Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chilian Earthquake Aftershocks Reach Massachusetts

It's not often that you're personally affected by a massive earthquake in another hemisphere, but today's magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile has resonated as far north as Massachusetts. I was amazed by the initial news of the earthquake, but was even more startled when I learned that the epicenter was near the town of Talca. For those of you not intimately familiar with the geography of Chile, Talca lies in the Curico Valley in central Chile south of the capitol city of Santiago. You should be able to manipulate the map to zoom in and out for more detail.

View Larger Map

How does this affect me way up in Northern Hemisphere? Well, the Chilian grapes that I order each spring come from near the town of Sagrada Familia, a mere 70 km north of Talca. Those grapevines were definitely swinging in the air earlier today. Harvest is still a couple of months away, but who knows how this event will affect the harvest & shipping of the crop. Ironically, I had just placed my order for some carmenere & sauvignon blanc grapes on Thursday.

Of course, here I am worrying up my upcoming grape shipment... My heart goes out to everyone in central Chile. Reports are still spotty, but there has to have been massive damage to the infrastructure and residents in the region. Aid organizations like the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders are already responding to the Haiti earthquake, so they will undoubtedly need new donations to respond to another tragedy. Please, folks, if you are able, consider a donation to help our southern friends in their time of need.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Old Zin vs a New Zin

Quick post before I head to bed tonight. I've had a case of the zinfandel wine that I made as my very first wine from grapes way back in 2006. The grapes came from the CA Central Valley and I've never been happy with this wine (quite a blow to my winemaking ego that the first wine I make from grapes stunk). Very light in color, not all that flavorful, and there was this harsh phenolic taste in the finish. In a word--blech!

I ended up bottling this stuff in 2007 before I was forced to move to MA and I've had a case of the bottles sitting in the basement ever since. Frankly, I've been wanting to free up some storage space, so I decided to open a bottle of the 2006 tonight.


In it's defense, the fruitiness is finally beginning to emerge. The phenolic taste is greatly diminished. But, it's still a very light color, light tasting wine with a fairly disagreeable finish. I forced myself to finish the glass and then poured the rest down the drain. I've made a decision--I'm dumping the remaining wine and reclaiming the bottles. The storage space & bottles are worth more to me than the wine.

To please my palate after that experience, I popped open a bottle of the 2008 Zinfandel. This was made from supposedly premium northern CA grapes. I do have to admit to liking this wine--a LOT! Aged in an American oak barrel for 9 months, this wine is dark, heavy, fruity, rich, pure heaven!

Probably not a fair comparison. I've had some practice making wine from grapes since 2006 and used some additional techniques to extract both color & tannins, so shouldn't be a surprise that a later vintage is better. The grape source for the 2008 Zin was much higher in quality. And I barrel aged vs adding oak flavors with oak cubes or spirals. But, darn it! I like the 2008 Zinfandel!

A picture is better than words, so here's a couple to illustrate the difference in color between the 2006 & 2008. In both pictures the 2006 is on the left and the 2008 is on the right. Isn't the difference in color between the two wines amazing?

I've come a long way, baby!


Bottling, bottling, bottling, and more bottling...

I realize that I've been kind of lax in posting recently. Lots of reasons for the absence, but one big one is that I have been on a bottling frenzy. Followed closely by the capsuling frenzy. And then followed by the labeling frenzy. Seems like my dining room has been cluttered with cases of bottles for

The recent bottling run-down has been:

11 Gallons of 2008 Zinfandel
14 Gallons of 2008 Syrah
15 Gallons of 2009 Chardonnay

Whew! I'm exhausted just typing all of that. One good thing about all this bottling activity is that I finally figured out how to control the speed and ullage levels of my Enolmatic bottling system. Faithful readers will recall that I was complaining about this during my debute bottling with the Enolmatic. Well, turns out that there's this little knob on the side that controls the vacuum level. What I thought was the low setting was actually the high setting. If you keep cranking the knob to the left, you actually lower the vacuum level and bottles fill slower. Man, what a difference that makes! Now my ullage levels are more consistent, less wine gets sucked into the overflow containor, and I can cork the previous bottle and still have time to swig a drink of wine before the new bottle is full. Much better!

Noel (yeah I'm giving up the pseudonym)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another day of filtering & bottling

I had President's Day off today, so I decided to filter and bottle the last of the chardonnay that had been sitting on oak since early January. Taste tests indicated that the oak level was just about perfect so it was time for action. The filtering actually went quite easily. I used 0.5 micron filter pads in my Buon vino minijet to remove as much sludge as possible and the wine came out crystal clear. I bottled within a couple of hours and got 25 bottles from 5 gallons of wine. The bottles were sealed with 1.5 inch natural corks.

I think I'm pretty much done with filtering & bottling for awhile and should be all set to send off a load of wine for judging in the 2010 Winemaker Magazine Amateur Wine Competition. At the moment, I'm planning on sending at least 8 bottles, possibly 9 if tomorrow night's taste test works out.

a MA Winemaker.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Rhubarb Progress

Very brief post here to catch up on the rhubarb wine progress. After a couple of days in the bucket, I poured into carboy to allow the fermentation to finish under an airlock. I added a strong dose of FermaidK to try to overcome the very strong smell of H2S that this wine is kicking off. Here's the result in living color.

Interestingly, this wine is a strong pink color. Will be interesting to see how long this color persists or if it gets bleached out after fermentation is over.

Stay tuned!
a MA Winemaker

Topping, Tastings, and Tossing

I went down into the winery/cellar this afternoon to top off the zinfandel & syrah barrels and pull some wine from the apple and oaking chardonnay to taste their progress. First off, both batches of the apple wine are tasting great! There isn't a lot of obvious difference between the two at the moment (only change was the yeast strain in the fermentation). The second batch that was fermented with 71B-1122 yeast seems a little rounder & fuller in the mouthfeel, which is what I'm wanting since 71B is known to metabolize some of the malic acid to lactic acid.

The chardonnay is also tasting very nice. I racked it off the bentonite treatment on Jan 10 and added a couple sticks of French oak medium toast spirals for some added complexity from the oak. Not as vanilla, buttery, & soft as I'd like so I'll leave it on the spirals for a couple more weeks.

Now this is where I started to get exasperated. I needed to top off the chardonnay & apple carboys to prevent air oxidation of the wine. However, I discovered that my current stock of chardonnay is extremely low! Only 4 bottles of commercial chard in my entire cellar! So I decided to grab the 2007 Sandhill Crane Vineyards Chard for topping off, only to discover that it smells like massive brett invasion. Disappointing--that went down the drain. I next grabbed a 2005 Firelands Isle St. George Barrel Select chard. To my dismay, that bottle was noticeably brown and smelled like sherry. Also went down the drain. Two for two! I've never experienced this rate of bottle failure before!

I really don't want to break into my other two bottles for topping wine since they're rather expensive. So, I'll head out to the liquor store before dinner tonight and grab a bottle or two of inexpensive oaked chardonnay for topping off.

Who'd a thunk?
a MA Winemaker

p.s. Completely forgot about the reds! The syrah is just like ink with big notes of pepper & bright fruit. The zinfandel is also yummy. Big, opulent dark fruit flavors & high alcohol! Both of these have only been the barrel for about a month so there's a long way to go. Stay tuned for further updates.