One cabernet in, another cabernet out

George begins the Franc crushWhen we got back with the Cabernet Sauvignon, George was already beginning to set up the press for the Cabernet Franc – the first pressing of 2007. It had fermented essentially to dry, so while we had a crew on site, we figured its time was up.

Pressing is always a joyful time. You’ve tamed the bucking pony of fermentation, and now it’s time to take it out for a ride in your glass. The first step is to simply scoop and pour the must from the fermenter into the press – the juice that runs out, before we’ve applied any pressure, is aptly named “free run.” Especially because the Franc had so many un-pollinated, tiny and bitter green berries, we took extra care to scrape off the cap and liquid first, leaving the dregs (seeds and green berries) lurking on the floor of the fermenter.

Soon, the press was full, and it was time to put our backs into it …

The franc press begins… or rather, the able back of Sam’s son Jesse, who more than earned the coveted title of Junior Garagiste with this enthusiastic labor throughout the afternoon. The trick, as least with a basket press, is to squeeze reasonably but not aggressively hard, then stop from time to time to let the grapes think things over. We also want to taste the entire time, surely one of pressing’s more brutal tasks. When the tannins start to get drying or bitter, it’s time separate that juice and stop pressing.

Then, as trumpets blare and a choir chimes in from on high, we unlatch the pins, pull against the suction between oak staves and grapes and separate the two halves of the press, et voilà…

Opening the press
…le gâteau! Or to put it all English-like, “the cake,” a single-layer, alcohol-infused concoction that would humble the finest patisserier. Then, rinse and repeat until the entire fermenter is processed.

Cabernet sauvignon clusterMeanwhile, outside in the driveway, the crank of the crusher was just beginning to turn, its goal nothing less than the complete evisceration (that is to say, de-stemification) of the cabernet sauvignon.

As mentioned in a previous post, the fruit looked pretty fantastic – clean, healthy, and evenly set. We began passing it into the crusher, trying to cull any leaves and unripe clusters before they hit the de-stemming paddles. It was slow going, but the fall weather couldn’t have been better – sunny, crisply warm, and easy.

Now, it’s bad enough that for a grape to go through the crusher, where its bulbous shell is cracked and its skeleton yanked out without so much as a fare thee well. But once the wheelbarrow was full, the last and ultimate indignity would befall it: the MOG monkeys.

The mog monkeys attack

Yes, no sooner had the crusher been lifted to the side when a phalanx of MOG (or “Material Other than Grapes”) monkeys swiftly descended on the withered assemblage, picking out bits of stem, leaves, and other detritus and casting it aside, perhaps to re-sell it at some decrepit flea market out the back of their van. Time was of the essence, so the monkeys only had at best 10 seconds to do their worst – then, the goo was spirited off to the basement and its final resting place before it would magically transform into wine in a week’s time.

Into the vat with ye!

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