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.

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