We spent a long day yesterday racking our two Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignons.
Racking is the process of removing a wine from barrel, cleaning the barrel, then returning the wine back to barrel. We do this for three reasons. First it lets us get the 'gunk' out of the bottom of the barrel. The fine lees that have settled into the bottom of the barrel. These lees can develop amino acids called Mercaptans, that create off flavors, so best to remove them.
Second, and especially true with Cabernet Sauvignon, it's a chance to expose the wine to some oxygen. This helps with the softening of tannins, and makes the wine rounder and more enjoyable.
Finally, we use racking as an opportunity to make any sulfur additions that are needed. Sulfur acts as a preservative for wine and kills any bacteria. Some people add sulfur directly into the barrel, but this can cause problems. Sulfur doesn't really travel well, so if you add it to barrel, it tends to just sit in one place. By doing it when we rack we have a chance to stir it up and expose all the wine to it.
We had a rather complicated set of blending we were doing at the same time, and ended up using four tanks. The final result was seven barrels of Chaine d' Or Cabernet Sauvignon. Six barrels of Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon, which contains fruit from the Harvest Moon Vineyard, Elandrich Vineyard and Chaine d'Or Vineyard. That blend is also about 10% Merlot, which has added some really nice cherry notes. Finally we ended up with one barrel of Haut Tubee. We'll combine this with 1-2 barrels of Syrah we have at Big Basin later and end up bottling about 75 total cases of Haut Tubee for 2007.