28 June 2011

We finally tasted the sparking wine!

We got some rain last night and today which is good for the plants that we put in the ground this weekend at the house and great for reducing the pollen in the air but the cooler temperature is not so good for growing grapes. The moderate temperature and higher humidity are also perfect for growing powdery mildew another bane of grape growers and rose enthusiasts both. I did photograph the clusters today, again Foch on the left and Chard on the right.
I also went out last week and looked for some clusters in an earlier stage of development so you can see more how they start.  These are Gewurztraminer.
In the vineyard the guys are cleaning the heads of the vines.  This means they are removing weak canes and some of the leaves from around the heads for two main reasons; one is so that the plant will put more energy into the main canes where the fruit is being grown and the other reason is so that the increased air flow will reduce disease pressure both by allowing more air movement and so we get better spray penetration which in turn both reduces the amount we need to use and makes it more effective.  How was that for a run on sentence?
Last week we finally sat down and tasted the wine at varying levels of bubbles which I created by adding differing amounts of sugar back in April when I made up the sample bottles.  Link to that post is here.  The table was mostly in agreement on how bubbly they liked the wine and now I just need to move forward on getting the wine bottled.  Each of us took a bottle home to finish that night and everyone agreed they liked the wines even more properly chilled and are excited to get it in the bottle.  
I talked to the lab as well and it looks like all the tests are good.  I might need to do a little protein fining so that the wine doesn't go cloudy if it gets left in a hot car and am running those tests now.  I need to filter the samples and then take them home and cook them for 6 hours to see how much bentonite it will take to fix the problem.  The disadvantage to fining the wine is that I will remove color, you can see it sitting in the bottom of the jars, and will change the flavor.  Here comes the tough part of winemaking, how to balance making a more stable wine versus a possibly more flavorful one.  I will taste through the fined wines as well to see when I start noticing a flavor impact due to the fining and then based on the test results try to balance the two sides.
Just to keep you up to date on the home front I got a new custom built herb garden for my b-day.  Chad says it's for me but really I think he was just tired of all the pots of herbs sitting on the patio.  Either way I am very happy to have it and it is just outside the kitchen door so perfect for grabbing what I need.  I even had space to add in a few new ones and I sowed some Thai Basil seeds from my mother.  I hope they come up! 

21 June 2011

First day of Summer!

Finally summer is here and boy does it feel like it!  I love sunny days and today is so long I'll have hours to enjoy it.  Might even get in some weeding.  I took a great walk in the vineyard this morning and the air smelled amazing.  Now my allergies are going haywire but well worth it.  I did decide on the my walk to try an experiment this growing season.  I have marked two grape clusters, one Marechal Foch and one Chardonnay and I will try to take a picture every week until harvest.  They will be the first two pictures every posting now until harvest with the Foch of the left and Chard on the right.  As always, you can click on the pictures to expand them.  I wish I had started this a little sooner but didn't think of it.  This picture shows the clusters pre-bloom, the green balls are buds not future grapes.  I'll compile all the pictures at the end of the year in an album.  It should be fun to watch the progression as a time lapse video. For scale the blue ribbon is 1/8" wide.  So without further discussion here are the first two pictures taken this morning.
As for in the winery it looks like those last four barrels are almost done with ML.  It will be good to be able to finally add sulfur and protect the wine properly.  I'll taste through all the barrels tomorrow and see how they are progressing flavor wise.  I also need to check the pH's and the levels of free sulfur in the barrels which have been dosed and adjust them if necessary.  Also on the docket is getting the sparkling wine ready for bottling.  I sent out for some lab work before I left and now need to discuss the results with the lab.  I'd love to get the wine bottled next week.

Finally as some of you know I spent last week driving from Seattle to Chicago with my younger brother in his 1972 BMW marking my progress with Facebook.  By the way there is no data connection in Eastern MT.  Just thought I would share that.  As for the trip it was great though a little slower than it would have been in a 'modern' car.  Overloaded, my brother is moving, no cruise control, and the blinker switch on the right instead of the left.  BTW, I apologize to the cop I flashed in the middle of South Dakota when I was trying to get over to the shoulder at 1am.  What else?  Ahh yes, remember to lock the doors to make sure they are actually shut, the wipers only have one speed and they stop where you shut them off.  Timing that took a little practice to say the least.  Don't forget the bike is on top of the car and don't hit a moose as we will both die.  This said by my brother before he promptly goes to sleep somewhere in the panhandle of Idaho.  Suffice to say we had a great trip, didn't hit any animals, only had car trouble in Spokane where fortunately there was a place which could actually fix the problem, had the part and let us sit in their waiting room all day.  Thank you European Autohaus!  I left my brother in Chicago to fly home trusting he can make it the rest of the way on his own.  What a week and we are still friends, even better!

11 June 2011

Almost feels like summer

After last weekend's beautiful weather the vines put on a burst of growth, as did the weeds around my house.  Sebastian our vineyard manager said he measured several shoots on Friday and again Monday and they grew an average of 3".  The vines that is, not the weeds, though I think my weeds might have grown that much too!  The clusters are also starting to grow so you can see where the future grapes will be after bloom.  They look so tiny right now it's hard to believe how much growing they have to do.

On the winery side I was put in touch with the perfect person to discuss lab work with on the sparkling wine.  I called ETS Labs, a California based company that does a lot of lab work for the wine industry and it turns out they have someone who used to work for Moet, the champagne house, and even better she is actually located in Oregon!  So after spending some time of the phone with her we decided what tests needed to be run so that I can be more comfortable that I won't have problems in the bottle during secondary fermentation.  One of the concerns is because of the shift in alcohol that occurs in bottle, wines that were previously stable, especially cold stable, can become unstable and in the case of cold stability crystals can form in the bottle making the yeast beads less effective as well as giving me the added problem of trying to get the crystals out of the bottle.  It also turns out that wines fermented with the yeast beads are at risk of becoming calcium unstable, a problem I have never encountered so I'm not sure what happens other than I am assuming that the calcium forms crystals in the wine similar to the tartaric acid precipitant formed during cold stabilization.

I am still waiting on those results but as I am off on a short road trip next week I went ahead and filtered the wine yesterday so that we can turn off the chilling system.  I don't like having it running while both Mary and I are gone and she is off next week to sell wine in Denver.  For this small volume of wine I decided to use the plate and frame filter that I use for bottling because I think there is a little less oxygen pickup and it might be easier on the wine than the DE filter I usually use for this step.  I used a coarser filter pad than I do for bottling as I was trying to minimize stripping the wine while still making sure I got out all of the cream of tartar I used to seed for cold stability as well as any crystals forming on their own.  Filtering went very smoothly and I could have used fewer pads than I did.  I'll know for next time.  This was the first time the wine has been moved since it went into the this tank for fermentation and the lees were very well settled.  The tan parts are mostly dead yeast bodies mixed with whatever particulates were left from the grapes after the first settling.  The pink layer on top is some of the color falling out on its own and then the lightest pink is the cream of tartar, it started white, which pulled out color along with the tartrates on its way down.   Keeping this wine pink may be difficult, we'll see.
I also attended a Pinot gris conference at Oak Knoll Winery this week.  Everyone who attended brought a bottle of Pinot gris and after spending the morning discussing everything from growing and making the wine to selling and marketing it we tasted through all the wines.  It was great to taste so many next to each other and to be able to compare and contrast different styles of winemaking.  I, of course, would have liked to spend more time on the making part but I think people had some good ideas about how to move Oregon Pinot gris forward as a group making it both more available and understandable to the consumer.  The next step will be trying to implement some of those ideas.

Rocky wants to know "where are you?"
Not much else to report.  As I mentioned above I am gone next week.  My younger brother is graduating from University of Washington in Seattle and is then off to Connecticut to teach at the Coast Guard academy. I offered to help him drive his car, that 1972 BMW I showed a few weeks ago, minus the canoe.  We are leaving Monday and planning on driving across the northern part of the country spending a day at Glacier Park in Montana.  It should be a great trip.  I haven't taken a road trip like this in quite a while and am looking forward to it.  All this boils down to the fact that I probably won't write next week, I'm not taking my computer but I will have my camera and am sure I will have pictures to share when I get back.