Archive for the '2011 Garagistes' Category

Two to go and 2011’s done

Pressing the 2011 Garagistes mourvedre
A couple of days ago, we pressed off the Mourvedre (in our fancy new balloon press, pictured above!) and tucked it safely away in a variable. That means there are only two grapes left to finish fermenting before vintage 2011 is behind us: the Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc.

The Sauv is the closest at 1.002 specific gravity (about 1/2 brix). Officially, all the sugar is gone at a reading of 1.000, but because we’re not working with totally clean liquid (sediment, yeast and MOG still swirling about, albeit listlessly), we’ll still see evidence of fermentation at .997 — what would be about -1 brix if you could have negative sugar. (Hmm: maybe this is how they make Aspartame …)

So I think I’ll hold my breath for another day or so and press it Monday. After last year’s minor epidemic of ethyl-acetate (apparently not unique to our winery), I’m leery of letting it sit too long without the protective layer of CO2 that an active ferment generates. Still, the Sauv is the one we’d like most to have a tannic backbone, so I’ll watch it like a hawk and perhaps try to wrap and gas it tomorrow night if the ferment’s too anemic.

That would leave the Franc, which is only just entering the earth’s atmosphere at about 3.5 brix. And slowing down — so much, in fact, that I’m nervous about it getting stuck before it’s done. We’ve never been fermenting this late into the fall — I mean, holy crap, there’s a chance we may press this wine after Thanksgiving! — which is fine except that as fall wanes, so do yeast-friendly temperatures. So as a precaution, I swaddled the Franc back into an electric blanket this morning, nice and low but enough to keep the yeasties awake enough to finish their epic sugar binge.

All in all, though, it’s getting a little lonely downstairs. After the explosive beginning of crush and a house full of friends and fragrance for a month and a half, the end of harvest ends up being a little like that Haydn symphony, during the course of which the musicians, one by one, gradually pack up their instruments and leave the stage. Just two lonely violins left at this point, and then too soon, silence.

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Dare I say it out loud?

Syrah to quench the thirsts of the godsOkay, I will, but sotto voce: so far, so good.

2011 is shaping up to be a tough vintage for everyone in the Northwest, but you wouldn’t know it from the two grapes we picked up over the weekend. Last Saturday, James and I had an extremely pleasant — and more importantly, rain-free — road trip out to Elephant Mountain to pick up Syrah and Merlot. Denis, the vineyard manager, had been gently lowering expectations leading up to harvest, but the fruit we tasted as we walked through the vineyard with him was supreme.

And back in the winery, the numbers matched: 25.5 brix and 3.43 pH for the Syrah, and 25/3.39 for the Merlot. Great depth of flavor, nice acidity (reflected in the lower pH), ripe but not jammy. Considering the tales we’ve been hearing from our winemaking brothers and sisters in the Willamette Valley — nightmarish tales of grapes stalled a few brix short of the finish line of pickability — we’re incredibly lucky.

Back at the winery, a small but experienced crew gathered and we took care of the fruit in short order. We’d done a little R&D on the crusher/destemmer to adjust its rollers (the part that should crack the berries, but not smash them), and I think we found a setting that, at least for these two grapes, gave us mostly happy, rolling grapes out the other end.

Next weekend, it’ll be Viognier and perhaps Tempranillo and Grenache. Here’s hoping for a copy/paste of this past weekend…

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