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.

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