|Tuesday September 6,
Here it is 8:00pm. It has been one of those days, unpredictable. These days are my favorite because I thrive on stress.
This was our first day of harvesting red grapes so it is always an adventure, especially this year when we have a new destemmer and and elevator to load in to it. We did harvest 1.75 tons of Pinot Noir, the end of the Pinot harvest. In total we harvested 2.8 tons of pinot, 1.0340 tons for sparkling wine. I was expecting 2 tons total so a good start to the Harvest........but what is the quality???? Unfortunately in this my 33rd year here, I have not seen a repeat of any harvest I can remember. All Harvests are unique. I look forward to this one. It will not be boring.........
9:25 Pm: It is so interesting!!! I am making wine again after over 9 months. I just went out to test the sugar on our first red grape harvest. I believe we could be the first one's in Sonoma to Harvest this year. As some of you know reading back in the diary, I have notified several local writers of that fact in past vintages with no recognition. I am starting to believe we winemakers should have an agent like the NFL to get in the press.
I digress.........This was supposed to be a celebration of my Harvest.....so to begin again:
We started at 1:00pm. I had strange readings mid-day when we destemmed. I was expecting 25+ sugar overall. My first reading was 25.2 and I was happy. The second was 24.5, OK. The next several were progressively lower until I saw 22.8 once. I tried a few more but was somewhat concerned when I got 23+.
OK at 9:20: I went to the winery. It is so much fun when you live at the crush site. I wonder how many winemakers have that luxury. I just took a sugar test after the berries had a good soak of 6 hours on their juice. I had readings all over 24 and many in the 25s. I will have numbers tomorrow.
Tomorrow or next: Catarino and I............
Wednesday September 7, 2011
9:00Am: Catarino and I had a little bit of trouble communicating yesterday. It was our first harvest day so that is expected. Matt and I add the Malo-lactic starter at the beginning of the fermentation while all other wineries we know of add the starter near the end of fermentation. The reason for adding it at the end is because other bacteria can develop if not done right at the beginning. The malo-lactic starter (Actually a good bacteria that has been isolated in a powder form) works well at a temperature between 65 and 72 degrees. Most wineries pick in the morning and bring in grapes at temperatures well below 60. Over all the years, we normally bring in grapes at higher temperatures. When Catarino and the others pick a few tons (Up to 6 hours of work) they start early and end late, about 1pm. We de-stem two bins at a time which fit perfectly in our one ton fermenters so we mix one bin of cool fruit with one picked later to average 70 degrees, perfect for the malo starter. If added at the right time the malo-lactic conversion is complete in two days just as the alcohol fermentation starts. Over the years we have had no off bacteria so this is another way that our winemaking is different from the norm.
To get back to Catarino: It was cold yesterday morning with a projected high of 95. I held off the start of harvest until 8am when it looked like it was warming up into the mid 50's BUT by 10am the temperature was still below 70. I told Catarino to stop at the end of the row which would have been half the grapes. What I did not know was that they had already started the next two rows so Catarino thought I meant to fill the third box. I was not happy when I saw three full boxes come in at an average temperature of 60 degrees. We stopped picking and started again when the temperature went above 80 but that only gave me one of the 4 boxes to mix.
We now have two fermenters, one colder than the other. Matt and I will check the temperature before we add the Malo-lactic starter. We can always bail out some from the cold one to add to the warm one or vice verse. Remember we are aiming for 65-70 degrees.
Saturday September 10, 2011
9:30Am: We have been doing a lot of organizing, that's 90% of this business. On Thursday Matt and I adjusted the Pinot fermenters and they are now fermenting at the same temperature. The brix came out at about 24.5 which should give us a little over 14% alcohol. Matt and I decided to use a less active yeast, usually used for more fruit driven wines. With the relatively low sugar we want to see if we can produce a different style of Dry Creek Pinot Noir. In the past two years our Estate Pinot has been dark and somewhat spicy which I like but it will be fun to see how this one turns out. The yeast we usually use produces a fast fermentation and usually finishes within a week and actually has a spike in temperature up to 90 degrees. So far these two Pinot fermenters are still showing temperatures in the mid 70s. Matt is out now punching down so we will see if activity has picked up.
Catarino brought in several small samples of our Old Vine Zinfandel and we have been very surprised to see high sugars. Catarino and Salvador went out and walked all the 3rd and 4th block Zinfandel and said there were very few bunches with red berries. We are not seeing the usual shriveled up raisins in bunches normally in an average year (What is average?...never seen the same year). Last year remember most bunches had 30 to 50% raisins. This year so far we are seeing a slight wrinkling of some of the berries, but since there is very little red showing, our samples have swelled up dramatically from an initial 24+ to over 27 brix. Catarino brought in one bunch and it swelled up to 30% sugar. We would be harvesting today or even yesterday but the acids are very high again. We have tentatively planned to start Tuesday with the hope of less acid by then, but now with warm temperatures most of last night, I am thinking we better start Monday. Matt and I will go out soon and take a sample and make our decision.
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