February 8, 1999
I have firmed up the date that we will sterile filter and bottle the Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and dry Sauvignon Blanc. The date will be either the 17th or 18th of March, with preparation and set up the day before. I spent the afternoon fining the dry Sauvignon Blanc. This involved adding a mixture of Bentonite and topping the barrel off with Isinglass (sp?). These fining agents are heavier than the particles in the wine and clear the wine by absorbing the yeast cells and everything else that is suspended to the bottom of the barrel. The wine will be somewhat clear tomorrow at the top of the barrel and within 3 or 4 days will be ready to sample again just from the top. But the entire process of settling will take at least three weeks, and I will not rack or take the wine out of the barrel until the day before we filter and bottle. At that time, there will be about 2 inches of solid matter at the bottom of each of the four barrels. The four barrels, plus an extra ten gallons that I have in carboys will be blended into a small stainless steel tank when I'm ready for bottling. We are planning to release the wine at the Passport event on April 24-25.
February 9, 1999
As some of you know, I am a Board Member of the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley. We are an organization of grape growers and wineries. There is an event that we sponsor called Passport to Dry Creek Valley. The event seems to sell out faster every year, usually within 2 to 3 days. I have been encouraging a change in the way that we sell these sought after tickets. Obviously, the event has become too popular and our organizers, including me, are trying to figure out how to satisfy as many people as possible. But when you have 7000 people looking for 2500 tickets, this has become a problem.
What is the real reason for having this celebration, as I would call it, for Dry Creek Valley? Originally, before we knew it would even be popular, we envisioned it as an attraction to entice new people to our valley. When this event started ten years ago, many of you did not know that Dry Creek Valley existed. I know when I moved here 20 years ago, I knew nothing about Dry Creek Valley myself. For the first six years of this event, I was solely a wine grape grower. But as a winery participant in the last four years, I've grown to understand that of course part of the reason for having this event is to sell wine, but it's also a celebration--a party--to thank some of our best customers.
As a Board member and also a Passport Committee member, I have grown to have some influence on how we may change the way we distribute these tickets. Since about 2500 tickets are sold, I feel that at least 500 tickets should be offered first to customers who have supported the valley from the beginning. One way to achieve this is to offer - let's call it a "gold card" - that would require a membership fee for the year, but would also include 2 tickets to the Passport to Dry Creek Valley event. When I first suggested this five years ago, it was dismissed immediately. As each year has gone by, there seems to be a little more support for this. But I feel that for some reason, I am still in the minority. To me, the process of ticket selection has deteriorated to a dismal method--a lottery. As you have guessed, there are a lot of people who are displeased. I can understand new people being unhappy as they want to experience Dry Creek Valley for the first time, but to me we are alienating our best customers who have supported us for ten years. They deserve something more.
February 10, 1999
I haven't mentioned the late harvest Sauvignon Blanc for over a week, so I thought I should post an update. I've turned the refrigerator temperature up to about 35 to 40 degrees for now. I don't want to filter the wine again, and I haven't made up my mind if I want to move the wine from this environment (which will stop any kind of fermentation) to the winery which is around 60 degrees right now. If I move it to the winery, that will show me whether the wine wants to ferment again. Since I've definitely planned on sterile filtering the wine, I don't want to take the chance that it may continue to ferment. When I borrow Julia's sterile fermentation pads and filter, all the yeast cells will be removed. I've definitely planned on mixing the 12-15 cases of this 1998 wine with the 25 cases of the 1997 late harvest wine that we still have in our possession. This will enable us to re-release the wine in a stable condition Since I believe the residual sugar on the 1998 is at about 15% and the alcohol at about 8%, and the 1997 wine was at 31% residual and 6% alcohol, the resultant alcohol should be about 7% and the residual sugar should be approximately 26%.
Today, a representative from Demptos Glass came by to show me potential bottles for my 1998 Pinot Noir three pack. This reminded me that I should consider removing the cold fermentation which is in a French oak barrel, and the hot fermentation which is in a Czech Republic barrel, into neutral barrels (over 5 years old). I do have two empty barrels right now so that it would be possible for me to transfer these wines. I feel at this stage that the Pinot Noir has picked up enough oak from these new barrels, and my plan is to preserve the two new barrels until May when I will rack all my wines and then can decide at that time whether the Pinot Noir needs more oak.
February 12, 1999
Today my mother is coming for a visit of a few days. She just turned 77 years old and she is one of the few of us older folks who still enjoys celebrating birthdays. Therefore, some of my time this weekend will be spent with her and a few other family members who are coming for a dinner party tomorrow. My mother is the only living grandparent for our two girls and so having her spend some time with us is very special and cherished.
This afternoon before she arrives, I hope to be organized enough to rack the Pinot Noir. As I previously mentioned, I did find two neutral barrels which I will steam clean again and then take the cold soak out of the new French oak barrel and the hot fermentation out of the Czech Republic barrel and transfer these wines into the barrels which are at least five years old. I feel the Pinot at this time has had plenty of oak. As a matter of fact, since the wines have been in this new oak for over three months, that would be approximately the equivalent of 35 percent new oak at the time of bottling. With my other wines over the years, I have tried to average between 20 to 25 percent new oak. Traditionally, I've heard that Pinot can tolerate a lot of oak. However, within the last four to six weeks, I don't feel that the increased oak contact has improved the wines. Since I'm a lover of fruit in my wines and of course Pinot Noir is known for its bright fruit, I want to be cautious and will leave these wines in these neutral barrels at least until May. At that point when I rack all of my wines, I can make a decision then on whether to put them back into new oak for the last couple of months.