19 March 2012

Getting closer to all sorts of things.

 Since my last update the rosé blend has been decided and the light fining we decided upon has been done.  Currently the wine is settling in barrel and on Wednesday will be racked to tank to start cold stabilizing.  It came back protein stable which was a nice treat, so no fining there and I can immediately turn on the chilling after I get the wine moved.  The whites I moved two weeks ago are still chilling but haven't stabilized as fast as I would have liked so I'll be adding cream of tarter, yes, like what you use in baking, to help speed up the process.  The cream of tarter particles seem to cause the tartaric acid in the wine to precipitate out.  I think by providing a surface for the tartaric to cling to besides the walls of the tank.  It would be great if I could start filtering next week and be ready to bottle in the beginning of April before the weather starts warming up. 

The sparkling wine on the other hand hasn't been cooperative at all.  I still don't have a consistently successful way for getting the yeast out of the bottle.  It just seems all too messy for one!  I'll just have to keep trying though because labels are in the works and we want you to have this lovely stuff!

The labels are coming along nicely.  We had a great meeting last week with our designer Cindy and our label company and we really hope you like what we have created.  If you are in the tasting room in the near future ask to see the new mock ups.  There are two below for the rose and the sparkling wine.  We are always glad to have another opinion to add to the mix.

And last but not least Sue, our new Marketing Director, and I have joined a research group at OSU (Oregon State Univ.) and are learning a new way of evaluating wines.  It has been surprisingly difficult to break my old patterns to follow their protocol but I think there are some benefits to tasting wines the way they are having us.  Flip side being I wouldn't want to do it all the time nor do I think it would be a good way in all circumstances.  What has been more interesting and educational for me is the spiked wines.  Last week we were presented with 12 wines that had been spiked with something, i.e. black pepper, raspberry, cherry, green pepper, canned beans, mushrooms, flowers, and we were expected to identify the spiking agent.  Harder than it sounds, especially when you have no idea what the possibilities are.  I had just recently done a similar experiment and found I did better this time than last.  One of the most interesting wines I thought was spiked with cigar tobacco which I identified as cedar.  Close but no cigar!  Ha ha.  One of the interesting things about aromas, which you'll know if you read Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, is how strongly it is linked with memory, ahh those petites madeleines.  Ergo smells generally cause a memory to occur and then you have to sort through the memory trying to identify the smell.  Quite interesting when you are trying to do it consciously.

We got another dusting of snow this morning.  Isn't it lovely.

08 March 2012

Trials and tribulations, well at least trials

I know, it's been another three weeks since I wrote but this time I've been busy, busy trialing in fact.  Trialing blends, trialing for cold stability and protein stability, trialing fining agents, trialing this, that and the other thing.  Actually things are going very well here and I've been making wine.  At least that's how I feel when I get to move it from tank to tank creating my blends and starting to think about filtering!  After some lab work of course to make sure it is ready to filter which leads to trialing when it's not.   I have all the usual suspects, pH, titratable acidity (TA), alcohol, residual sugar (RS), cold stability - don't want the wine throwing crystals if it lives in the fridge for a while, protein stability - don't want the protein coming out in strings if the wine gets a little too warm if someone forgets it in the car, of course none of you would do that, and this year I am checking for botrytis glucans.
If the fruit is affected with botrytis in the vineyard it can manifest in the wine as very long and strong glucan chains which among other problems can lead to filtering hell.  For the geeks, I think what happens is the botrytis feeds on the gluscose in the juice and produces the glucan chains as a by product but don't quote me on that.  Back to the winemaking side, what's even nastier is that it likes to sneak up on you, something like this.  I start filtering with the pressure leaf filter which uses diotomacious earth (DE), the wine basically pass straight through the medium and only a few of the chains get caught maybe slowing the filter down a little.  No big deal I think, user error, I'll be fine.  Then I get to the plate and frame filter, again the wine goes straight through the pads, a few chains might get caught but mostly it all looks good.  Then moments later it hits the membrane filter with its lovely accordion style interior, see picture of a cut open filter, and then little chains get caught and faster that you can say 'uhh, I think there might be a prob . . .' the filter crashes to halt, the bottling line goes down and I have a crew of 5 waiting for me to fix the situation.  So to avoid this situation I check the wines in potentially problem years and if necessary add an enzyme which will break the chains so they go through the filter.   Of course the chains are only broken temporarily so once I add the enzyme we have to bottle within a certain window of time before the chains reform.  And that is your chemistry lesson for the day.

Back to winemaking, last week we finally decided I had created the best pinot gris and seven blends in the lab and it was time to start implementing.   It took about three days and a fair bit of basic math to get the wine moved as all the 2011 Seven blend won't fit in a single tank this year so I have to do my best to create a proportional blend in two tanks and then during filtering I will mix them up creating a uniform wine.  I think the scariest part of blending for me every year is that there is no going back.  If I put something together wrong I can't take it apart.  That always makes me a little nervous and so I spend quite a bit of time laying out my plan of action before I start actually moving anything.  Everything went together without a hitch and now I am running lab work.  Once all the wines pass their tests I'll set up filtering.  Yeah!

We are still working on the rosé, haven't got that quite perfect yet.  After an intense tasting last week, as you can see we work very hard, we came up with some new things to try and we are tasting those this afternoon.  Hopefully I'm almost there.  I'm excited to get this wine in the bottle and out to you with the new label on it.  We are shooting for Memorial Weekend.

I also worked with the neck freezer a little more, my technique still needs some work I ended up wearing a little bit too much sparkling wine but I am hopeful.  Wish I had gotten a picture but you'll just have to wait until we start going into production mode.  Then there will be enough people around to get a few pictures of the process.

On the vineyard side, our Pinot blanc sticks have arrived, they are the pruned canes off a mature vine.  In April someone will be coming in to graft some of the Marechal Foch to Pinot blanc.  The advantage of grafting over replanting is you only lose one season of crop, the flip side is the parent plant will have an effect on the grafted plant but hopefully for us it will just help the Pinot blanc ripen a touch earlier.  After this is done we will have all seven varietals of our Seven blend planted here.

Just a home front update, bathroom floor is tiled, walls are next!  And spring appears to be on the way.