July 29, 2007

Winemaking Update

Last fall I imagined I would be giving frequent updates on my winemaking. For whatever reasons, it hasn’t happened. I suppose over the winter there was little to report. But nearly ten months since harvest, a lot has happened.

Winter indeed is the time wines hibernate. If you’ve innoculated for malolactic fermentation, often your wines are done before Christmas. But if you’ve let malolactic take its natural course, you may start ML before winter sets in before finishing the following spring when cellar temps gradually rise with the seasons.

Or make that summer. I hope. My barrel of 2006 Wahle Vineyard Pinot Noir is still prickling away, more quietly than a month ago but clearly still active well after I’d hoped malolactic would be finished. I haven’t sulfured the wine since the crusher, a long time ago at this point. And despite a modest acid addition to this wine, I can’t wait until ML is done so I can hit it with some SO2 to knock back any bacterial threats to what I expect is a relatively high ph wine.

But ML continues, and I wait patiently.

Happily, the wine smells and tastes great. Great at least in terms of the ripe, overtly fruity and rich pinot noir that is common to the northern Willamette Valley in 2006. I’m not crazy about the style, but I’m thrilled nonetheless at my barrel. I just hope this harvest provides me with more appropriately ripe fruit.

In May, I bottled four gallons of Pinot Noir rosé, from juice I separated from my red wine about 30 hours after crushing. That turned out to be longer than I really wanted, giving me an almost light red wine instead of something more salmon in color. I fermented it like a white wine, did my best to supress ML bacteria, and bottled in time for summer.

Notice, I didn’t filter. So despite a nice SO2 addition before bottling, ML is slowly happening in the bottle. Doesn’t that ruin the wine? Not exactly. It remains as clear as unfiltered rosé can likely be and there’s no affect on the aroma or flavor of the wine, just a light sparkle that’s not unattractive. Would I prefer the wine to be still? Yes. But does the wine taste good? Yes, suprisingly to me to be honest. I keep thinking it’s going to smell like sauerkraut, but it doesn’t. Our neighbor can’t get enough of the stuff. And I’ve learned a lot for next year, so I’m happy.

One of the best developments is that my converted water closet barrel room is perfectly cool even on the hottest days now that I slapped a small air conditioning unit in the room’s one window. That means my garage winery is working out great and should be good for another year or two.

And can you believe it, harvest is almost here again. More on that soon, but the good news is I’m going to work with a terrific newer producer that’s bootstrapping itself into prominence locally and beyond. I’ve mentioned the producer here on a few occasions, and this fall should provide a terrific lesson in how to start up a winery.

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