Lone Oak is ready to press! Yeah.. Monday we are going to press the Lone Oak Pinot. I was hoping to have this thing go on for longer, however, as usual, the yeast and nature has the final say. We kept the must cold soaking under 50 degrees for about five days after crush. Once we brought it out of the cold room, it took off in no time and the must came up to 80 degrees in two days, then 90 degrees and before we knew it, here we are, five days later and Brix is at almost zero, ready to press. In any case, it followed almost the same trajectory of fermentation of the Sonoma Cost Gap’s Crown pinot, so it should be very interesting to see how it develops.
We are going down to the winery on Monday morning to press and will have some pictures to share from that event.

Uzi

Punching the cap on our home-crafted wine is a piece of cake.  My 9 year old daughter handles it on her own, no problem. Even at age 7 she could do the punch downs in our own cellar where everything is done on a very small scale.  In fact, I would say our cellar is essentially a nano-scaled cellar compared to most licensed wineries.

The punch downs occurring on our Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir right now, for example, are done on a larger scale.  Instead of the garbage can-sized containers we use at home, at the winery we are working with garbage dumpster-sized containers.  Hmmm…I can tell you right now that Uzi will not be happy with my non-technical (not to mention non-appetizing analogies here.)

Anyway, the cap is several inches thick and requires so much pressure to punch through it you cannot imagine.  Some people make it look easy, but it is anything but.  Uzi is working on a more instructional video of punching the cap.  In the meantime, here is a less instructional video of me working hard at it.

Kudos to all the cellar rats doing this grunt work.

~Kathryn

 

Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to in the last couple of months with our new wine venture:

The season started out like a real roller coaster as some of you may have heard.  Following a spring frost, which reduced vineyard crop by 10 to 20 percent, we had a heat wave in the first two weeks of September which dehydrated the grapes and accelerated grape sugar concentration. This double whammy resulted in an almost 30 percent less yield in some places.  Luckily, we were still able to get our hands on some Pinot…
We started the harvest with the picking of our Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Gap’s Crown Vineyard on September 6th and we were off to the races!
The grapes just looked beautiful–small, tight clusters of world class Pinot Noir.  It would have been a shame to crush them 😉 so we didn’t*…

She is a beauty!

She is a beauty!

We sorted the grapes–sorting removes any green leafs, bugs or moldy grapes that might have gotten in during the picking. The term for these ‘sorts’ of things is MOG, Material Other than Grapes. We did not have much to do as the pickers did a great job in the field, picking almost flawlessly clean clusters.

Kathryn and Hannah sorting Gap's Crown Pinot

Kathryn and Hannah sorting Gap's Crown

Sorting is conducted just before de-stemming, which removes the grapes from the stems.  In most cases, crushing immediately follows de-stemming.   However, the grapes were so gorgeous, we decided not to (see above *) and instead opted to do a hundred percent whole berry fermentation and not crush the grapes.  The intention of retaining more of the fruit character in the finished wine was behind this decision.
Next, the bin full of de-stemmed grapes moved in to the cold room for a Cold Soak period of five days at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cold soak delays the start of fermentation and the skins have a longer time to release their color into the wine.  We started the three-times-a-day punch downs, pushing the cap (the grapes skins that rise to the top during fermentation) down into the must in order to get better color extraction and prevent anything bad from forming on top.
This is the fun part.  We even gave up our gym membership for a while as doing the punch downs on such a large bin at 50 degrees in a freezer room will give you an incredible work out in no time!  At this temperature and stage, there is no cap to speak of so punch downs are very hard.  Add to that covering the whole thing with dry ice to form a protective layer of C02, measuring and recording sugar level (Brix) and temp three times a day and you get the picture of how busy one can get.

Hard work in the cold room!

hard work in the cold room!

early halloween

early halloween

After five days in the cold room, we were glad to move in to normal room temperature to get the fermentation started and do our punch downs in more ‘normal’ surroundings. Our plan was to try to prolong fermentation by trying to keep a moderate fermentation temperature, but the yeasty beasties had other plans! That thing took off and shot up to 85-90 degrees in no time at all. Since we truly believe in as little intervention as possible in winemaking, we just let nature take it’s course. Seven days later, all the sugar was gone, the yeast was exhausted from all that feeding-on-sugar frenzy and it was time to press.
We first drained all the free run out of the bins and then dumped the must into the press.   We proceeded to press in phases, tasting and monitoring the tannin level of the wine coming out of the press until we felt that we had just the right balance of tannin to fruit. This is the tricky ‘artistic’ part as you need to try to guess what the final blend will taste like when the press wine will be combined with the free run wine. We ended up with about 80 percent free run and 20 percent pressed wine. That was a lot of fun!

Chris starting up the siphon

Chris starting up the siphon

 

must into the press

must into the press

Yummy tannins
Yummy tannins

With the newly minted wine put away into the barrels, French oak, (Francois Freres, Medium Plus Toast, if you must know), we can now take a little breather.
Or so we thought!
Simultaneously to making our first commercial wine, we continue making wine at home with friends. As luck would have it, our Carneros Pinot Noir grapes must have gotten together with their Sonoma Coast brethrens, decided to conspire against us and mature during the same week. We ended up shuffling back and forth from the winery to our home in Berkeley to do the second shift on our Carneros Pinot.  We were so tired by the end of each day, we slept very well during these nights.

Much smaller scale, Ben still manages to do all the fun work!

Much smaller scale, Ben still manages to do all the fun work!

Now that both wines are in barrels we are taking a little breather to write about it and pay some attention to the ‘business part’ of our venture (but that is another post all together). All this while we wait for out Lone Oak Vineyard Pinot to be picked.  We are going down to visit this vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands this weekend, so we should have some picture to post and more stories to tell shortly.

Cheers!

Uzi

Our inspiration

If they can do it...

The first year we started making wine here in our basement, crawl space, rather, was 2003.  This was also the hottest year in one of our favorite wine-producing regions, Burgundy.  It is not coincidental that I know this for it was in the warm spring of ’03 in Burgundy, standing next to such fabulously famous yet incredibly unassuming signs as La Romanee, Gevrey Chambertin and…slurp….sorry, I’m salivating just typing these names…that we said something to the effect of “Let’s do it” or “What the heck!?” Probably too loudly because then the two small children and one larger child in the back of the rental car woke up, started crying and threw a wet blanket on our romantic dreams.

Uzi, however, had grown up watching his grandmother make wine from the grapes that grew on their property.  And even though Uzi’s feet apparently were not clean enough to stomp the grapes, he has vivid memories of his sister barefoot romping and stomping in the grapes.  So we did head home from France and that fall we took the plunge and bought a few hundred pounds of grapes.  We chose Sangiovese that first year in order to cut our teeth on a less finicky grape to work with than Pinot Noir.

First, let’s address the correct pronunication of winey.  “why-nee” Click winey if still in doubt, but don’t forget to come back and finish reading this post… Got it? Ok. Second, what about the definition? Well, someone may consider themselves a newbie, someone else a foodie. Now, it may not actually be in the dictionary but, in my good book, “winey” is an informal term for an afficionado of things related to wine. Someone who likes to consume it, read about it, make it, etc. I consider myself a winey.  It sounds less stuffy than afficionado.  And is much better than wino.  I consider my partner/husband to be one too.  He is, in fact, much more of a winey than me.  I just hope he doesn’t consider me to be a whiney.

In any case, we have started this blog to keep you (our dear friends and family) who are interested, there are a few, involved in a big part of our world and to help us feel that you are with us on our route of winemaking fun.