20 January 2012

Did you hear about the rain?

If not, here are a few pictures.  All the rain we didn't get in December appears to be coming down in a rush.  Or at least it was yesterday which combined with the melting snow made for some exciting waterways.  Yes, we had snow last week too and it was so pretty.  Snow around here is great because it never seems to last for long so we don't have that ucky gray slushy mess that is that part of snow you want to go away, we just get the fluffy white stuff which quickly melts when the weather shifts back to rain.  At the winery, we actually had a moment of concern that our pond could overflow but fortunately the rain stopped, well at least slowed down, and the levels are dropping again.  I have to admit though driving through puddles almost to my bumper was kind of thrilling. (I drive a little car so reaching my bumper isn't too hard.)  No, I didn't drive down the closed road.

So back in the winery, trying to stay dry. I finally borrowed a neck freezer from Anne Amie winery that hadn't been used in umpteen years and after getting it home, plugged it in.  And guess what it still works!  I don't yet if it will chill as cold as I need it to but the chiller worked.  Now I need to find out what ratio of glycol to water I should use and then run the machine to find out how cold I can get the solution.  Now the reason I am so excited about this neck freezer, and you should be too, is that this is the next step in getting the sparkling wine ready for sale.  The bottle is inverted, allowing all the yeast to collect in the neck of the bottle.  Normally this process, called riddling, takes several month but because I used the encapsulated yeast, (remember those beads I was so excited about back in April?) the process takes less than a minute.  The inverted bottle is placed in the rack on the freezer and the wine in the neck is frozen.  The bottle is then partially inverted, the crown seal removed and the pressure in the bottle ejects the frozen plug of wine which contains the yeast leaving a clear bottle of wine behind.  The bottle is then topped and resealed and after getting a label is ready for sale.  Woo Hoo!  So that's why I'm excited about such a dilapidated looking piece of equipment which worked! 

I've also started the blending trials for the pinot gris, after we get that closer to settled then I'll start on the seven blend.  I put together my first blends on Saturday in conjunction with a small filming I was involved with, more on that later, and we tasted on Tuesday.   Mary and I were quite happy with how the wines are showing and a few more trials should hopefully have us with a solid blend.  Then after knowing about how much of the single varietal wines I want to bottle I'll start on the seven blend.  This year we have lots of pieces, though still only seven varieties and so I was feeling a little more overwhelmed about my starting point but I am looking forward to the trials.  I am especially interested to see how the Viognier from Southern Oregon fits in.

 So back to this little bit on filming.  Three Crows is a local company making films about the wine industry and they were doing a segment on blending.  So David came out on Saturday and filmed me while we talked about the whys and hows of blending.  Of course I wanted to know all about what he does and how it does it so it made for some interesting conversation.  Next he wanted some action shots and I figured I might as well get some work done while he was doing that which is why I went ahead and set up the first set of trials of the pinot gris.  It was very informal and fun.  I'm looking forward to seeing the finished film and I'll be sure to let you know when you can see it.  Here is a link to piece they did last year on Mary and Airlie.  It's a nice little vignette and very short. 

My backyard after our lovely snow fall and a kitty that wants in please!

06 January 2012

Merry Christmas to me!

Look what I got today!  My first new pump!  For the winemaker geeks, it's a Waukesha 30 positive displacement pump.  I've never had a new pump before.  I'm so excited!  The funny part is that I have wine to move but I can't use it because the pump doesn't have a plug!  I'd have to raid another piece of equipment so I guess I'll just wait and use the old one.  Oh well!  But still, I am very excited.  It's so clean and shiny!  And it came it box, that officially makes it a present.

Okay, enough drooling from me, back to work.  Work this week involved adding the bentonite to wines that needed to be protein stabilized, a slow process but not difficult.  After mixing the clay with hot water I let the mixture sit overnight so the clay is completely absorbed and I have a creamy looking slurry that feels very slippery.  I then hook Argon gas up to the tank via one of the valves and slowly allow the gas to bubble in causing the wine to turn in the tank.  Finally I stand at the top of the tank and slowly dribble in the slurry.  This can take around half an hour depending on the size of the tank.  Finally I shut off the gas, close up the tank and let the bentonite go to work.  It takes about a week to settle out and as the bentonite passes through the wine the protein compounds will grab on to the clay and be carried to the bottom.  If I remember right there is a charge difference between the clay and the protein and that is what causes the attraction.  Please don't ask me which is negative and which is positive, I can't remember and I would be compelled to call a fellow winemaker and ask.

I also checked the ML's on the inoculated barrels from two weeks ago.  They appear to be starting. Yeah!  I saw sparkling in the barrels and we are starting to get the dots forming at the top of the sheet.  It's amazing what gets me excited is it?

I nearly forgot to tell you, the problem pinot gris has been stopped.  Mary and I decided it had come into balance though it wasn't quite dry and I went ahead and added the SO2, sulfur dioxide, to kill the yeast.  Watch now it won't stop just because I want it to and it will go to dry after all.  I can just see this happening.  The next step will be to check it for protein stability, add the bentonite if necessary, and start blending trials for both the pinot gris and the seven blend.  One of my favorite projects.

Pruning has started in the vineyard.  The crew at this time is just making the cuts, later when the vines are warmer they will go back and remove the dead wood and tie up the canes for this year.  If they tried to do it now the canes would tend to break as they are quite stiff from the cold and we would have nothing for this year.

I'm going to go pet my pump some more. 

Just kidding.

Or maybe not?