Sunday, October 24, 2010

Busy Wine Weekend and Disappointed with the Blackelder

My 2010 grape order is coming on Monday, so I've been quite fortunate in being able to spend a relatively quiet weekend at home getting caught up on a lot of wine stuff. Saturday was a day to catch up on my UC Davis viticulture class lectures and assignment. Took a a break in the evening and attended a vertical tasting of Brunello di Montalcinos from Canalicchio di Sopra and Valdicava at Gordon's Wine & Liquors in Waltham, MA. Absolutely amazing experience being able to sample wines spanning the past 16 years and culminating in 1995 and 1994 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunellos. Even though old wines such as this are not my thing (too raisiny and sweet tasting), I certainly enjoyed tasting a 16 year vertical! Excellent taste bud and aging expectation training.

Today has been catch up on wine tasks in the cellar. I racked the 2010 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc in preparation for bentonite fining tomorrow. This should protein stabilize the wine in preparation for bottling. I also did some taste tests on the Rhubarb and Blackelder wines to determine how much I wanted to sweeten this wines before bottling.

Have to admit to some math conversion problems (shades of NASA's metric-to-English conversion issues). After diligently screening for the best taste profile, I decided on 2% residual sugar for the rhubarb. Just enough to take the acidic edge off, while maintaining a crisp flavor profile. So I calculated the amount of sugar to add to the carboy, as well as the potassium sorbate for stabilization, mixed things together, and topped off the carboy. After I did the same thing with the Blackelder, I realized that I was coming up with the same quantities to add even though the Rhubarb was a 3 gal carboy and the Blackelder was a 5 gal carboy. My unconscious mind was hitting the 5 instead of the 3 button on the calculator! In the end, the rhubarb is going to be about 3.3% residual sugar with 25 g/hL potassium sorbate. A little more than I wanted, but let's see how this turns out.

The Blackelder is another story. Frankly, I'm disappointed in this wine. I used Niagra grape juice as the base behind the blackberry and elderberry concentrates. But this has ended up with a very grapey nose that requires a lot of sugar to taste decently. I ended up choosing 3% residual sugar to give something reasonably balanced, but not cloyingly sweet. I'm honestly not looking forward drinking this wine at this sweetness level--and I have 5 gallons of the stuff! UGH!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Interim Profile Photo

Friends of mine have informed me that my profile photo is simply awful. Yes, it's about 3 years out of date. I no longer have that scraggly facial hair. And I usually don't go around with my arms in buckets squishing blueberries (yes, those were blueberries).

So, the old photo is gone. History...

One little problem... I don't have any better photos of me making wine to put in it's place. So you get to gaze at my medal haul from a recent wine competition earlier this summer. Apparently I need to throw more crushing/racking/bottling soirees and have people over simply to take pictures of me in the midst of winemaking.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Revised 2010 Fermentation Plan

Twas a dark day yesterday in Westford when I learned that the Old Vine Carignan that I was expecting to be harvested last week and shipped to MA had been ruined by the recent heat wave in CA. After several weeks of cool and rain, the grapes got flash sunburned and dehydrated

No carignan for Aaronap Cellars....

Oh well, that's life when dealing with agricultural products. And let's be honest, I was probably attempting to do too many varietals and too much volume anyway. Sanity might actually have a chance of prevailing this vintage.

Still would have liked to have made a carignan, though...


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2009 Lambert Ranch Petite Sirah in da barrel

Remember, eager readers, about the tale of the petite sirah that I started from frozen must earlier this summer? Amidst all the home improvement projects, I've been letting that sit on the lees while it underwent MLF. I was really hoping that it would finish as quickly as the carmenere MLF this spring, but it seemed to slow down and stop at about 100 mg/L. Chromatography showed just a whisker of malic acid still remaining, but the stuff had been sitting on the gross lees for about 3.5 weeks and I was getting worried about possible reductive conditions setting in.

Just about when that I was trying to carve out some time in my schedule to rack off the lees into another tank, I had an opportunity to buy a new barrel. Andrew at Salmon Falls Winery in South Berwick, ME had an extra 25 gallon Kelvin Cooperage American oak barrel that he wasn't going to use, so I made a quick road trip to investigate his microwinery operation (very informative) and pick up the barrel. I figured that racking into the barrel could only help the MLF to finish as wood barrels often contain resident populations of malo-lactic bacteria. After making sure the barrel was hydrated, I was ready to go.

Ended up doing a gravity fill instead of pumping the wine into the barrel. Took awhile, but less stuff to sanitize and clean! I was quite pleased that I only needed about 200 mL of additional wine to completely top off the barrel (used some of the 2008 syrah).

So the petite sirah has been laid to rest while it finishes MLF. I'll check in a week or so. Isn't that color just absolutely amazing? Still very young, but full bodied aromas of dark cherries. This should be good!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hiccup in bottling the sparkling concord

This fall has been a series of procrastinations in the winery due to needing to focus on some of life's little chores. I swore to myself that I was going to charge and bottle the concord base wine this weekend and start the secondary fermentation to make this a sparkling wine. I intend to use the "methode champenoise" to produce the sparkler--basically that means doing the secondary fermentation in the bottle.

After a slow start on Saturday (due to a Friday night social hour at work), I finished practicing the pipe organ and getting ready for the service on Sunday and headed for my favorite local home brew store (Beer-Wine Hobby in Woburn, MA) to pick up a crown capper, caps, yeast, and some champagne bottles. Filled my arms and got to the counter, only to discover that they only had 2 cases of champagne bottles and I needed 3.

Well, shucks... Not going to get that done after all.

Bought the 2 cases and headed home. Later that night, I realized that actually 2 cases would be perfect. I've got 6.5 gallons of base wine. 2 cases would allow me to bottle 5 gallons of wine. That would let me finish 1 gallon as a sweet still wine, and a couple of bottles as a dry wine just to see what happens. This stuff is tarter than crazy, but would be interesting to see how it ages and mellows.

Of course, by the time I thought of this, it's too late to bottle and I must wait until next weekend. I really, really, truely, double-dog swear that I'm going to get this stuff charged and bottled this weekend so that the secondary fermentation can get going before the basement gets cold. We'll see (even I have my doubts)...


2010 Harvest & Fermentation Plan

Oh faithful readers, you've been patient. Took a little break from winemaking this fall to focus on completing my new entry sidewalk project. Doesn't it look fantastic?

Back to the wine...

While that was going on, I was planning my Fall 2010 Fermentation plan. As usual it started out reasonable, but has mushroomed with the passing weeks. Harvest on the West Coast has been delayed for 2-3 weeks this year due to the cooler summer. That's given me time to plan and get ready, but also time to think (bad combination).

The initial plan was a focus on a Right Bank Bourdeaux blend of merlot and cabernet franc using grapes from Two Mountain Vineyards in the Yakima Valley of Washington. Something akin to a fine claret from Pomerol. Don't I sound like the snooty wino... Seriously, I was really impressed with the wines and vineyards at Two Mountain after I visited and meet the very nice Rawn brothers this spring, so wanted to try making wine from their grapes.

Of course, I have to make a zinfandel ('cause that's just my favorite grape ever) and something completely different. After my trip to Washington this spring, I really wanted to try a unique varietal called Lemberger. It's a red grape that comes from Central Europe and also goes by such names as Blaufränkisch, modra frankinja, and blauer lemberger. For one special person who might read this blog, it's the dominate grape in Hungary's famous Bull's Blood wine! Tannic and typically spicy, I think it makes wines akin to a good Chianti. I ran into several folks on my trip that talked about crushing and pressing off the skins to make a white Lemberger. Another intriguing idea...

So here was the initial plan:

540 lbs of Two Mountains merlot
324 lbs of Two Mountains cabernet franc
288 lbs of Two Mountains lemberger
270 lbs of CA Amador County zinfandel

Looks pretty impressive, eh? I reserved my grapes with M&M Wine Grape in Hartford, CT and sat back to wait. In the meantime, I started to work on the business plan for Aaronap Cellars as a commercial operation and started thinking. I'll post more about that, but to make a long story short, I decided that if I wanted to focus on a particular mission, I needed to make wine from the grapes that define that mission.

You see where this is headed, don't ya...

Last week, I called M&M to see if they would have any extra Lanza Vineyards carignane when it came in. They did, so I ordered some.. another 324 lbs.

The schedule:

Lanza Vineyards Old Vine Carignane ETA 10/08
Amador County Zinfandel ETA 10/14
Two Mountains merlot, cab franc, & lemberger ETA 10/20

Going to be a little bit busy the rest of the month!

Ooh boy,