and doing would be hard on the wine.  Removing the copper will not cause the reductive aromas to come back and I prefer to bottle a wine with minimal residual copper.  This means that after using the copper to treat the reduction I added yeast to the treated barrels to remove the copper.  This leads to yet another step, the yeast needed to be filtered out of the wine before mixing those barrels into the main blend.  The advantage of doing it this way is that only about 10% of the wine is filtered rather than 100% which goes back to my point that I like to be hands off when I can.  I spent Thursday morning filtering the treated barrels through a pad filter.  I'm sorry I forgot to take a picture when it was loaded but I will when we are bottling so you can see the filter in action.  The pads are 40cm square and go between the black plastic plates on the machines.  It is just like it sounds, the wine is pumped through the paper pads which trap the sediment and comes out clean on the other side.  The pads are available with different pore sizes so I can filter out only what is necessary and not any more.  I then sent a sample of the filtered wine off to a lab to be tested for residual copper and if I am happy with the number I'll mix the treated wine back into the main lot. 

Sebastian cleaned the barrels for me this time, the only reason I could do the job in 2 days instead of 4 and why the barrel room looks so nice and tidy.  He also reset the barrels for me so I was able to burn the sulfur wicks today like I did for the foch and chardonnay barrels protecting the barrels until we start cleaning them for the 2010 vintage.  Speaking of which . . . you all need to start sending us your sunny and warm weather!  We are still very behind and while today is warm, pushing 90F, earlier in the week it was definitely not warm.  We did get about 1/2" of rain on Monday which was a nice drink of water but what we really need is warmth.  The foch is starting to change color, a process called veraison, but is not nearly far enough along and there is no color any where else in our vineyard.  We are still about 2 weeks behind and I'm getting a little nervous!  Okay so maybe the mournful dirge is a slight exaggeration but still more ripening weather would be good.

On a happier note I am off on vacation next week to Victoria BC with my husband to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary so Mary has kindly agreed to write next week's blog.  I can't wait to see what she decides to share with you.