Garagistes 2007 Update June 27

Whit, James and I (joined by James’ friend Bill) racked all the wines on Wednesday night, rigorously (of course!) tasting through all the barrels and carboys to ensure top quality. A few notes to share:

The Perils of a Stainless Steel Tank. We’ve been housing whatever merlot didn’t fit in the barrel in a new 100 liter stainless steel tank. When we opened it up, however, the perils of not filling it absolutely to the top became apparent: a white film had formed on the surface of the wine, probably candida mycoderma. We wrangled it out and sprayed the surface with ethyl alcohol. In sampling the wine, there was no obvious acetaldehyde formation (an oxidized or stale sense to the wine which can result from over-exposure to candida), so we proceeded to rack it.

In refilling the tank, we poured in wine until screwing in the top just barely squirted out wine, so there should be no more trouble with candida. That said, we may want to sulfite the merlot a little more highly at the next (and final) racking.

Specific tasting notes after the jump.

Merlot. While the merlot didn’t show any obvious acetaldehyde, it wasn’t a big, vibrant blockbuster either. At least in this taster’s experience, however, that’s more a mark of the vineyard than the ferment: Cowan merlot always seems a little dull and lifeless to me.

James suggested giving it a turn in the new Oregon oak barrel, both to give it a little more spine and to further our experimentation with what this wood does to various wines, so that’s what we did. I’m not a big fan of what this spicy wood did to the Cab, but I think seeing how it affects the merlot (esp this merlot) is a brilliant idea.

Cabernet. Tasting very lively and still pretty young, but slightly more depth than last racking. As noted above, however, the Oregon oak has a pretty high profile in this wine, and one I’m not altogether fond of. We’ll see how it fares in the blend, however. Perhaps some brief exposure to French oak chips?

Cabernet Franc. As always, mind-blowingly delicious: crisp, alive, fruity and beautifully fragrant. Whatever Cowan’s doing to this in the vineyard, it’s perfect. My guess is that a lot of it is due to crop level: whatever that is (4-4.5, he says) is right on the money.

(Incidentally, Cowan also reports that his merlot is cropped at this level, so if anyone else shares my feeling about the merlot we end up with, reducing that level could be a great place to start fixing it.)

Next up: blending trials, Saturday, August 3.

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