08 Syrah and port slip into bottle

2008 Les Garagistes Syrah gurgles joyously into the bottlerSomehow amidst the frenzy of crush, we managed to bottle last year’s Syrah and Port. Actually, “managed” isn’t quite the right word; “had to or else” is closer to the truth. I’d been thinking we’d try aging both wines for another few months, but we simply needed to free up some space for the 2009s heading pell mell toward the end of fermentation all around us.

Luckily, we had enough people to make it go smoothly, and for our trouble, walked away with a surprisingly luscious Syrah — pure and rich but rewardingly complex. I’d think this one will unclench from its traumatic journey into bottle sometime around the new year, but that said, I won’t do any significant dipping into my stash until late spring at the earliest.

More pics and a bit on the port after the jump…

The bottler stands by youAs Jack Aubrey might say, “the bottler stands by you.”
After bottling the Syrah, we turned our attention to the “Merlot-driven port,” as its label pithily says. This was our first try making Port in-house, but we were greatly aided by our friend and former Garagiste George, who’s made a few in his time and walked us patiently through the steps to do it right.

The basic principle of Port is arrested fermentation: you start your ferment as you would any other red wine, but somewhere around 12 brix or so (when about half the sugar has been consumed by the yeasts), you dump in brandy or some other form of alcohol. This puts a quick end to the yeast’s frenetic activity, since their environment has suddenly become toxic to the tune of 20-22% alcohol. Heartless, I know, but we comforted ourselves that they’d died in the service of a higher calling: namely, a tasty port we could clench in our sausage-like fingers ’round the hearth at the Club.

At bottling, the alcohol still hadn’t integrated into the wine, but it had clearly made progress from the last time we really paid attention to it back in the spring. So while I’ll probably crack one open during the holidays, this guy will probably take a couple of years to grow into its skin. And then, look out.

Our magnificent bottling gizmo slakes the thirst of waiting bottlesOur magnificent bottling gizmo slakes the thirst of waiting bottles.

Affixing the finishing touch to a bottle of 2008 Les Garagistes SyrahAffixing the finishing touch to a bottle of 2008 Les Garagistes Syrah. Putting this label on is an unholy pain in the keister, but it looks kind of spiffy, and it allows you to ID your wine when it’s stacked on its side.

Post-bottling dinner and conversationAs usual, the post-bottling feast was amazing. Just off screen is Burt Bacharach.

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