Thursday, December 24, 2009

14 Gallons of Syrah and a new toy

I've been meaning to write about my new winemaking toy for a few weeks, but have been struggling to find the time. It's the day before Christmas, my suitcase is packed, and I finally have some free time before I head over to a friend's house for Christmas Eve so here goes (hold your horses)...

I've mentioned the 2008 Chilian Syrah in the past (see post1, post2, & post3). It's been sitting in a Hungarian oak barrel for the past 9 months or so and is now ready for bottling. Now, I'll admit to dreading bottling this wine because it's a 14 gallon barrel. Bottling would mean pumping the wine out of the barrel into carboys so that I could bottle using the gravity siphon that I've been using for the past 3 years. That's a lot of stuff that needs cleaning when I'm done--groan......

What to do, what to do... Fortunately, modern technology has provided an answer in the Enolmatic! This a vacuum powered bottling device that gently sucks the wine into the bottle and then automatically stops when the bottle is full. Up to this point, I haven't been working on the scale that justified purchasing one of these units. But now that I'm facing a 14 gallon barrel, I took the plunge and bought one as an early birthday present to me.

After it arrived a couple of weeks ago, I sanitized 8 cases of bottles and got to work. In a little more than 30 minutes, I had 7.5 cases bottled, corked, and boxed. And all I had to clean up was the Enolmatic (I'm leaving out the 3 carboys of 2009 Syrah that I put into the now empty barrel, but that would have happened anyway). The Enolmatic truly rocks!

A picture is worth a thousand words, so hopefully these will fill the bill. It's a single bottle unit, but that allows me to turn around and cork a filled bottle while the next bottle is being filled. The close-up of the Enolmatic doesn't do it justice, but there is a vacuum trap chamber on back of the machine that captures excess wine once the bottle is filled. This chamber needs emptying back into the barrel now and then, which provides a little break time every so often. The one complaint I have is that setting the proper fill level is tricky. I had some challenge setting the level too low and having too much ullage or taking the bottle off the machine too slowly and over-filling. Spent a good deal of time pouring a little out of the bottle into a too-low ullage bottle. Still, even with that issue (which I should be able to fix with practice), I finished bottling, corking, and boxing 7.5 cases of wine in just 1-2 hours. And had very little clean up afterwards.

Get yourself an Enolmatic and you'll not regret it!

a MA winemaker

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Protein--be stabilized!

Last year, I had a stability issue with my 2008 Northern CA sauvignon blanc. It was crystal clear when I bottled (I swear--even filtered with a 0.5 micron filter), but as the summer progressed and temps in the basement cellar rose, some slight sediment fell out. Didn't affect the amazing taste or aroma, but the slight haze resulted in poor marks in the Winepress.US competition. The judges uniformly stated that without the haze, it would have been the Best of White by a long shot. Oh well, that's my bad. BUT--how to prevent this from happening again in the future???

The most likely conclusion that I've come to is a protein haze. My research tells me that Sauvignon blanc is notorious for protein hazes that form upon warming. These proteins are soluble at lower temperatures, but start to denature and precipitate as the temperature increases. A common preventative is to fine the wine with bentonite. The bentonite clay absorbs the soluble proteins and fall to the bottom of the carboy.

The main reason I've been looking into this is because I've got 15 gallons of 2009 Chilian chardonnay that I'd like to bottle soon. I had split the chard into 3 different 5 gallon batches to experiment with different yeasts, MLF, and oakings. Two carboys are crystal clear while the third is still a little hazy. I decided to do a light dose bentonite fining on the clear carboys for protein stabilization and a heavy dose on the hazy carboy for clearing & protein stabilization. Gets a little more complicated when one of the clear carboys has some lees at the bottom, so I have only had time to bentonite fine the other clear carboy. The other two will have to wait until after Christmas when I can rack them off the lees deposits.

That all said and done, I hydrated a 1.5 g/gallon dose of bentonite in 3/4 c of warm water--swirling like crazy and then letting the mixture sit for 24 hr. Only then did I pull some wine out and dump in the bentonite suspension and top off the carboy. After giving a good swirl to mix, the suspension has been slowly falling out over the past couple of days. I may have to bring the carboy upstairs to warm to room temperature before racking and bottling, but will see after Christmas.

By the way--the left over wine that I had to taste was AMAZING! Clean & crisp, with bright green apple & citrus flavors. Ooh, boy! Can't wait for this one!

a MA Winemaker

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wine, wine, everywhere...

I played "holy hookey" from church today. That's becoming a theme while God and I work some things out between us, but the main reason I stayed home was so that I could get some exercise in this weekend and bottle the 2008 syrah. I gave myself an early birthday present and bought myself an Enolmatic bottler so that I could bottle straight out of the barrel instead of pumping into carboys and then gravity bottling. The syrah has been needing to be bottled so today was the day (especially since it's raining and cold and just plain yucky outside.

I peeled myself off the exercise bike around 12:30, cleaned up, and got some lunch. Then it was down to the cellar to sanitize some bottles. Three hours later, I had 6.5 cases of syrah bottled, corked, and boxed. With the barrel empty, I racked in the 2009 syrah, and then had to clean up.

Needless to say, I'm a little tired at the moment and need to get some dinner. I'll upload a picture of my one-man bottling set up in a little bit.

a MA Winemaker

Got My Medals!

Faithful readers will remember that my 2008 Apple wine received some very high honors at the 2009 Winepress.US wine competition this fall. Gold medal & Best of Show White! Well, I recently received the actual medals & wanted to share. Don't they look very pretty in the early morning winter sunlight?


The judges awarded it 17-19 points (out of 20). Some of their comments:

Good fruit in nose
Good acid balance
Fruit up front in mouth
Lingers well in mouth
Intense apple flavor
Fruit carries through all the way. Good job on a difficult wine! (OK, that's my favorite!)
Crab apple nose (gonna have to find some crab apples at some point)

I'm still grinning about the results!

MA Winemaker