|Tuesday January 6, 2004|
Today We started blending our 2003 wines. Brendan has taken a new job at a restaurant closer to where he lives (over 100 miles from here). Steve Catarino and I had to do without him today. It was the most trying for me since I had to take over Brendan's duties AND even though I have been working out on my new Bowflex, it was really hard for me to finish what had to be done. Brendan will be back tomorrow so hopefully, I only have to give orders.
Yesterday, Julia (winemaker for Lambert bridge), Brendan, Steve, Mich (my best friend and drinking buddy), Everett (my biggest critic) and I sat down to taste wine. We concentrated on 2003 wines that had been aged in new oak for only three months. This year, our current vintage of 2003, I have started to buy French oak again. Actually, I am beginning to think that what I am most interested in is the different methods of putting together an oak barrel. Brendan and I have been very disappointed in French oak barrels in the past. Mainly we have not liked some flavors or even the lack of flavor. We have noticed that French oak is usually purchased with tight grain oak and medium plus toasting. This I am told helps to contribute a smoothness and length to a wine along with complexity. I have heard for years that wine in French oak should be left in the barrel for 6 to 9 months in order to appreciate its character. I am interested to see what will happen if the grain is wider and the toasting is less.
I age my wines, before bottling, less than anyone I know, 9 to 10 months. We also use less oak than most wineries. I hear all the time that wine needs to age (mature?). I am sure winemakers disagree with me, but I think (know?, because of oxidation) that wine loses fruit with time. I will go further: I think wine loses its vitality or even freshness as it ages. NOW, how long is too short? How long is too long? That is the question. AND the problem is that all years are different. Julia and I agreed that now that we have made wine for over twenty years: Has any year been the same or even normal. I think we agreed to the negative. All years are different and thus a new challenge. I think Julia thinks wine needs more time than I do.
That brings me back to the barrels. This year I ordered barrels with wider grain and less toast in the hopes that I will get more extraction in a shorter time, because I want to bottle earlier than other wineries as discussed in the previous paragraph. As I implied somewhat earlier, barrels can be produced in many ways. The wood can even be dried (or do I dare say) aged for a longer time. It is said that the rawness (woody, greenness, resin character) will disappear with age. So, do I buy young wood, or wide grain wood and even with less toast?
We sat down yesterday to taste my 2003 wines. Zinfandel was first in 7 different barrels. In each of these flights of wines, we kept one barrel neutral (older than 4 years, departing no new oak flavors). I don't think any of the barrels were unpleasant. We did prefer one American oak barrel over another and one French over another French. I was impressed with all three French barrels. They were all thin staved (breathes more) and low toast.
We then tasted our Cab. Wow what a difference. What amazed us is that we could tell more differences from barrel to barrel. Get this, the wine was so tannic that we all had to pucker after every taste, even from the neutral barrel. BUT we easily could tell differences in the tannin levels. Actually it was so much fun, because five of the barrels were the same in the Zin and Cab (4 French). In the zin there was one French Barrel that added little to the wine, but in this Cab it departed very strong tannins which I loved, but others thought, again, added no dimension. All of us thought the other 3 French barrels departed complexity along with additional tannin. We thought the American was a detriment to the wine. I love this Cab.
Next we tried the Carignan in 4 French, only one the same as the last Cab. These barrels were all from the same producer and had wide grain wood and little to medium toast and thin and regular stave. We liked them all. And then we finished with the Block 4. Unfortunately there were only two new barrels and the American was disappointing again. Tomorrow, we will blend the Block 4 and I will use a good variety of barrels and taste again in April.
Tomorrow, I'll talk about our blends.
Wednesday January 7, 2004
This was our second day of blending. Another eventful occasion, but aren't all blending or bottling days challenging! Tomorrow will involve more time, but we are ready.
All wines blended are our 2003 vintage. Yesterday we blended, Sauv Blanc, Petite Sirah and our problem Bernier's Zin. Actually the zin has some possibilities. I will have all these wines checked at the Lab for residual sugar and a few for alcohols and total acidity. We have a ph meter for acid checks and an alcolizer to check alcohols, but a reference point is great.
The sauv blanc had surprisingly great bouquet. The taste was young and intense, but all of us including Jeannine and Pat thought it was promising. As I said I liked the zin, but I do have to say, I love the petite sirah.
Today we blended the Block 4, Barbera, Aca Modot and Cabernet. I only tasted the Block 4 and the Cabernet. They are so different, but I could not choose a favorite. They are both so intense. The cab had a dark intensity with structure and tannin, and Block 4 was intense with incredible fruit and complexity. In the next few days, I will taste the Barbera and Aca Modot. I know we are sold out of these last two wines, but I feel, I will probably like, the Block 4 and Cab, more. Tomorrow we are ready for the Terre Melange, Carignan, Syrah and Neighbors' Cuvee. Friday will be fun, because we blend three very different wines: our ALMOST 100% Estate Zinfandel, My Zinfandel ( tannic and complex) and our Estate Cuvee. The Estate Cuvee will be over 14% alcohol for the first time since 1995 (14.6%). Our Estate Zin has usually been 75% varietal and this year will be about 96%. The My Zin (75% Zin) will be the same alcohol as the Estate Zin (14.8%), but will be far less jammy with dark tannic flavors, resulting from the contribution of the Petite Sirah and Cabernet.
As you might sense, I may like this vintage more than all others mainly because the wines will be strong, but I do love alcohol also. I usually prefer wines between 14 and 15% and most of these wines qualify, except for the Block 4 at 15.1%, and the Terre Melange and Neighbors Cuvee at 13.9%.
Thursday January 8, 2004
Yes, it is the second week in The New Year already. Today, I was very happy with the blend for Neighbors' Cuvee. I knew all along it would be fine. I hope most of you will like it. I know it will be one of my favorites. This is my year! I finally produced wines that I know I will want to drink, almost every night. These wines have everything I like, but to some may be too intense.
Brendan is back on an hourly rate. I did mention the other day that he has taken another part time job at a restaurant. Since he is back on an hourly rate, I have no idea when he will be here in the future or whether he will spend time on out of State sales. This is concerning to me since we have more wine to sell than anytime Before. We have about 1000 cases of 2002 and over 2000 cases of 2003. Don't get me wrong, I am still making money. Actually, as I have stated before, I only need to sell 3500 cases a year to make money. At 4000 cases I still think I can make a few dollars a bottle. That does not sound like much, but just multiply that by 3500 cases or 40,000 bottles. We do have two daughters, but at $20,000 a year each for college, I will still survive.
BUT we have made 5000 cases in 2002 and 2003. And 4500 cases in 2001. 2001, 2002, and especially 2003 are great years. All of these vintages are as good as I have produced. Without any marketing, I can sell 3500 cases a year, right from this winery. With a few retailers and distributors out of State, I have sold 500 more cases. But with Brendan preoccupied ( He is head of out of state sales), how will we get these cases to other States.
Now, do I need to sell out of State? I don't think so. I am a person who needs someone to tell me they want my wine. That is not normal in this industry or any other. Marketing is the name of the game. Some, maybe most consumers want some supposedly informed expert (What ever that is. I am not an expert) to help them decide what wine to buy. I will never tell someone to buy my wine.
Today was interesting as usual, because we blended again. I'll go more into that tomorrow. One event I liked in particular. 2 guys came in representing a local retailer, to taste our wines, (Big John's). I did a professional presentation, in the middle of blending, and they were fine. What I found different is that I was asked a new question: "What made me different from other winemakers or did he ask wineries?" I was a lost for words for at least a minute. Just think about asking Michael Jackson "What makes you different from other Singers?" Wow, that would be interesting. Would he even answer. I finally said I want to be honest and sell good wine at reasonable prices. But I caught myself and thought: Doesn't every winery think that they are selling good wine at fair prices?
Friday January 9, 2004
I need a break so I am going up to see a movie for the first time in over a week. We finished all blending and only have a little cleanup for tomorrow. I will have more to say about the blends and also about what our customers say. I am excited.
Saturday January 10, 2004
Now that the stress of blending is over, I can concentrate on my carbohydrates. I have been very lax in the last two years so I have slowly started to gain back my lost weight of 4 years ago. In January of 2000 I started counting carbohydrates and calories. Some people, on a low carbo diet, don't count calories, but I am one who thinks calories do count. After losing 50 lbs in 5 months (actually only counting carbs and calories the first few months) I was back up 20 lbs, just after New Years Eve. Now as I am just starting to get serious, I am still up 16. This time I am actually watching fats also. When I lost the 50 lbs I tried to eat as much fat as possible. It is hard to eat a lot of fat so my calorie intake still remained around 2000 a day. I know by experiment, I can eat anything and maintain my weight as long as the calories remain around 2500. I can eat a few more calories if I watch my carbos. For me it is so easy to eat little carbos, so that is why I choose this life style.
There are A few foods I can not do without. Even on my strictest months in 2000, I had a hamburger sandwich on Friday and pizza on Sunday AND close to a bottle of wine a night. There are no carbos in wine (no sugar in my wines), but of course the bread flour in the sandwich and pizza do contain carbos. Every Sunday a make my own pizza dough and back it in my great oven at 550 degrees. Gluten flour, which is a good amount of the blend I use, contains about 70 carbs per 5 oz cup. Bread flour contains about 100 carbs. Tomorrow I will measure out the flour and see how much carbs are in a small thin crust pizza. That is what I will consume Sunday. Of course It can contain what ever sauce, veggies, meat and cheese, without adding many carbos. I love this lifestyle. I don't call it a diet, because diets are temporary.
Wednesday January 14, 2004
I found out, yesterday, that there is some Carbohydrate in our wine. Monday, Steve took some samples, of several of our new blended 2003 wines, to Vinquiry, our local wine lab, and the results came in late yesterday. Every one of our wines tested had less than a carbohydrate. That is per bottle!
I know almost all of you think wine contains carobs. I have even read books that imply or state the reason for this is that alcohol contains carbohydrates. That is wrong. Sugar does contain carbohydrates and almost all wine has a small amount of sugar. Now I will try to explain this revelation to some of you. Bare with me, because remember I flunked Chemistry and I think my explanation may contain some references to chemistry.
With little sugar, wine contains mostly alcohol. In one 750 milliliter bottle of wine, there are about 600 calories at 13.5% alcohol. If sugar is present and more alcohol (port), you could see over 1000 calories.
28 grams equates to one ounce. Sugar contains almost all carbohydrates or approximately 28 grams of carbos per ounce and 105 calories per ounce. In sugar, carbohydrate totals are a straight conversion to weight. In most references, including the FDA I am told, wine is said to have about 2 to 3 grams of carbos in one fluid ounce. That would be about 60 carbs per bottle. Now, how can that be, assuming dry wine has little sugar? I found a detailed book (Margo Feiden's "The Calorie Factor") that does state that some wine, mainly Gallo's, can have as little as 0.10 carb per ounce. You guessed it: that wine was zinfandel. What I am guessing is that: Most, and unfortunately all general, references to dietary totals are based on very old facts and should be taken lightly. Probably most general references to wine refers to sweet East Coast wine that was the norm 50 to 60 years ago.
That brings me back to the test results. The readings that I received
were presented in a language that I had to think about for a long while.
Here are the readings:
I made additional wines, but I only need to do alcohols on them, which can be performed here. These sugar readings have to be done at the lab, because there are few methods to test for Fructose (which is in wine), otherwise I could use the diabetes testers that test for only glucose.
Let me study the highest figure which reads 121 mg. Remember there are 1000 mgs in one gram. So 121 mg of sugar in 100 ml equates to 907.5 mgs in 750 ml (A bottle of wine). Divide that by 1000 and I have less than one gram of sugar or carbos in a whole bottle of my highest carb wine. Am I missing anything?
Just think. 750 ml of Welch's grape juice contains 130 carbohydrates while a coke has about 80. I am so happy that I can consume a lot of my wine and not worry about carbos.
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