Les Welcome

Whether by intent or tragic typo, you’ve landed on the home of Les Garagistes winery collective. If you’re new to our dark cabal, a rich and heady stew of bad French grammar and subterranean winemaking awaits. But where to start? Here are a few suggestions:

Thanks much for stopping by. We’ve got fruit lined up for 2012, so another exciting vintage is just ahead. Hope you can join us for it, and let us know what you think of what we’ve cobbled together.

More like Prudy, please

A nice, if not entirely deep profile in Slate of humble viticulturist Prudy Foxx, who relies as much on intuition and experience as science in managing world-class vineyards. Says one of her clients,

She’s just one of those people with great intuition, and in grape growing, that’s so important. It’s so refreshing to walk the vineyards with her. She has all the botanical and scientific knowledge, but it is the intuitive side that is so important to growing anything. It is in her veins.

Amen.

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First racking of 2013

Last night Garagistes Mark, Barabara and Greg convened in the basement with me to mess with the heads of our Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Or in other words, racking — moving a wine from one vessel to another to variously fine by leaving sediment behind, soften tannins, and add a touch of oxygen to nudge the wine a bit further toward maturity.

First up was the Merlot, which I’d been snuggling in an electric blanket in order to move malolactic fermentation along. Aside from turning the malic acid in a wine to lactic acid (which works to soften the overall je ne sais quoi), malo also produces a bit of CO2, creating a thin blanket of protection from evil-doers like bacteria and over-exposure to oxygen. The problem is that malo starts so close to winter, it usually doesn’t have much time to bask and thrive in the coveted 55-degree-and-up weather window. As a result, it often goes into hibernation, job unfinished, until things warm up in the spring. So, because you can’t protect the wine with sulfite (which would hobble the malo even more than the temperature), that means the wine’s unprotected until the birds start to sing again.

To get around this, I’ve been moving the blanket around the cellar in order to keep malo from slacking off and refreshing its Facebook page until April. Then, as soon as a wine’s done, I can zap it with a little sulfite and all bacterial boarders will be repelled.

So when we went to rack, the Merlot sounded nearly through malolactic fermentation. Continued …

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Two down, five or so to go

As of last night around 10pm, Merlot and Viognier are bank yo.

The Merlot was amiable and lush, but surprisingly, not as overripe as I’d feared. We’re at about 26 brix (which is a measure of the sugar in the grapes), which in turn translates into about 15.5% alcohol. That’s a little rocket-fuel-y for genteel palates such as ours, so we’ll be adding some water, as well as acid, to bring this cuddly critter of a wine back into balance.

From the numbers and how it tasted, I think we ended up picking the Viognier at the perfect time. The sugar’s at 26 also (so as you might guess from the Merlot’s numbers, we’ll be watering back a bit), but the pH is at 3.45, which is phenomenal. So we’ve got a wine that, right off the vine, is already pretty balanced. Can’t wait to smell it fermenting… mmmmmm …

From the numbers I’ve seen from the vineyard, next up will either be the Cabernet Sauvignon or the Syrah, and very possibly in the next 5 days or so. So keep an eye on this space …

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The gods appeased

An offering to the gods at Stonehenge
… though we definitely high-tailed it out of there before they discovered it was Merlot…

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Let 2012 begin!

Today’s the first crush of 2012! Quarter-ton dollops of Merlot and Viognier will get us started – not a tsunami of fruit, but enough to get us warmed up before the larger harvests downstream.

What a difference a year makes: last year, we brought in Merlot (an early-ripening varietal that’s always the first to come in for us) on October 8, nine days later. The Viognier is even more striking: we picked that on the 15th of October. Practically winter!

So yes, the weather this year has been much more accommodating, though the cool weather and long hang times of last year did get us acid profiles that made for naturally beautiful and lively wines. This year will be more typical: more lush, but as always, we’ll need to keep a gimlet eye on acidity and alcohol.

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RACKING: Mourvedre and Franc

…off gross lees

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And that’s a wrap

And it is done. As of a few minutes ago, the last wine of the 2011 harvest is safely in barrel (the Cabernet Franc). Hard to believe we were still pressing two days before Thanksgiving, but for us, anyway, that loooooong hang time looks to have produced exceptionally elegant and balanced wines. Standouts coming out of the press were Tempranillo, Franc, Sauvignon and yes, Merlot.

Now, we rack and wait.

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