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I just got back from sampling grapes in 4 different vineyards. Fortunately for us, crush is still 3-4 weeks away. The brix (sugar content) was generally around 18% but needs to be around 26-27. The flavors are getting there but still needs some time. That is fortunate since we are going on a family sailing trip to Catalina the week after Labor Day. I'll sample before we go, see where the grapes are and let you know.
I will be going out on August 17th and 27th to sample grapes from Calaveras County and August 31st from Amador County. I went back through our records and the earliest we picked was the end of August and the latest the end of October. I'll let you know what I find.
Check out this radio show, Grape Encounters, from LA. They came and visited the area and we were featured on the show!
Does filtering wine influence flavors? Not according to the research done by Dr David Block at UCD. He tested both white and red wines and filtered them through a variety of different filters; pad, depth and membrane of different sizes.
Using a trained sensory panel of experts, there was no change in flavors between the control and the different filters. That is good news. We filter to assure clarity and microbial stability. That insures that all the bugs are out of the wine and there will be no additional fermentation in the wine after bottling. You don't want any corks popping out in your cellar, do you? Now we know that there will be no change in flavors due to the filtration except those flavors that change over time in the cellar (that we all want) I love good news.
I have a number of customers who come into our tasting room tell me that they find some of the wines to be dry. My usual response is “I see, or “oh” because, unless they are referring to our Syrah Port or Tesoro, all of our wines are dry. What I these customers are telling me is that the wines have a drying effect in their mouth. Not wanting to be a wine geek, I don’t go into my lecture of the difference between dryness, a measure of sweetness and astringency, a measure of tannin.
Sweetness is a measure of taste. A dry wine is a wine that has no (or <.5%) residual sugar (RS); an off-dry wine has about 1%, RS; and a sweet wine has >2% RS. Our Syrah Port has about 6% RS.
Astringency is not a measure of taste; it is measure of how the wine feels in the mouth. According to Marian Baldy in the University Wine Course, “…young red wines with high tannin levels are astringent and create a rough sensation: their tannins react with proteins in our saliva and on the surfaces of the cells lining our mouths and on the surfaces of our tongues to dry them out and create a puckery, rough sensation as our now-unlubricated mouth parts chafe against each other. Moderate astringency can nicely offset the richness of a fatty meal, but higher levels make wines unpalatable and call for patience: during bottle aging the astringency will diminish (Baldy, p.25).”
Coffee and tea also have high levels of tannin. That’s why lots of people reduce the tannin effect by adding a bit of milk, that has fat and protein, to their coffee or tea.
The University Wine Course: A wine appreciation text & self tutorial. (1997). Baldy, M. W. The Wine Appreciation Guild.
We had lunch and some really informative talks with 2 of our growers recently. Neither had problems with Botrytis (bunch rot) this last harvest although it was a problem in some areas. They thought it was due to location and open canopies that allowed good air circulation. We always have a good breeze where we are that keeps down our incidence of mold. We will talk to a grower in Amador County that has head trained vines with poor air circulation soon. Botrytis was a huge problem for him. I am anxious to hear how he is going to combat it this year. I'll let you know what he says.
We frequently get asked wine quesions in the tasting room and we thought we could share some of the information we know and researched. First of all, wine "legs" do not mean wine quality or sweetness. Legs just refer to the alcohol and water in the wine and the vapor pressure of each liquid in the mixture. Meaning, the water and alcohol evaporate at different rates and flow up the wine glass by capillary action. They drop back into the wine of their own weight e.g. legs or tears. The quantity of legs depends on the alcohol content of the wine and may be eliminated by covering the glass and preventing the evaporation. Was that helpful?
Our group just attended a seminar presented by ABC (Alcohol and Beverage Control) about civil and legal issues regarding serving wine in our tasting room. DON'T MESS WITH THE ABC. The guy was carrying a gun and told us that they can enter our premise anytime they want to inspect anything related to our business without a warrant. They can even enter our house, also without a warrant, since we have some records pretaining to our business in the house. How did we ever allow them to have these rights, I would like to know?
Anyway, we received lots of useful information. We will certainly be more careful carding people who look young. If one of us serves a drunk and he goes out and is involved in a fatality, we are liable. If someone under age is served in our facility and is involved in a fatality, WE ARE DOOMED. However, some people go too far. Gary and I were in an airport restaurant a while back and we were carded. That was rediculous. We are so far past 21 we can't even remember what it was like to be that young. Talk soon.
There was alot of talk about the weather last year at the Symposium and challenges with the mold, Botrytis. Optimum temps for mold growth on grapes are 75-82 degrees F. I don't blame the mold. Those are my optimum temps also. Above 95 degress, the mold dies. Last year was optimum for growth. Usually it is warm enough that Botrytis is not an issue.
The mold can be controlled if you start spraying early enough and about 4X during the growing season. However, if you are not expecting the issue and don't spray early, it rapidly takes hold and can't be stopped. Apparently the mold starts on the decaying flowers from the grapes and then gets into the clusters, especially if the berries are close together. It works from inside to out and within a relatively short period of time, the berry cluster turns to mush.
Oh, the joys of farming. We were told to spin last year as exciting not challenging. Marketers can do a lot with words to create images. Actually last cursh was exciting. I had to use different methods during the fermentation process and the wines have been lovely flavors so far. Time will tell and we will watch the wine develop.
I will interview growers from both Calaveras and Amador County and get their take on last year and what they did in the vineyard. I'll let you know.
Pressing the Zinfandel went well. We now have close to 450 gallons of nice wine that will be ready in a year and a half. We will rack it 2-3 times to remove the sediment and put it into barrels soon. We did some barrel tasting during a break in pressing. Yum! The wine certainly improves in the barrel. Our wines in the barrel from 2010 will be bottled in March 2012.
Looks like we will be crushing the Sangiovese on Monday, Nov 7th, and the Malbec on Nov 8th. I will be adding yeast and doing the chemistries on the following couple of days. These will be the final grapes to crush. What a year! We have never had to wait so long for the grapes to ripen, but so far so good. The flavors are great. It will be interesting to see what the final brix will be on these last 2 grape crushes. We have waited this long because both were at a brix of about 23.4, which is lower than we usually pick. However, we can't wait any longer with the cool weather and possibility of rain. Both of these varietals usually "brix up" overnight (meaning brix increases 1-2 degrees) , so we expect the wine to be fine.