Monday, April 13, 2009

Cold Stabalizing our 2008 Chardonnay

Saturday morning we headed to Chaine d'Or to start the process of getting our 2008 Chardonnay ready for bottling. Actually the process had started Thursday when the internal tank was turned on to lower the temperature in advance of Saturday.

The day started with the introduction of a new member of the Chaine d'Or family. Anne Anderson brought down 'Ghillie' for us to meet for the first time. She will join Sophie as a new vineyard dog. Sophie was just about this size the first time I worked at Chaine d'Or. Sophie is adjusting well to having a new sister and playmate and was much less interested in hanging out with us in the winery with a new friend upstairs.

We divided up the tasks as usual. My first job was to sweep out the winery. Stefania got the lab ready for the readings we'd need. We wanted to measure free and total sulfur in the Chardonnay so we could make any needed additions now as the wine went into tank.

I then pumped the 4 barrels of Chardonnay into the waiting tank. It's a bit of a tricky process. I always try and not let any air get in the hoses but it's more critical with a white wine to keep oxygen out. I also can't just stick the regular racking wand in the barrel. The bottom of the barrel is full of the fine lees (muck) that the Chardonnay is aged on and you don't want that in tank. I used a small bamboo rod that I taped on the wand as an additional block to keep the wand from hitting bottom and that way only clear juice was put in tank. Controlling the speed is crucial for the pump. Too slow and air will get in the hose. Too fast and the wine will slosh around going into the tank.

I started by filling the tank with Argon. The Argon will act as a buffer from oxygen while the wine is in tank. The wine is then pumped into the bottom of the tank to prevent any oxidation. We cold stabilize the wine to eliminate any tartaric crystals from forming. By chilling the wine down the crystals will be left in the tank. The process will take a couple of weeks.
Stef took on her usual job of washing out the barrels. I also drew off a sample to send to the lab for fining trials. The first sample came back with a rather cryptic "Marginally Heat Stable" rating, which we all agreed was useless information. We check heat stability to make sure that there are no proteins or yeast in the wine that will make it cloudy if it gets warm on a store shelf. We really needed to know if it was heat stable or not. Marginally was a poor answer.
The second test though will tell us if we need to add Bentonite as a fining agent. Bentonite is a clay that will attract the yeast and protein in the wine and fall to the bottom of the tank where we can remove it. If we do have to use Bentonite, we will also filter the wine to make sure all the Bentonite is out of the juice.

Even though the tank has a chilled jacket around it we still add additional insulation to make sure it gets cold enough. This is the tank almost wrapped all the way. We added one more layer of insulation to the bottom after this picture was taken.

Everything went smoothly and we are on schedule to bottle on May 7th.

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