17 December 2010

Soil Nutrition and Bentonite Trials

So as the title suggested I learned about soil nutrition and the use of fertilizer at a workshop on Wednesday I attended with Mary.  It was very interesting and I certainly learned a lot though I was distinctly reminded of sitting in High School Chemistry a few times.  I couldn't tell you the last time I looked at a Periodic Table and asking me to remember what cations versus anions are or even divalent ions!  Fortunately our lecturers were prepared for our lack of knowledge and we all got a brief chemistry lecture along with the soil science.  One of the most interesting things I learned, though it was by no means startling, is how badly humans have stripped the soil of life and thus productivity.  We are able to make it work with the use of chemicals but it doesn't work as efficiently nor is it as healthy for the rest of the environment.  We also learned about what different minerals do in the soil and some ways of improving the health of our soil not only for ourselves but also ways that won't show up for another 40 years.  Helping not ourselves but rather future generations.  By the way the answers are positive ions, negative ions and ions with a double charge.
In the winery I have been checking the wines for cold stability, everything failed, and protein stability, only Pinot gris and Gewurztraminer failed.  I was a little surprised that the Riesling failed the cold stability trial because it spent several weeks as juice kept at about freezing and I thought that would have caused most the tartaric acid to precipitate out but I guess not.  I don't know if the process of fermentation freed more tartaric acid or if there was more in the juice than could precipitate out in the time given earlier.
After the Pinot gris and Gewurztraminer failed I set up Bentonite trials.  I dosed samples of each wine with varying amounts of Bentonite, a clay, allowed the wines to settle overnight and today filtered a small amount of each dosed wine through a syringe filter.  I put all the filtered samples in a water bath where they will sit for the next 6 hours at 176 F/80 C.  After that I will let the samples cool and see if any protein settles out.  If I am lucky I will have bracketed the ideal dose and next week will run fine tuned trials so that I can add just enough to get the job done.  Bentonite, like all fining agents, takes other things from the wine besides protein so I try to use the minimum necessary for each wine.  And yes, I am working at home today, there is no club chair at work.

Back at the winery we have had lots of rain!  The bottom of the dock is at the surface of the pond which means the pond is very full! But we haven't had a lot of cold weather which means the vines haven't shut down enough for pruning.  We are still waiting for the sap to finish running back into the roots.  Hopefully next month we'll get a cold snap and be able to start.  A cold snap would help me with cold stabilizing the wine as well.  We'll see what nature brings us.

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