We just wrapped up grape harvest for this year’s wine vintages. Vintage, actually, we only nabbed one varietal.
The crops were light for every varietal, by the sound of things. 2020 has been a tough year all the way around. If you haven’t noticed that already.
We’re excited to get what we got, which was a ton of Cabernet Sauvignon from Ciel du Cheval vineyards next door. The berries (individual grapes) were tiny, which is good. This should be a very good vintage. It’ll be limited though, as everyone on Red Mountain had pretty low yields. I keep saying that. It’s because it’s stressed me out.
This was an interesting crush/press/fermentation process for us. Last year we crushed Sangiovese and those grapes were crazy-juicy. Fat, plump, if you even looked at them, they oozed juice. The Cab we got this year had tiny berries and they weren’t giving up any juice for nothin and nobody. Or so it seemed. The vineyard we got it from even sent us extra because they didn’t think we’d get much yield from the little buggers.
Nerd Alert — the Next Bit Is Nerdy. You Can Skip to the Next Heading and I Won’t Even Be Mad.
The first step in making wine (once you get the grapes) is to put them through “primary fermentation”. This is similar to what happens in the crisper drawer of my fridge, though much more palatable. All of the grapes are tumbled through a “crusher/destemmer”. Don’t let the name fool you, there’s no real crushing happening. If you did crush it, you’d get a lot of bitterness and tannins from the seeds in the grapes and we don’t want that. So the machine really just sort of bats the fruit around and separates the berries from the stems (rachis). The resulting juice and berries are pumped into big bins called fermentation tanks. We add some yeast to the fermentation tanks and let ‘er rip.
Every day we have a few chores to do to help the fermentation along. Morning and night we do “punch downs” — stirring up the grape stew, making sure to get the top layer of floating skins punched down to the bottom of the tank. We measure “brix” — sugar, and take the temp of the grape stew. As the yeast does its job of eating sugar and producing alcohol, we should see the brix decrease. Also, fermentation creates a bit of heat so we try to control that. Too hot and it’ll kill the yeast and stop fermenting. Too cold and it’ll slow or stop fermenting. 60 degrees seems to be a nice happy spot. The process varies but usually it takes a couple of weeks to get from 26-ish brix down to zero brix.
Then we press the juice off and throw away the seeds and skins.
End Of Nerdy Bit
When we pressed this cab, it was like Jesus and the loaves and fishes or something. We had our tanks out for the juice… and filled them and still had more pressing to do! So we really quick sterilized two more tanks.
And filled those!
Yeah, we got just about double what we expected!
So, you know, 2020 isn’t all bad.
Now our wine is going through “secondary fermentation.” It’s kind of not really fermentation but a conversion of malic acid (kind of a green apple taste) is converted to lactic acid (more buttery taste). Because of how small the berries were and how intense the wine seems to me so far, I really wanted to promote this kind of “fermentation”. That should take a month.
Pressing off the juice is sort of the mark of the end of our main season of tours and the ushering in of winter for us. When we press off the juice, the flannel sheets are coming out. The stock tank heaters are all installed, outside water pipes are blown out, the hay stacks are covered, my insulated overalls are dusted off, and we start to get ready for our Christmas Tree season.
I’ve been up to my armpits making soaps — watch the shop for updates there. I’ve really been making a lot of “Buck Naked” fragrance and color-free goat-milk soap that is just amazing. I’ve also made some fun soaps with wine as well.
And that’s all the news that isn’t. Take care!