Wednesday, June 10, 2009


A very quick post tonight... I received notice this afternoon that I have been accepted in the UC-Davis Extension Winemaking Certificate program. Just in time to sign up for the first course "Intro to Winemaking" that starts June 30. After that, there is a 10 month waiting list for the 2nd course, so I must be patient!

I'm not expecting the course list to be a walk in the park and will undoubtedly eat into my limited spare time, but I'm convinced this is the path to take.

a MA Winemaker

Friday, June 5, 2009

UC Davis Winemaking Certificate Application Submitted

I took the plunge tonight and submitted my application for the UC Davis Winemaking for Distance Learners Certificate program. Feeling a little nervous at the moment (just like sending out college applications!), but I think this is an important step for me. If I'm accepted, completing the coursework will require a lot of evening homework and polishing off those rusty General Chemistry & Analytical Chemistry skills!

A MA Winemaker

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chilean Syrah--Catching Up!

I believe that I mentioned in an earlier post that I was expecting a shipment of Syrah grapes in addition to the Chardonnay from Chile this spring. They were in the last shipment that M&M Wine Grape received this year, but I finally got them! If you thought my fermentation plans for the Chardonnay was complicated, just wait until you hear the plan for the Syrah!

My goal for the syrah was to produce a big, bold, heavily colored wine with a lot of body and concentrated complex flavors. I bought 270 lbs of grapes that were grown in the Sagrada Familia Township of the Curico Province in Chile and picked on April 7, 2009. I'm still in awe that the little buggers have been in transit over the big wide ocean for a month before I picked them up on May 16 with nary a speck of mold. When I crushed and destemmed, I split the must into 2 portions of 126 lbs and 144 lbs. The split was simply based on 7 cases in one and 8 cases in another--not some arcane winemaking blend portion goal. The specs on the must was pretty decent: Brix = 24.6 (PA = 14.1%), TA = 3.5 mg/mL, and pH = 4.03 (needed some adjustment there).

Fermenter #1 with 126 lbs of crushed/destemmed grape must received 50 ppm SO2/gallon and was treated with Lallzyme EX and Opti-Red enzymes for color extraction & stability. I also added 0.26 oz of VR Supra tannin (I'll explain in another post). Also added 73.4 g tartaric acid to reach pH = 3.60.

Fermenter #2 with 144 lbs of grape must also received 50 ppm SO2/gallon and 0.29 ox of VR Supra tannin, but I used Scottzyme Color Pro and Booster Rouge for color extraction & stability. Added 83.2 g tartaric acid to reach pH = 3.63.

I wrapped each fermenter with insulation and added frozen ice jugs intending for a 24 hr cold soak. However, the insulation worked so well that the must stayed around 43-45 °F for 2 days! A convenient cold spell helped, but that's the coldest I've ever been able to achieve. Even after removing the ice jugs (still half frozen after 2 days), the must took another 48 hrs to reach 60 °F. I innoculated each fermenter with a different yeast: #1 with ICV254 for fruit emphasis and spicy finish, #2 with ICV80 for tannin intensity and dark fruit flavors. Both of these strains were isolated from the Rhone valley, work well with syrah, and blend together well.

I warned you about the complicated fermentation plan, right!

Fermentation commenced fairly quickly (as soon as the must warmed up and with the help of an aggressive Ferm-aid K nutrient addition program!), and the insulation help me to reach >80 °F for 2 days! Again, the warmest I've achieved yet in a fermentation--this insulation wrapping is da bomb!

Fermentation was almost complete (Brix = -1.0) after 12 days so I sealed the must with saran wrap and let it macerate for 24 hrs until I could press it. Last Sunday afternoon, I pressed. The color verdict is in--these are the darkest colored wines that I've achieved to date! Both are an amazingly dark, dark black purple that stains everything it splashes on. The Color Pro/Booster Rouge combo is slightly lighter, but we're talking about deciding between shades of black, here. I strongly encouraged all of you winemakers out there to consider these color enhancing enzymes--and get your fermentation temps above 80 °F!

I ended up with 10 gallons of wine from Fermenter #1 and 11 gallons from Fermenter #2 (after topping off with a couple bottles of the 2008 Syrah). I innoculated everything with Enoform Beta MLB (along with Acti-ML and Microessentials Oenos MLB nutrients) after racking off the gross lees on Monday, 6/1. After 24 hours, I've got an active MLF in 1 carboy and the others look like the MLF should take off soon (keep those fingers crossed).

That brings us up to date. I'll get some pictures posted tomorrow--getting late tonight.

a MA Winemaker

Some Chards settling, another still bubbling...

Just a quick update on the chardonnay. The free run and 3rd press fractions finished fermentation after about 36 days of bubbling away in the basement. It's been a cool spring here in MA and my basement has refused to warm above 60 °F. Which has meant that the chardonnays have undergone a nice loooong and cool ferment without me having to chill them in an ice bath! Thank you Mother Nature!

Anyway, free run and 3rd press fractions finally reached Brix = -2.6 on May 23 and had started to drop the gross lees. I racked both into new carboys with 75 ppm SO2/gallon. It's been almost 2 weeks, and I have to say that both of these wines have almost cleared already. I'm very hopeful for both of these because the flavors so far are awesome. The free run fraction fermented with ICV-D47 yeast is very light in color, good body, and a tremendous load of citrus aromas & flavors. The 3rd press fraction (Cote des Blanc yeast) is a much darker yellow with a more pronounced apricot aroma & flavor. I added lysozymes to both of these to prevent MLF.

The 2nd press fraction is my late-bloomer at the moment. The CY3079 yeast has lagged behind the others and only reached Brix = -1.8 on May 30. I decided to go ahead, rack off the gross lees layer, and add the MLB. I figured bringing the carboy upstairs to complete the MLF would let the yeast finish their job at the same time. I used a new MLB that I haven't used before--Viniflora CH35, which is supposed to have been selected specifically for MLB in white wines with a clean and fruity profile. True to the hype, MLF commenced within 23 hours. The carboy is currently sitting in my guest bathroom bubbling merrily away!

A MA Winemaker