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.