30 December 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a a great Christmas or Hanukka or Winter Solstice or whatever it is you celebrate to liven the darkest days of the year.  Mine was very pleasant and I got a new cookbook and an immersion blender.  I'm looking forward to trying out both.
I've been in the winery a few times this week to check on the stubborn Pinot gris, which does finally appear to be moving. Yeah!  And to work on protein stability tests.  I ran a batch last week and found out what wines failed and then over the weekend ran the first set of tests to narrow down the dosage rates of bentonite for each wine that failed.  This week I trialed at finer rates and just finished filtering them.  I use a syringe filter because I am filtering so little wine, just about 20 mls of each.  The small white circle of paper on the brown paper towel is one of filter papers that fits in the syringe.  Then I put the vials, filled with filtered wine, in the handy rack that Barry built me which fits perfectly in my pot.  Now I am going to take them home, fill the pot with water and cook the vials of wine for 6 hours at 176F in my homemade water-bath and see what fails!  What fun!  The nitty gritty of winemakeing.
Happy New Year to you all and I hope it brings everything you are wishing for.  Cheers!  Elizabeth.

22 December 2011

Let ML's begin

Yes folks, it's that time of year again.  I've started tracking MLs on the Pinot noir using paper chromotography.  I haven't inoculated the Chardonnay or the Rosé yet, still waiting for the fermentations to finish is all the barrels, but I did get on the Pinot noir.  As a refresher, ML stands for malo-lactic, and is the secondary fermentation that wine can go through.  Not all wines go through ML though generally wines aged in barrels do.  Wine in stainless steel tanks can also go through ML but it seems to be less common.  Instead of a yeast fermentation, like primary fermentation, which converts the sugar to alcohol, this is a bacteria which converts malic acid, like that found in green apples, to lactic acid, found in milk.  The change in the type of acid causes a pH shift which combined with the different acid makes the wine taste softer and rounder.  Which is why winemakers have wine go through in ML.  This year the wines seem to have very high levels of malic acid and I am expecting to see a larger pH shift than normal.  We'll see if that is true.  After checking to see if the barrels had started on their own, they hadn't, I decided to inoculate. 
The ML bacteria comes freeze-dried and I allow it the rehydrate in water for 15 minutes before adding it to barrel, you can see it sitting in the plastic container in the upper right corner of the picture below.  I also add nutrients specific for the bacteria to each barrel which is the powder sitting on the scale.   Healthy bacteria combined with the right nutrients and a warm enough barrel room will hopefully get the fermentation off to a strong start and I'll soon be able to see activity in the barrels.  I enjoy checking on the wines while they are going through ML because the wine seems to sparkle and swirl all on its own when the bacteria is going strong.  I'll inoculate the Chardonnay and Rosé as soon as they are finished with primary fermentation, it is rumored that you can have both going at the same time but I've not had much luck with that so I prefer make sure the primary fermentation is done before trying to start the secondary.
As for primary fermentations, my reinoculated Pinot gris seems to be going, not very quickly and I have to warm it just about every other day but it's moving, i.e. the sugar is dropping, and that makes me happy.  The rest of the whites in the winery are finished and I'm just waiting on this last tank of Pinot gris to start blending trials for Seven.  I also need to start checking the wines for protein stability and cold stability.  I can't wait to get started!

15 December 2011

Cluster Pictures

Here are the promised cluster pictures showing the lifecycle of a Marechal Foch cluster on the right and a Chardonnay cluster on the left.  The scale does change on the photos, I'll have to think about how to do it differently if I do this again so that you can really see the size change but this time just keep an eye on the ribbon, it is 1/8th of an inch wide.

 June 21

June 28

July 6

July 13

July 21 - The shoulder was cut off the Foch cluster

July 28 - Foch cluster is now hanging opposite of previous weeks

August 3

 August 10

 August 17

August 26 - Chardonnay cluster now hanging opposite of previous weeks

 September 1

September 8 - Just a touch of color in the Foch cluster
September 15

September 22

September 29

October 6

October 13

The End! 

I hope you enjoyed the show, I certainly learned about grape development this summer having to go out every week really focus on two particular clusters.   Next week we'll be back in the winery.

09 December 2011

It's cold.

It is really cold.  I just want to get that off my chest.  This morning it was 23F as I was driving in to work.  I did talk to a friend today who said it was 16F in Montana but that's Montana.  I don't live in Montana!  I live in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and if I want cold and snow I drive to it!  I don't want it coming to me.  I have to admit that it has been pretty though.  A few mornings ago I was making my coffee and enjoying the sun streaming in the window and saw glitter falling from the sky.  That is the best way I have to describe it.  I think it was either very fine snow or some sort of freezing fog and it looked like tiny pieces of glitter.  I tried to capture it on camera but the sparkle was too fine and the moment was so magical that I wasn't really trying that hard.  I just wanted to enjoy the beauty.   Okay I'm done discussing the cold . . . maybe.  By the way, just for comparison, September to December.


So what does a winemaker do when it's this cold, why turn into a mad scientist of course.  The warmth of the lab being a driving factor, that and I had to grow up yeast.  Yeast!  In December!  In the freezing cold!  (Oh yeah, no more cold complaints.)  Unfortunately I think the aforementioned cold aggravated a difficult fermentation and it was slowly grinding to a halt with too much sugar left in the wine.  So rather than put it off any longer I spent yesterday growing yeast and very carefully adding about a third of the sluggish wine to the yeast.  I let that sit overnight and when it seemed to be going well today I added it back to the remaining two-thirds.  Not quite the way I am supposed to do it but tank space is at a premium right now.  So fingers crossed the new yeast will get the job done and the wine will go dry in the next week or two.  And as soon as I get this sluggish ferment to finish I will start blending trials for the seven and then we can think about bottling.  Maybe it won't be so cold!

Otherwise things are quiet.  The chardonnay and rose in barrel are poking along nicely though I finally had to put a heater in the barrel room.  Yes, it's cold there too!  Even with the barrel room half underground.  They are getting close to the point where they might decide to stick if the yeast gets too cold.  (Kind of like me.)  I am excited about the rose and am going shopping to buy all the roses I can find to compare to what I have.  Let me know if there are any you particularly like.
Treat please!