11 July 2013

Hot town, Summer in the city. . . .

Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty.  At least it felt that way last month when I was selling wine back east, complete with Lovin' Spoonful stuck in my head.  Nothing like NYC at the end of June to remind one what true humidity really feels like.  Of course those of you in DC and points south are probably thinking that NYC has nothing on you.  However compared to Oregon, I'm out of practice.  Sweating through my shirt three times before noon however quickly brought back the feelings of summer in the city.  That all was my round about way of saying that our wine is now available in NYC!  Not sure why that feels like such an accomplishment but it does.  We are even on the wine list at The Old Homestead Steak House on 9th in the Meatpacking District.  Of course pinot isn't probably most people's first choice when enjoying steak but seeing it in print was very cool.  Currently you can only get the Pinot noir in NYC but the Pinot gris will be on the next order and hopefully more wines will follow.  So support your Oregon winemaker and go seek out my wine my NYC fans.  If you want to know where drop me an e-mail or give the winery a call and I'll send you in the right direction.

So while I was off gallivanting around the north east, with stops in Ohio also to sell wine and Connecticut to see my brother and his family the grapes back home were busy growing.  Not sure how big of a difference our warm spring gave us I went looking for pictures and the difference between the past two years and this year is amazing.  The first set of pictures were taken after leaf pulling the in the Marechal Foch.  I didn't have pictures taken on the same day so the one from 2012 was actually 10 days later than the one from 2013.  The difference is development is best seen in the bunch closure.  The 2013 grapes have started bunch closure and will enter lag phase soon.  In the 2012 picture look at how loose the clusters are with the stems still very visible.  These clusters are a few weeks away from bunch closure.  Click on the picture for a bigger image.
18 July 2012 - Marechal Foch

8 July 2013 - Marechal Foch
The difference from 2011 is even more startling.  In 2011, July 6th, the Foch hadn't even bloomed yet and it isn't until August 3rd, 2011 that the cluster development compares to the July 8th picture from this year.  This implies that weather holding, we should harvest almost a month earlier than in 2011.  As some of you may remember 2011 was a difficult year for us to get fruit ripe because the season was so late.  Fingers crossed that won't be a problem this year.  Again, click on a image for a larger version.

6 July 2011
3 August 2011
8 July 2013

The trade off to an early harvest is that we have to bottle earlier so blending trials will soon start in the Pinot noir.  Tasting, arguing, convincing others I'm right, discussing, finding the best blends and stained teeth are in our near future here at Airlie.  I can't wait to get started.

31 May 2013

May was good to us.

The beautiful weather at the start of the month has us averaging 2F higher this May compared to last May and with the rainfall at the end of the month we are only had a little less total rain.  Those 2 degrees however have yielded great growing results.  Look at these pictures of Muller Thurgau. One is from last year, June 6th, 2012 and the other from May 31st, 2013.  This year's vines are ahead of last years, you can tell quickly by counting the leaves on a shoot and the picture is a week earlier.  Right now we are probably two weeks ahead of last year!  Yeah!
May 31, 2013
June 6, 2012

We are ahead of ourselves in the winery too for a change.  Looking back at the past two years I wrote about bottling in the month of May and this year we were done in March.  Thus it has been rather quiet in the winery this past month.  The pinot barrels are almost done with ML, two barrels are hanging on and there are three barrels of Chardonnay being stubborn.    Tasting through all the barrels last week while running SO2s and checking pHs, multi-tasking at its best, I'm finding the tannins are trying to strip the enamel from my teeth and the spit from my cheeks, but it's early days yet so I'm not worried.  On the positive side the color is beautiful and there are some lovely dark fruit notes lurking under all those tannins just waiting for their time to shine.

In the vineyard the crew is almost done suckering the vine trunks and cleaning heads, also earlier than last year and Mary is predicting that we could see bloom starting in the Foch next week if the weather holds.  If you have never been out during bloom I recommend making the trip, the smell of grape vine blooms is something quite ethereal and rather unique.  I enjoy it every year and always wish the smell lasted longer.  Speaking of ethereally scented blooms I took a tour of a cocoa plantation earlier this spring in Hawaii and the cocoa blossom might just compare in scent and certainly is a lot prettier.

22 April 2013

Bud break!

We definitely went through bud break this month, though depending on the varietal the vines vary in how far along they have progressed.  Chardonnay is probably the most advanced with Riesling just peaking out.  These pictures were taken today.  Can you believe the weather, it is beautiful here today.

This picture is where the Riesling and Chardonnay vines meet.  It really demonstrates the differences between the varietals.

I love these pictures of convincing a chardonnay vine we really would like to to grow this way not that way!

In the winery it has been business as usual, topping, checking ML's, I still have a few lagging barrels in both pinot and chardonnay, and now checking SO2 levels in the wines which are done with ML.  This is an interesting time to be tasting the barrels because they change so much from week to week, smoothing out rough edges, integrating oak, starting to show some of their potential.  We are a long way from a finished wine though I must say.

I also had the fun job of setting up a spiked aroma trial for this weekend's pick-up party for our cellar club.  I spiked a base wine, both a red and a white, with various spices, vegetables, fruits, etc so that our customers can begin to train their noses and their memories about what different aromas smell like in wine.  It was fun to set up and begin to see the differences even between Mary and I in our own sensitivities to the various compounds.  If you are interested in doing this at home let me know and I give you a few pointers.

01 April 2013

Spring has sprung I think

We had a glorious weekend out here in Oregon this past weekend and so I didn't sit and write my March blog I went out and enjoyed it.  The birds are singing, this junco was so cheerful, the daffodils are blooming and the red dogs have gotten their spring cut.  Don't they look handsome!  We also have a new puppy here at the winery if you come out during the week.  Gus belongs to Sue our marketing manager and is quite a handful!  He definitely thinks the vineyard is here for running and takes full advantage of it.

On the winery side we got the whites bottled, always a relief for me and I racked some barrels of pinot that needed to get off their lees.  Most of the pinot has finished going through ML and I did reinoculate the chardonnay barrels which I suspect aren't moving.  I also tasted through all the pinot barrels.  The ones that haven't finished ML are tough to evaluate because the acidity is out of whack but I'm excited to see what is coming.  I think there are going to be some great fruit flavors with a nice balance of structure.  We even have a barrel of our new vines!  Yeah!  This is the first year I'll be able to taste what might be coming off our new plantings in the vineyard. 

In the vineyard the sap is starting to run and bud swelling is just starting in the foch.  I posted two pictures so you can compare the slightly larger buds of the foch to some pinot gris buds that haven't started.  The sap drips on cuts that haven't completely healed over yet.  So hope for a warmish spring with some good rainfall and I'll let you know this month how things are going.

28 February 2013

Just under the wire!

So I wrote last month I would post once a month and I managed to bring this one down to the last day.  Not a a good start!  However, the month has been productive and educational.  A plus in my book (pun intended.)

I started off with filtering the white wines to get them ready for bottling.  I use a pressure leaf filter with diatomacous earth (DE) to get them from settled but still cloudy to sparkling.  The wines are not sterile at this point so I still need to maintain sulfur dioxide levels (SO2) which works as both an anti-oxidant and an anti-microbial.  It's great when one chemical will do two things.  I use a blend of grades of DE, hence the color differences.  It starts out as a very fine dust and forms a cake when it gets wet and is under pressure creating the filter.  The screens inside the filter housing are just there to catch the DE and to start the cake forming.  I find it fascinating that it works.

We had some great tartrate formation this year in the Gewurztraminer.  Here it is starting to lift off the door when I started cleaning.  It doesn't always come off this easily, usually it glues itself and only hot water and elbow grease get it off but sometimes you get lucky.  Transitional art and easy clean up.

I also attended a Riesling tasting this month with other Oregon winemakers.  I love it when I get the chance to sit down and taste what other people are doing and to hear how they are making it.  I tasted a few beauties that I will definitely be looking for in a few months.  We were tasting unbottled samples and many were still not filtered as well which does mean the wine will change before it is on the shelf but regardless there are some great 2012 Rieslings on the way.  The feedback from my piers is invaluable as well as seeing/tasting how my own wine compares to others: is it drier, sweeter, bigger, more acidic, more delicate?  What about fruit flavors or floral aromas?  Some of the things I am looking at when I taste Riesling.  Thanks to Penner-Ash Cellars for the lovely facility.

In the vineyard the crew has finished pruning and done most of the tying down.   It looks like we might have pinot blanc this year too which would be exciting.  Look at those happy grafts!  I always like how tidy the vineyard looks after pruning and Riley thinks it's great for running.  As my dad would say, the vines are all potential.  Here's to a great growing year.

23 January 2013

Happy New Year

They say that January is time for new beginnings and resolutions.  Therefore here is mine in regards to this blog, I'll post once a month.  After missing the past four months and trust me I thought about writing but found I had no desire, I decided that maybe a monthly update might be more easier for me to do. The trade off will be that I won't write such detail about what I do from day to day but I think I have written about most of my usual tasks which was part of the writing problem.  I didn't want to repeat myself.  Hopefully this will provide a nice balance of keeping you in the loop as to what's happening around the winery and be a reasonable and enjoyable amount of writing for me.  I love to be able to share my picture too, another excuse for this blog.  Now to the business of writing.

Marechal Foch - mid verasion
Gewurztraminer - end verasion
We had a very nice harvest.  The weather cooperated by staying fine until we got everything ripe and picked.  A wonderful change after the past two years.  I was happy with the fermentations and look forward to seeing what you think of the wines.  The Gewurztraminer will be the first to be released and will feature the new label, it should be available late spring. 

Two rather special things also happened during harvest.  One is that my parents came to work.  I know, crazy!  But, it was great to have them and they enjoyed seeing what I do during my busiest time of year.  My mother was here last year so she was prepared but it was a first for my dad.  Thank you to them both and I hope they come again next year.  The other great thing that happened was that many people chipped in and built me an office with windows!  Yes, windows!  Very exciting.  I still spend time in the cave, it's more convenient for lab work but as I sit here and type I can look out at the falling rain.  And as you can tell by the picture we do get some sunshine!
And as always, lab work continues, here I was checking sugars.  Also racking wines to get them ready for filtering and bottling next month.  I love the colors in the pinot gris lees.  The yeast settles out first, the yellow streaks showing through, and then the little bit of color in the wine drops out creating the pink layer on top.  I've also been taking advantage of the cold weather by getting in a little disgorging.  If you haven't tried our bubbles I highly recommend getting a bottle.  I think they have continued to get better with time.  We had a cold snap at the start of the year which allowed the crew to get right into pruning.  The frosting of everything was great to see (pictured above) as well as the accompanying sun.  Now back to work, I need to do some topping and check MLs.