With red grapes, the basic process for making wine is fermenting the grape skins, pulp, seeds, maybe stems and of course the grape juice all together. Only when fermentation is done do you load the press with the grape solids and press out the wine.
|Old vine 108 clone Chardonnay from Namaste Vineyard|
But it's harder to press unfermented fruit. Grapes are pulpy and don't want to give up their juice too easily. Grapes are also sticky and attract lots of bees, so loading the press is a little more dangerous if you don't want to get stung.
This year I worked with Chardonnay from three different vineyards and Pinot Blanc from a single site. Having a small press at the new winery – something we will likely change in the years ahead – meant loading the press several times. By hand, one shovel full of grapes at a time for literally tons of fruit. Forget crossfit, this is body by harvest, good honest work that gives you time to think.
|The beautiful inside of a well cleaned, several years old French oak barrel for white wine|
As with my red wines, I like to let the freshly pressed white juice settle to a few days before filling barrels. This process allows the gross lees, or sediment, to settle out so the white juice is more pure for its fermentation. Fermentation in always native with my white and red wines, meaning no yeasts added, fermentation happening only with yeasts on the grapes and in the air. After fermentation, the wine stays on the sediment in the barrels – mostly yeast cells, what we call the fine lees – to age and gain richness.
This year the Pinot Blanc fermented dry – no sugar remaining – in just a few weeks, which was fairly quick. The Chardonnays have taken longer, with one barrel just about dry, a few others nearing the end of fermentation, and two barrels still with a few percent of sugar nearly two months after picking. Some producers worry about slow fermenting whites but I like the longer ferment, provided things continue to move.
|The yeasty glow of fermenting white wine in barrel|
|This sample of Chardonnay is nearing the end of fermentation|
In life I think the longer the cure, the stronger the bond. I don't mind waiting, though I'll keep checking in to see how things progress. And because I love the perfume of new (and old) wine.