I'm delighted to say...harvest is done. Sure, the latest pickers and the people who make things like Riesling might even still have some grapes out there. But for me, the season that began in mid-September when the first white grapes came in is finally done.
Last Sunday I pressed my 2007 Pinot Noir after fourteen days of contact time, or having the grape juice and now wine in contact with the grape skins and seeds. I expected to yield about 300 liters of wine, but I ended up with around 290, and that's with some heavy lees in one carboy of press wine. I could have pressed harder, but perhaps the grapes simply weren't as juicy as I expected. No matter what, I ended up with plenty of wine and I can only hope it will be at least decent.
"Pressing" might be a misnomer for the whole exercise of separating new wine from the skins. Most of the wine is free run, meaning it just drains out of your fermentation bin. In the winery, you pump or use gravity to drain fermentors. At home, I use a pitcher to scoop wine and skins into a basket press, allowing the wine to drain freely into a bucket at the mouth of the press pan that catches the wine underneathe the basket. The free run can be about 80% of your yield of wine. So pressing is only a small part of the wine you end up with, and in some wineries, press wine is hardly used at all.
After draining and pressing, I did something different this year. Instead of going to barrel "dirty," where you don't let the wine settle before putting it into the oak barrel, I gently poured the buckets of wine from the press pan into a few Rubbermaid bins. I filled a big one as high as I could with free run wine, then filled a small one with free run and another small one with press wine. The following night I bucketed the wine into a 5-year-old French oak barrel that I got in August at a local winery that has their barrels made especially for them in Burgundy. Only a bit of press wine went into the barrel, the rest going into a three glass carboys. After cleaning up everything, harvest was finally over.
Now I'm left with a lot of wine for a home operation. First, there's a barrel and more of Pinot Noir from 2006, still quietly going through its malolactic fermentation months after I expected it to be done. It tastes good for 2006, meaning it's riper than I'd like but certainly crowd pleasing. Then there's a couple of carboys of fermenting Chardonnay from 2007 as well as a carboy and more of 2007 Pinot Noir Rose. And of course, a barrel and more of 2007 Pinot Noir. All together, nearly 600 liters of wine, or...800 or so bottles.
Yikes, that's a lot of wine.
Meanwhile, a tasting note. Tonight, it's Dead Guy Ale from Rogue Brewing. I've loved Rogue since my brother brought home a "Rogue ingredients" bottling from a fair he attended in Humboldt County, CA. This was the late '80s I think, when Rogue was just starting out. Maybe that bottle of malted barley, hops and other things got me first thinking about fermenting stuff. This beer is delicious, smelling malty and clean with a bright but rich fruity, malty and hoppy flavor. Somewhere between a summer and winter beer, as you'd expect for a brew that's perfect for autumn. You have to love the Dead, no?