Archive for September, 2007

Sean Thackery

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Chillin’ it, yo?

Any strategies out there for keeping our must as cold as possible for about a week?

Our pickle: no jacketed tanks, no heat exchange technology, limited access to dry ice, no way to seal the room and chill it down. We’ve tried wrapping fermenters in sleeping bags. We’ve tried partially submerging buckets of ice into the must. We’ve tried draping plastic across the top and layering that with ice. We’ve even tried sealing part of the basement in plastic and turning on the AC.

With the exception of the AC, which completely failed, all of these produced moderately successful results, but they’re extremely manual in nature, heavily dependent on plastic and fraught with danger (think of a hole in the plastic or a capsized bucket).

So we’re looking for the next big thing: any fluid dynamics experts out there? Any winemakers who’ve been there and iced that? Any MacGyvers with clothespins, underwear elastic and a will to chill? If so, leave us your suggestion in the comments, please! What’s the most elegant and inexpensive way we can cool down our must and hold it there?

A little background …

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First Harvest on Saturday

This just in: the grower can’t pick the Merlot and Franc until Saturday, so that’s now our official first crush date.

That may mean we get Merlot that’s a little riper than we’d like, but the plus side is that the Cab Franc will probably be right where we want it by then. Besides, the Merlot will be within monkeying distance for blending purposes, and truth to tell, if we have to compromise on one of them, the Merlot’s the one.

But perhaps even better, it means a better party that’s easier to attend by all our wayward and familied Garagistes, and perhaps that trumps all.

Still, one day we’ll get to pick on the grapes’ schedule, not anyone else’s, and that will take us to another level entirely.

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Blending (and, much later, bottling) the ’06

Three mysterious figures pour Peugeot back into barrel to slumber until March '08Last weekend, we got together for what we thought would be a relatively quick blending and bottling session. Our mission: blend the 2006 Peugeot and squirrel it away until March; blend the 2006 Deux-Chevaux and bottle it; and then bottle the remaining Merlot.

Unfortunately, we discovered too late that we aren’t quite set up to blend that much wine at one sitting: we need a much larger blending vessel. So we had to divide the Peugeot blend in half which slowed us to an escargot’s pace. In fact, I don’t think we got to bottling until 10:30 or so. That’s just too long, despite the good spirits and ample, lubricating vino.

So here’s a general call for a used, stainless steel blending and fermenting vessel, open-topped if possible, somewhere in the 750 liter (~200 gallon) range. In the Willamette Valley area and got one you want to unload? Send us an email, a few photos, and what you want for it.

Despite the long night, however, I think we were all amazed at the quality of the Peugeot going into the bottle: deep, ruby color; lovely nose; nice richness and fresh fruit in the mouth but well-integrated tannins and backbone. Can’t wait to enjoy it.

And happy anniversary to Brian and Liz, who spent a bit of their magic evening with us studiously sampling the blend for any flaws (there were none, natch). Yes, when it comes to romantic ambiance, our basement lair is unequalled.

More photos below the waterline…

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Merlot at 24 brix: Crush Wednesday?

The word just in from our grower: the merlot’s looking pretty close. At 24 brix and 3.38 ph, the numbers are looking very nice, but we’ll let them hang for a few more days to soak up a little more autumnal sun. This year, we’re experimenting with reducing the yields on the Merlot and Cab Sauv – to see if we can get more flavor and depth – so I’m looking forward to tasting the fruit.

He also reports that the Franc is at 23.5 / 3.25, so that has a little ways go to. If we head east to pick the Merlot on Wednesday, we’ll test the Franc and if it’s up a brix or so, we may get that, too. But it also looks from that pH that we could let that hang until next weekend to safely get a little more oomph without sacrificing backbone. We’ll taste and test when we’re out there.

And so it begins!

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A French Oak Barrel Primer

A Garagistes barrel - can you decipher what that 'T' means?I’ve been looking into sourcing a few new (or new to us) French oak barrels for the coming year, since our current stock is all pretty much neutral by now (barrels are considered “neutral” – imparting no significant flavor or smell to a wine – after 4-5 years). But in trying to bring myself up to speed on the whys and wherefores of choosing a barrel, I began to accumulate more questions than answers.

For example:

  • What to get?
  • Are they all the same?
  • How do I tell them apart?
  • If someone says Quercus sessiliflora, should I say “gezundheit”?
  • What exactly does a French tree taste like, and can you do it without getting splinters?
  • And perhaps most importantly, does “V HTTH” burned into its head mean that particular barrel has something to do with Van Halen (“Van Halen To Th’ Hilt”?) – and if so, how can I stop my barrel from runnin’ with the devil?

All legitimate questions I’m sure you’ve asked yourself, but Jamie, cry no more: that ol’ internet has the answers, after the… Jump!
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