28 November 2011

Harvest 2011 overview

Hello All,

Sorry it has been so long but the last four five weeks have been busy.  (I actually started this post 10 days ago!)  Like all winemakers I love this time of year though I end the season tired, cranky and usually a little sore.  In all honesty I am having a hard time gathering my thoughts about what I want to share with you.  As an overview of the harvest the first fruit arrived on October 24th, Chardonnay from the Silverton area quickly followed by other white grapes from our own vineyard and from BeckenRidge.  This year to help balance the higher acid and to extract more flavor most of the white grapes got overnight skin contact.  This means we destemmed the grapes into tall plastic totes and allowed the grapes to soak overnight before transferring them to the press and continuing the process.  In a normal year the fruit is destemmed directly to the press and immediately pressed off, allowing little to no time for the broken skins to stay in contact with the juice.  This added extra time and handling to dealing with the fruit but I think it was worth it, making for better wine.

The last fruit came in on November 2nd, so a quick harvest as far as picking goes.  I was hoping we would still get in the Riesling from both our vineyard and BeckenRidge but no luck.  The cold temperatures at the start of November were both a help and a hindrance.  While on the positive side the Pinot noir was able to get a longer cold soak than normal and the Rose had plenty of time to develop color, the cold temperatures made it difficult to get fermentations to start in the whites and later in the pinot noirs.  It also was a factor in why we were unable to bring in the Riesling, it just stopped ripening in those low temperatures even with the green leaves.

After we finally got everything going it has been chugging along quite nicely and in the last week stopped the fermentations on the Muller Thurgau and the Viognier.  The first tank of Pinot gris went dry and I have my fingers crossed for the other two as well as the Gewurztraminer.  The Riesling we bought from southern Oregon is perking along nicely and I figure I'll be stopping that in the next week.  The Chardonnay and Pinot noir Rose is barrel have been going a little slower but they should be dry in the next two weeks and then I can start messing with the 7 blend.

As for the reds they fermented quite quickly after we got them warmed up and have been pressed off and racked to barrel.  I am quite happy with what we have there and am anxious to taste them after they go through malolactic fermentation (ML).  ML should also help with the acidity and bring some roundness to the mouthfeel.  I'll probably have to start warming the barrel room in order to help the ML to go through after I inoculate next week but I'll make that decision when I get there.

I hope you enjoy the pictures, they don't really tell a story I just tried to snap some whenever I had the chance.  If something really interested let me know and I'll explain further.  Next week I hope to post the life pictures of our two clusters.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and that you enjoy the up coming holidays.
Cheers, Elizabeth

01 November 2011

Lees filtering - DE - diatomaceous earth

Elizabeth admitted she was too busy to post so instead of missing two weeks she volunteered me, her mother, to write and give you my perspective of what goes on in a normal day during harvest.

Upon arriving at Airlie this morning, Sun. 30 of Oct. Elizabeth and I pumped (racked) the juice from the Pinot Gris grapes that were picked Wednesday morning, 26 Oct. 2011 at the Kramer Farms vineyard.  We pumped the settled juice from one stainless steel tank to another clean tank, when the juice stopped running clear we stopped pumping.  The remaining juice in the tank (200gal. of the original 950gal.) was very thick and full of pulp, bits of grape skins, and a few seeds and is called "lees".  We pumped the lees into a holding tank called a "tote".  However before the lees can be filtered the filter has to be set up; a group effort!
In the photo below the lees in the holding tote is being readied for the filtering process.  Diatomaceous earth (DE) has been added to the lees in the tote which will form the cake that becomes the actual filter, the clothes just hold the DE in place. 

Because the DE settles rapidly it must be mixed periodically in order to keep it in suspension. As Mary checks the filter, Tom mixes with a very long squeegee scraping the DE off the bottom and resuspending it in the lees.  The filtering is a time consuming process but the clarity of the filtered juice and the amount of juice captured from the lees that have settled in the bottom of the fermenting tank makes it worth the effort.  You can see the before and after below.

Mary says, "The operation is slow, aggravating and messy but it is the one piece of equipment that pays for itself season after season.  We recover close to ninety percent (90%) of the juice mixed with the lees which would otherwise be lost.  There isn't another easy way to capture that juice."

Tony, Filter Cleaning Mistress

I haven't been surprised to see how well Mary and Elizabeth work together but observing how much making wine demands the mental agility to change plans, keep hundreds of details cataloged, direct volunteers and keep their sense of humor as we mess up has been a joy.

Christy Ogg

Bob on the Job