Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2009 Lambert Ranch Petite Sirah

It's becoming a common theme, but things have been a little hectic lately and just haven't had time to tell the world about the petite sirah that I started from frozen must last month. Faithful readers will remember the whole discussion about making the trip to CT for the Brehm frozen chardonnay juice and my decision to make the trip a little more worthwhile by stopping at M&M Wine Grape in Hartford on my way home to pick up some frozen red must. Well, it was WELL worth the stop.

I had purchased 6 5 gal buckets of frozen crushed grapes that had been grown by the Lanza family at their Lambert Ranch Vineyard Block 29 in the Suisan Valley of California. That's just to the southeast of Napa Valley and is becoming known as a very Napa-like climatic region, but much less expensive. I stored the buckets in my basement while they warmed up, which only took about 48 hours. Processing went like a breeze--since everything was already crushed, I just poured the thawed buckets into a couple of fermenters (3 buckets each).

Harvest stats:
Brix = 25.4 (PA = 14%), pH = 3.69, and total acid = 5.1 g/L

Since the acid and pH are a little low and high, respectively, I added 30 g of tartaric acid (1 g/L dose) to each fermenter to nudge those numbers up and down a little. Each fermenter also got a dose of Scottzyme Color Pro to help stabilize the wonderful dark color of the must and break down the grape solids during fermentation. Fermenter 1 was innoculated with 8 g of L2056 yeast while Fermenter 2 received 8g of D254 yeast. My intent is for the D254 yeast to help enhance the fruity aromas while the L2056 emphasizes the spicy notes.

Fermentation was visible within 24 hours and it proceeded rapidly. I was fermenting in my basement, so I was pretty pleased that I got a nice temperature spike up to 78 °F to help set the color. Interestingly, the ferment finished at about observed Brix = 9 in both fermenters, which indicates some residual sugar, but my Accuvin tests say that there is <100 mg/L and it tastes dry, so I believe that fermentation was complete. Both fermenters got a little extended maceration under Saran wrap because I had to wait until the weekend to press. After one messy press job (see picture below), I combined all of the press fractions into my new 39 gal variable capacity tank and innoculated with CH35 malolactic bacteria. It's been kind of hard to determine if the MLF has commenced since the wine is encased in stainless steel. However, when I press my ear against the tank, I hear the faint sound of popcorn rustling and a metallic clank ever once in awhile that I believe is the marble in the airlock letting CO2 gas escape. So, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that MLF is in progress. I'll take a chromatography reading this weekend to confirm, but so far looks good!

I've been pretty pleased with this experiment in frozen grape must. The color of the pressed wine is out of this world, and the taste is full of big cherry notes with a firm tannic backbone.

Here's what my hands looked like when I was done pressing.

Now I just need another barrel for aging...



Anonymous said...

Hi Noel, I've enjoyed reading your posts. In fact, I think I was at M&M the same time you were picking up your frozen must. In any case, regarding your comment about needing a new barrel, if you are interested, I have a new 25-gal AO barrel from Kelvin Cooperage (purchased at M&M) that I am selling for $260 - retail is $285. I am selling it because I just finished my winemaking plan for this fall, and will need a 59-gal barrel instead of a 25 gal. Shoot me an email if interested.

Andrew Bevan
Salmon Falls Winery
South Berwick, ME

Jason Phelps said...

This one is going to worth waiting for! Did you use anything for color extraction? I used Opti-Red on all my reds this year and the Malbec is pretty dark!


MA Winemaker said...

I only added Opti-Red towards the end of fermentation to build out the polysaccharides for mouthfeel. Otherwise, the freezing process brought out the gorgeous dark color.