Archive for the 'Vines' Category

Crushing Grenache

Many hands make light(er) work at the sorting table

The pace is picking up here at our subterranean lair. Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir are looming in the next few days, but last week, it was Grenache — the first time we’ve tackled this Rhône varietal. I made the trip with Garagiste Whit in mid-80s Ford F-150 which was loaned to us by Bill, a warm and generous friend of Erik’s now retired from the carpentry business. Pulling into the vineyard in that rig made us feel a little less like the yahoos we are.

The vineyard manager warned us that the sugars might be high, but we saw a lot of unevenness in the clusters, so we set up our first-ever sorting table (pictured above). As we later learned, the sugars were indeed high, but I’m convinced that culling the surprising percentage of unripe and sometimes green berries will make this a purer wine. After all, grapes aren’t just about sugar, and the bitter, vegetal flavor of unripe ones can really swerve a wine.

In any case, since we’ve never made Grenache, I can’t say whether the fruit was typical, or whether this oddball year made it this way, but this may give Pinot Noir a run as our most challenging harvest. The sorters diligently scanned every cluster for leaves, green berries, and the telltale pink/magenta tint of unripeness. Keen eyes even pulled out a little bunch rot, though the harvest was overwhelmingly healthy.

But now it’s safely soaking; probably start fermenting mid-week. More pics just a click away…
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One down, seven to go

Syrah-crifice over Stonehenge

Somewhere around 6am, I pulled out of the Safeway parking lot with snacks and a 4-pack of Red Bull, and pointed the truck east into the sunrise. Ten hours and an enological sacrifice later, I was backing up the driveway with a combined 1200 lbs of merlot and syrah. Like slipping into an old pair of jeans: the 350-mile harvest road trip to fetch the good stuff!

I’ll post our numbers later, but the grapes tasted pretty good, and in fact, surprisingly racy for Washington fruit. I think we could have pulled the merlot a day or two earlier, but picking it when we picked the syrah saved us a trip — and besides, of the two, the blend-destined merlot quite usable a little less than perfect.

But yeah, the syrah: great acidity but also great flavor; clean berries, crunchy seeds. This one’s going to be fantastic if we don’t F it up — something I made sure of by stopping at Stonehenge on the way back for our ritual sacrifice (see picture above).

More pics below the fold…
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It’s SO on! Crush begins tomorrow!

Truck and trailer rented, new crusher/destemmer on-site, and 3 or 4 Red Bulls to prop up a looooong road trip: Vintage 2010 is ON, people!

I’ll be schlepping both merlot and syrah tomorrow. For various logistical reasons here and at the vineyard, they’ll probably be a bit riper than we’d like, but the cool weather there (and here) has ensured they’ve retained the acid they’ll need to make a balanced wine. Can’t wait to taste ’em.

So, sometime around 1pm Tuesday, listen to the east for thunderclaps and the distant caroling or angels as I make the first ritual sacrifice at Stonehenge on the back back into the Gorge. Gosh bless Les Garagistes and their fermentin’ ways!

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Merlot in the lead…

… with syrah breathing down its neck. Merlot’s right around 24 brix, syrah about half a click behind. Perhaps the Garagiste harvest will lurch out of the gate this weekend, my friends!

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The grapes are hanging

Just got off the phone with our Eastern Washington grower, who reported that the vines there and pretty much everywhere else are behind schedule, perhaps as much as a week to ten days. That would start our Washington harvest in October for the first time I can remember.

He says things are looking good, though, and to be sure, Washington has a wider picking window that the Willamette Valley, which is also behind. There’s a danger things may get so late we’ll slide into frost territory, but he’s confident the upper Yakima valley will get a few more degree days between now and then to ripen things up.

What the vintage won’t be is heavy, jammy, and Parker-friendly, I’ll bet. And that suits us just fine. In fact, I mentioned to the grower — who made wine in Southern France’s Côtes du Rhône for nearly a decade — that the cooler season would probably produce a truly French and correspondingly stellar Cabernet Franc, aromatic, floral, and effortless. He agreed.

The Willamette Valley may not get off so lightly, however. If Nazi scientists were to design a perfect set of circumstances to fester powdery mildew around here, this year would be it. Luckily, our Red Hills fruit is tended by pros, so while for many this may indeed be a vintage made on the sorting table, we’re feeling good we may not need one — and net some delicate, authentically Pinot fruit in the bargain.

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Final crush on Sunday

Crushing the Cabernet into the nightSix grapes, seven wines, five separate crushes. But as frost begins to lick the vineyards of Eastern Washington and rain soaks the Willamette Valley early next week, it feels great that after tomorrow morning, we’ll have all our fruit safely in fermenter.

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The Franc is in

The Gods spotlight the Cabernet Franc
Gods yadda yadda 100 point wine yadda yadda. What can I say? I’m a sucker for life-size concrete replicas. And so is our fruit.

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