Sunday, November 15, 2009

Getting in Barrel

We spent all day yesterday in the winery getting several wines into barrel. Today we went back for a few hours to finish up some minor tasks and do a punch down on the last wine we still have fermenting.

First up for today was to totally fill the Chardonnay barrels. As the Chardonnay is fermenting it creates a lot of gas, and bubbles so if you filled the barrels completely wine would explode out the top. As fermentation slows down you keep adding a little more wine until it's completely done, then you top off the barrel.

We used this wine to top up the last air space in the barrels. If you've been following since September, then the wine, finally looks like wine!

I've started to do a lot of my topping the really, really old fashioned way. Today we use a lot of air systems to fill barrels, either pumps or nitrogen systems (same tanks used for soda and beer). The last few times I've topped I've done it with a bucket, a funnel, a hose and gravity. No real reason for this other than it seems to create less mess, and also seems gentle on the wine.

Here is the Chardonnay in glass. It sill needs some aging, and we will fine it to get it a little clearer, but it's really wine now.

Yesterday we put three different wines into barrel. The 2009 Haut Tubee went into one two year old Burgundy barrel. The 2009 Splir Rail Syrah went into a one year old Ermitage barrel and a one year old Seguin Moreau Burgundy barrel. The 2009 Chaine d'Or Estate Cabernet Sauvigon went into 3 new French Sequin Moreau Bordeaux barrels, a one year old Sequin Moreau and a two year old Sequin Moreau. We were only expecting to fill four barrels so the fifth was a happy surprise.

Stefania would not look up for the picture, but here she is prepping a Burgundy barrel. Before they are used they have to be filled about 1/3 with water so they will swell back up and hold wine. It's a lot of muscle in the process, first you stand it on it's end (they weigh 100 pounds empty and about 250 pounds when 1/3 filled with water). Then after 30-40 minutes you roll the barrel over onto its other end. Finally you flip it on it's side and let the area by the bung swell up. When the barrel stops leaking, its ready.

I took this picture so everyone would know what I mean when I say 'Ermitage'. It's the brand of barrel. They are 3 year air dried French barrels that are supposed to go very well with Syrah.

This is kind of another random picture. Last year our friend Jay asked us what we do for temperature control during fermentation. I looked at him like he was speaking Greek. I think and he could tell I had a confused look on my face.

"Nothing", I said.

We don't have to in general. The location of the winery and angle of the crushpad combined with the small lots we do means the wine stays between 65-75 degrees while fermenting without any additional effort on our part. Sometimes we might get a reading in the low 80's when fermentation is going really strong but in general we worry about too cold not too hot.

We do have a chiller if anything gets to warm, but it just never happens. More often I'm worried about it being too cold and we have to haul out some heat lamps and put them around the tanks to get them warmed up. That's pretty unique in California, most wineries have to worry about temperature control, but our location is very unique.

Another random picture. My boots as harvest season closes out. They are stained purple now from pressing wine. I actually wear slippers while driving and put the boots on at the winery. They are too dirty to drive in or wear in the house. This isn't a minor expense. I need size 15 boots, and finding a good waterproof pair that also fits the three toes on my left foot that don't bend anymore is very hard. I usually have to buy a new pair each year at $150-$200.

I took these two pictures for Dan and Therese Martin to show them how small our crush pad area is. We had to break up our harvest of grapes from them into two different days and I wanted to show them why I couldn't process everything in one day.

We're coming down the home stretch now, and Stefania says she'll get some more pictures up soon.

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