October 20, 2012

The dog days of harvest

We're three weeks into harvest and it feels like summer in August. I don't mean it's warm, no, autumn is clearly here. It's just that some things are incredibly good. Some things are getting a bit old. And some things are sweeter as the season's days slowly start drawing to a close. Just like that August feeling, when you're mixed on the passing of time.

All the fruit for my winery is in for the season. I figure I'll have around 20 barrels of Pinot Noir in addition to the two barrels of Chardonnay, which incidentally was actively fermenting on its own in barrel as well as in a couple glass carboys of extra wine that I have. Nice to see foam on the surface of the juice. Smells clean and fresh. I can't wait to have my first commercially available white wine.

Meanwhile, my six fermentors of red wine have been similarly native and active. I don't add yeast to the grapes, instead letting fermentation spontaneously occur. It's never failed. This year the ferments have been a little too vigorous. I found it interesting to hear a colleague suggest the ferments are faster with higher pHs in the juice, meaning the yeast are happier in a lower acid solution. Makes sense. One fermentor of Armstrong Vineyard is done but I'm letting it hang around for a few days while two others from Armstrong finish up. I'll press them together.

The three others are at or just past the peak of fermentation. After we mostly destem the grapes, we let them sit untouched for several days until the native yeasts build in number. Then once the fermentor is putting off enough carbon dioxide to really notice, we punch down the fermentors once a day, twice if the temperature gets a little high. Punching down meaning mixing the grapes skins and juice around to release CO2 and heat and keep the top of the mixture fresh and clean.

I'm cautiously optmistic for the wines from 2012. It's too early to say how they will be, but the first finished fermentor is nice, with good density to the flavors and nice texture from the skins. I do know that I'll be really glad to drain and press all these fermentors, then clean and fill all my barrels in the following few days. At that point, I'll be done with harvest. And that's going to be in about ten days.

I love harvest, but that's something that has taken time to set in with me. I can't wait until it's done each year, but I'm working like a dog and I've found I enjoy it.

No comments: