Sunday, November 27, 2011

2011 Crush Winding Down, Sort of

After all the excitement this week, I'm feeling a little let down as the 2011 crush season is winding down.  I'll admit that having M&M crush & destem for me robbed a little bit of the experience, but it did save me a lot of work (especially on clean-up).  I didn't admit to it in the last post, but I actually left the carignane sitting on the loading dock at M&M when I picked up the rest of the grapes.  Was in a hurry since I had gotten there a little late and they brought out a pallet of frozen buckets that was wrapped up so nice, and I completely forgot to count buckets.  Got home and realized that the carignane was a separate pallet of buckets.

What do you do in this case?  Thank your lucky stars that your girlfriend's parents lives just north of Hartford and happens to be coming to your house for Thanksgiving.  Shawna's dad graciously agreed to stop at M&M on Wednesday and pick up the carignane for me.  What a guy--I did send them home with 5 bottles of wine as a thank you! 

The syrah and grenache are pretty much done with alcohol fermentation.  I innoculated with MLB near the end to take advantage of the warm vat temperatures and big nutrient source in the grapeskins.  Trying to extend a maceration until next weekend when I can press.  The cab sauv is coming along a little slower--just about half done with alcohol fermentation.  And the carignane just got innoculated this morning.

Of course, that makes it sound like things are starting to wind down for the year.  Can't have that!  So I got a bee in my bonnet about other sparkling wines I could make from MA produce and thought--sparkling cranberry apple!  Can't get much more New England-y than that.  Found some premium cider and loaded up on cranberries on the cheap this week and just started the base wine tonight.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2011 Fermentation---at last!

It's been a long, long, & difficult harvest season in California this year.  Spring rains that knocked the pollen off the flowers and resulted in drastically reduced yields followed by cool summer temperatures that extended into fall.  Many vineyards failed to reached maturity and the fruit was left to rot on the vine.

I've been patiently waiting for my grape order to arrive.  Almost a month later than usual, the Koch Vineyard cabernet sauvignon reached maturity and was harvested.  Of course--it arrived on the East Coast just in time for our Snowtober.  Thankfully, the emergency back-up generators at M&M kept it cool.  I was simply unable to receive the fruit after it arrived, so I had M&M crush/destem and freeze the must until I could get down to CT to pick it up.  The Koch cab sauv was actually the ONLY thing in my order that arrived on the East Coast.  Everything else either failed to mature or West Coast wineries snatched it all up.  But, my broker Nick was able to find some replacements for the rest of what I had ordered.  What a guy!

The line-up for 2011:

32 gallons of Koch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Suisan Valley)
23 gallons of Lambert Ridge Syrah (Suisan Valley)
12 gallons of Paso Robles Grenache Noir
14 gallons of Lambert Ridge Carignane (Suisan Valley-a special fermentation treat for Shawna)

Now, this will be the absolute latest that I've ever fermented wine and is pushing the envelope of my creativity to get the frozen must thawed and warm enough for the yeast to be fruitful and multiply.  Here's some pictures of what I've resorted to.  The fermentors are clustered around a space heater and then covered with blankets to contain the heat as much as possible.  So far, it's working.  Must temperature after innoculation is ~70 °F and cap formation was evident within 18 hrs.  I'd like to spike the temperature to at least 85 °F so will continue the heat tent treatment, especially as the temperature dips below 32 °F at night.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2011 Medal Roll Call

The end of 2011 is almost upon us and I've received the results from the last competition that I had entered.  Hate to self-brag, but since this is my blog, I'll brag if I want to!!  I took a step back from competitions and only entered wines in 3 this year, Winemaker Magazine, American Wine Society, & the Amenti del Vino Classic.  This was mainly due to a little lull in my wine production as i wanted to let the reds age for longer than I have previously.  I had intended to get wine submitted to the Indy International competition, but ran into scheduling difficulties and hot weather that was not conducive to shipping.  But I believe that these competitions are some of the best for amateurs, and I'm pretty pleased with how my wines fared.

2011 Winemaker Magazine Competition
Silver:    2008 Northern CA Zinfandel
Bronze:  2009 MA Apple
Gold:     2010 VT Maple Syrup "Ice-Wine"

2011 American Wine Society Amateur Competition
Bronze:  2006 WA Chardonnay
Bronze:  2009 MA Apple
Bronze:  2009 Chilean Syrah
Bronze:  2010 VT Maple Syrup "Ice-wine"

2011 Amenti del Vino Classic
Bronze:  2010 Sparkling Concord
Gold:     2009 MA Apple
Gold:     2009 Chilean Syrah
Gold:     2010 VT Maple Syrup "Ice-wine"

Once again, I find the disparity between competitions to be rather interesting and humorous.  The VT Maple Syrup "Ice-wine" was the most consistent & highest winner with 2 gold medals (perhaps the AWS judges just didn't know how to rank such a unique wine).  And I finally took a gold medal with a dry red wine!

Competitions aren't the only way to get feedback on one's wines and I know all of these wines have been highly enjoyed by my friends and family (which means more to me than a medal).  Perhaps the best affirmation I received was a comment from the recent American Wine Society Conference after the Friday night Amateur Wine Experience:  "You made the Maple Syrup wine?  That was simply awesome!"


Sunday, November 6, 2011

LLC Papers Filed

Well folks, the journey to commercialization has begun.  This evening Aaronap Cellars LLC filed for a Federal employer identification number and LLC incorporation with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  This really is the "Republic of Taxachussetts" as the LLC filing fee was a whopping $500 (plus a $20 processing fee for on-line filing).  I recall my ex-wife filing an LLC application with the state of Michigan for a whole $25.  But, as many of you will undoubtedly point out--I live in MA now, not MI.  Such is the cost of doing business here, I guess.

But--I am excited to start this brand new adventure!  Really, I'm actually smiling as I type this entry, I swear.  :)  I'm sure there will be times of smooth sailing and times when I want to pull my hair out.  Never fear--I'll keep you updated on each and every step along the way.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

2011 Blueberry Port "Snowtober Blues"

Snowtober....who in New England will forget this great Halloween snowstorm?  Could this go down in the history books like the Great Blizzard of '78?  Probably not, since it really didn't affect Boston very much, and it seems like anything that doesn't happen in Boston doesn't really matter very much.

But it was quite the weekend at Aaronap Cellars.  I started off Friday evening (Oct 28, 2011) by driving down to the Cape with Shawna to spend the night before running in the Cape Code Half-Marathon.  Shortly before getting to Falmouth, we passed the recent remnants of a horrific car crash that killed one of the drivers.  Not much we could do to help so we continued on our way.  The next morning, it was a cloudy & chilly day for a race, but I had a very nice run and finished 560/732 finishers with a time of 2:17:16.  Not too shabby for my first half-marathon if I do say so myself!  And I absolutely loved rounding the corner towards the finish line accompanied by the cheers of a wonderfully supportive girlfriend!  After a shower, a nap, and some lunch, we mosied our way back home, stopping off at a Halloween party at the home of one of Shawna's friends.  By the time we got home, the rain that had started around noon had turned to slushy snow and the poor trees were already bowing.  The rest of the night was spent listening to the sounds of "crack" as tree limbs gave up the ghost and snapped to the ground.  We lost power at Aaronap Cellars around 1 AM on Sunday morning and it didn't come back on until Tuesday night.

So what does a winemaker do when the power goes out with no clear time of coming back & he has a freezer full of frozen blueberries?  Makes wine, of course!  The only problem was that the house was cold and I only had 19 lbs of blueberries.  Not enough for one of my regular batches, so I decided to make a port-style wine as I was cleaning out the freezer.

The 19 lbs of wild blueberries (Maine & Canada) were still almost ice cold after 3 days of thawing in the fermenter in the cold house.  Had to warm up in a water bath to get them up to room temperature once the power came back on.  I'm really trying to boost the body of this wine, so generous doses of Scottzyme Color Pro, Opti-red, and FT Rouge tannins were added prior to yeast pitching.  I'm planning on also adding Booster Rouge towards the end of fermentation to provide more body and smoothness.  I adjusted the sugar to Brix = 22.0 (PA = 13% abv) to start and started fermentation with VP-15 Rockpile yeast.  A little odd choice, but it was what I had on hand for my 2011 grape order.

The blues are off and bubbling as I type.  I'm going to add some sugar charges towards the end of fermentation to bump the PA up to about 16% before adding the brandy to stop the fermentation & leave some residual sugar.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Visit to some old Blues

After a touch commute home, I decided to pop open a couple of old blueberry wines that have been in my library cellar.  First up: 2006 Shelly's Blues.  So named in honor of my good friend Shelly who gave me most of the blueberries for this batch as well as a collection of old blue riesling bottles that I used to bottle the wine, this was actually the very second batch of wine that I had ever made.

2006 Shelly's Blues
Color is pretty light--kind of an orange-ish rose color.  But the nose is unmistakeable--acidified.  Big whiff of acetic acid due to oxidation.  Darn those artificial corks I used in the beginning because they were easier to sanitize prior to bottling!  I've since switched to using premium natural cork because the artificial corks just don't age well and allow to much oxygen into the wine.  Too bad--that was my last bottle.

2009 Wild Maine Dry Blueberry
Dark red color.  Excellent, complex nose of blueberry (duh), vanilla, & leather.  Fruit forward on the palatte with good tannins and smooth vanilla oak finish.  The only drawback is the body is fairly light.  Very good, decent wine that went great with the left-over Freschetta pizza I warmed up for dinner.

All in all, a good experiment.  I was pretty confident that the Shelly's Blues was going to be acidified based on prior experience with those artificial corks.  Fortunately, the 2009 saved the day (and I still have 3 bottles of that).  It's a shame that my dry blueberry recipe is not well received at competitions because I like it!  I've got a few tweaks in mind to pump up the body in future batches.  Perhaps I'll start one soon...



Saturday, October 15, 2011

AWS Hudson Chapter October Tasting "Rioja"

Ole!  The Hudson (MA) Chapter of the AWS met on October 13 in the home of chapter president, Mike Blake.  After a welcome period of socializing and general merriment while enjoying Cortijo 2010, a viura based wine from Rioja ($15), the 16 members in attendance sampled a selection of wines from the Rioja region of Spain organized by Dick Phillips.  A special selection of Spanish tapas, including Manchego cheese, Jamon Serrano ham, Spanish potato omelet, & empanadas, were supplied by the members.

Cortijo 2010 DOC 100% Viura ($15, greeting wine)
Flight#1 explored the Rioga classification system based on length of barrel age
Campo Viejo Crianza 2007 ($12) aged at least 24 months/6 in oak               (13.8 pts)
Campo Viejo Reserva 2006 ($15) aged at least 36 months/12 in oak            (14.9 pts)
Campo Viejo Gran Reserva 2002 ($21) aged at least 60 months/18 in oak   (15.7 pts)

This was a very interesting flight as the wines darkened considerably and grew more complex with the longer barrel aging.  My favorite was the Gran Reserva.

Flight#2 showcased 2 100% tempranillio wines
LAN Reserva 2006 ($18)                                                                               (16.5 pts)
Finca Valpiedra Reserva 2001 ($40)                                                              (15.1 pts)

Flight#3 explored 2 blended wines
Conde de Valdemar Reserva 2004 ($21) 85% Tempranillo/15% Mazuelo    (15.1 pts)
Palacios Remondo La Montesa Reserva 2007 ($26) 60% Tempranillo/40% Garnacha (16.2 pts)

Another interesting comparison as the Mazuelo (Carignane for us Americans) added a lot of tannin and acidity to the tempranillo while the garnacha (grenache) blend was much smoother.  I could have drunk the La Montesa all night long! Dark color, chocolate, plum, blackberries in a soft pleasant nose.  Smooth & mellow on tongue with moderate aftertaste

Flight #4 explored 2 wines by a modern producer who foregoes the DO/DOC rules
Artadi Vinos de Gain 2005 ($32)  bottle unfortunately corked
Artadi Pagos Viegos 2005 ($79)                                                                    (17.4 pts)
A spectacular 100% temperanillo with an earthy, complex nose with dark fruit predominating.  Full-bodied.  Very nice.
Following this wonderful line-up and tasting experience, the chapter celebrated their 4th anniversary with a recap of memories and highlights over the past 4 years and cake!


New Design Template

While I'm making some changes, I noticed that Blogger is encouraging me to try their new design templates.  So I thought I'd try a few more changes in the background, etc.  Let me know if you like it!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Still Alive, A 15 Year Anniversary, & New Course Addition

Hello again world. It's been too long since I last posted an entry. Somehow, finding the time to write more than 50-75 words about my winemaking activities has been challenging so I've been doing most of my updates on Facebook. Find and follow Aaronap Cellars on Facebook for all of the last minute details on the fun that goes on in the cellar, especially as I start filling out paperwork for the commercial licenses in the coming couple of months.

But I'm celebrating a little anniversary this month. It's been 15 years since some good friends introduced me to wine in grad school (I'm looking at you Bruce, Randy, & Sonja). Hard to believe that just a short while ago, I was a wet-behind-the-ears country bumpkin that hated the only glass of wine I had ever tried. I still remember that very first chardonnay tasting at Bruce's apartment where I showed up with a beer mug when told to bring a glass! Boy, times, tastes, & glass collections have changed!

While thinking back over the past 15 years, I've been amazed at the sheer variety of wines that I've tasted along this adventure. French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Greecian, South African, Chilean, Argentinean, Australian, New Zealand, and the myriad of US wine regions--whew! Makes my taste buds purr with pleasure just thinking about it. In recognition of the adventure that I've been on, I thought I would chronicle my tasting adventures over the next year and document all of the different wines that I taste (or at least as many as I can). I'll still keep writing updates on my winemaking, but will somehow figure out how to keep a rolling record of all the wines.

To start, on Wednesday 10/12, I had the privilege to attend "The Brilliance of Burgundy Tasting" at Brix on Broad in Boston's Financial District. I was a little underdressed for my tasting peers, but we enjoyed a number of showcase wines from France's Burgundy region.

Whites (Chardonnay):
2009 Vocoret Chablis ($27): OK, this ain't from Burgundy, but was a great greeting wine to get people into the spirit. Crisp, fruity, & full bodied. Very nice Chablis.
2009 Domaine Andre Auvigue Pouilly-Fuisse ($33): Apricots, aged flowers, & almonds. Rich, round mouthfeel. No oak. AWS scores: 3/4/4/2/2 = 15 (out of 20)
2009 Domaine Matrot Meursault ($52): Dark straw yellow. Earthy nose, not as fruity. Round mouthfeel, some light vanilla, and actually some tannins provide structure with a crisp finish. AWS score: 3/3/4/2/2 = 14
2008 Bruno Colin Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru "Maltroie" ($72): Light straw yellow, fruit forward with some earthy notes for complexity, caramel & butter, huge mouthfeel. AWS score: 3/5/5/2/2 = 17

Reds (pinot noir):
2008 Domaine Tollot-Beaut Chorey-Cote-de-Beaune ($40): Light garnet, bright cherry aromas. Perhaps a little pencil lead. Tart, tight finish. A simple pinot noir. AWS score: 3/3/3/2/1 = 12
2008 Domaine Jean Grivot Vosne Romanee ($67): Light garnet with some bricking. Black cherry, smooth nose, a little earthiness. Smoother finish but a little more tannin. Short aftertaste with raspberries predominating. AWS score: 3/4/4/2/1 = 13
2008 Domaine Pierre Gelin Gevrey-Chambertin ($50): Dark cherries with a complex earthy nose. Good breadth of flavors with a rich mouthfeel and a lingering finish. AWS score: 3/4/5/3/2 = 17
2008 Domaine de Courcel Pommard Premier Cru "Epenots" ($102): Sharp menthol aroma, low fruitness. Cinnamon, pine, and green pepper on tongue. Very rough tannic & tart finish. AWS score: 3/3/3/2/1 = 12

And to top off the evening, they poured the best wine I've ever had to date. Completely blew my mind and set the bar for all future white Burgundies (and chardonnays everywhere).

2006 Philippe Colin Chevalier-Montrachet ($265): Smooth fruity nose with mellow caramel notes that just slides over the tongue. Silky smooth with a slightly "sweet"-tasting finish. Lingers long after the sip is gone. AWS score: 3/6/6/3/2 = 20.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sparkling Concord is sparkling!

At our last stop in the continuing sage of the sparkling concord wine that I've mentioned before here and here, I had primed the dry base wine with additional sugar and yeast and set it aside to "sparkle" champenois style (in the bottle). After a couple of months in the cellar, I moved the bottles upstairs to my guest bedroom closet where they would be a little warmer. I've been wanting to check to see if the secondary fermentation had a) occurred and b) was complete. During one of my wine tasting group's meetings this past week, the crowd started to demand a taste of some of my "in progress" wines. Fortunately, I had a bottle of the concord in the refrigerator in preparation of testing later in the week. I rather nervously brought it out and popped the crown cap.....

A little wisp of vapor, and then a surge of bubbles! Yay! Fermentation in the bottle had occurred! The wine is definitely a work in progress because although it was dry, it was one tart-tasting wine. It will definitely need to be sweetened and served as a "demi-sec" or "sec" sparkling wine. step is to riddle the bottle to get the lees into the neck of the bottle so they can be disgorged. I don't have an official riddling board, so going to try this a cheap way. I've set the bottles on their heads in wine boxes and will rotate them every other day or so to dislodge the sediments. So far it seems to be working just fine.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in our sparkling concord saga!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Vermont Maple Ice is in the bottle!

Faithful readers will recall that I had an idea for an "icewine"-style dessert wine made from Maple Syrup. Version 1 was started earlier this year and I finally got around to filtering and bottling so I could send a sample into the Winemaker Magazine competition. Of course, when you are done bottling, there's always a little left over in the filter, the tubing, and that not-quite-so-full bottle so that I could sit down after clean-up and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Gee shucks, such a tough hobby...

Vermont Maple "Ice"

Stats: 11.5% ABV, RS = 293 g/L, pH = 2.97, TA = 8.6 g/L

Appearance: Crystal clear, light golden brown, nice strong legs

Aroma: Maple syrup with some nutty & citrus notes

Taste: Bold maple syrup taste with a nice sweet finish that has some interesting pecan/walnut flavors and a citric kick. Thick body. Maple syrup on steroids. Yummm....

Overall Impression: I'm usually not a sweet wine fan, but this is pretty good stuff! Quite pleased with how this turned out. It's sweet, but smooth enough that the sweetness just kind of rolls off your tongue. I'm picturing this poured over some vanilla ice cream at night or even pancakes in the morning.


Monday, January 17, 2011

The Reserve Line is born....

Bitterly cold temperatures conspired to keep me indoors on this Martin Luther King holiday so after a morning of errands and house/desk work, I turned to measuring the free SO2 levels in the 2010 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. This wine has been slowly and quietly getting ready to bottle in the background. I haven't blogged too much about it amidst all the over posts this past year. The last post had to do with stabilizing and preventing further MLF. After the lysozyme addition, it's been sitting in carboys during the fall 2010 harvest. I did a bentonite fining in November for protein stabilization and I finally got around to filtering in December after a few good weeks of cold stabilization. I intended to filter all 3 carboys with a 0.5 micron filter to remove as many residual yeast & bacteria cells, but only managed to filter the free run carboy before the filter media gummed up. The last 2 carboys got a 1 micron filter with the intention of passing through a 0.5 micron filter while bottling.

Now that's all been done, I really need to bottle so I can enter it in the Winemaker Magazine competition in March. That's been the goal, but I've been waffling a bit about entering it because I haven't been too overwhelmed by the aroma of the wine, which has been pretty muted. The classic grassy & grapefruit aromas are there, just not real strong. And without that nose, it's been tasting kind of boring. OK tasting, just not much "WOW" factor.

So what does a winemaker do when they produce a wine that's not quite as desirable as they'd like and there isn't much they can add or adjust to affect the aroma? They blend!

What this wine really needs is more aroma, so I went looking for a blending wine that would add some aroma punch. I settled on some 2009 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand because:

a) NZ sauv blancs are known for their powerful aromas of grapefruit & grass,
b) Oyster Bay helped defined the NZ sauv blanc reputation and aroma profile, and
c) it was on sale at my local liquor store.

I bought enough to treat the free run carboy only because I really didn't want to spend as much on the blending wine as on the grapes originally. After some bench trials, I settled on a roughly 10% addition that would give an improved aroma profile. I made the blend right after Christmas, so I was eager to see how it was doing.

A long story short on the SO2 testing, but free SO2 levels look perfectly fine for bottling. AND, the aromas of the free run carboy are simply amazing. Big grapefruit & grassy nose with a nice crisp & tingling finish. And with that, the Aaronap Cellars Reserve line is born--this carboy is simply so much nicer than the other 2 that I cannot in good conscience blend it with the others.

I'll bottle the Sauv blanc sometime this week and then start working on the labels. Methinks a Reserve label should have some gold in it somehow. We'll see how creative I can get. Anyone know the labeling percentage guidelines to still be able to call a Chilean wine a Chilean wine? CA requires 85% of the grapes to be sourced from a particular appellation to label the wine as originating in that appellation. If applicable to Chile, that would mean I could still call this a "Chile Curico Valley" wine. Otherwise, I'm stuck with a "Southern Hemisphere" Reserve.

Maybe this will just be the "South Side of The Globe" Sauvignon Blance Reserve 2010....