After 5 days cold soak and 8 days of fermentation, it was time to press. This year we pressed when the hydrometer reading hit 0.3, which means we had a little sugar left to ferment. If you are not familiar with a hydrometer it measures the density of the mixture and has a dual scale for density/sugar content.
It is the preference of the winery where to press during the fermentation process. Most of the skin tannins are obtained early in the process as they are water soluble and the seed/wood tannins are more alcohol soluble so they are picked up at the end of fermentation. I want a more fruit forward Pinot, so I press early and let the fermentation end when all the skins/seeds/wood are removed.
One thing you can’t see is the intense color and taste of the pressed skins. At the end of the press cycle is very intense wine…that tastes great if you don’t go to long.
After the wine is pressed I allow it to settle for 1 day and then rack off the gross lees. In my opinion, if I left them with the wine and was not careful I could pick up some back sulfur odors.
Finally, we have added some French Toasted Oak during malolactic fermentation to allow this flavor to blend in, and then the wine is put to bed while we wait for the malolactic fermentation to finish before we taste the final product. In about 6 weeks we will sulfur and let it age.
We ended up with 74 gallons of wine from a little over 1/2 ton of grapes.
2013 was our second harvest and our second year of making Russian River Pinot. What was really exciting is that we kept 1/2 ton to make our own wine and sold 2 tons to Horse and Plow. We get to see in a year or so how our winemaking stacks up to a commercial winery.
So…even though we really liked our 2012 Pinot and got good reviews from our wine friends and an entire wedding party, we decided to make improvements for this year. I hope this will be our close to our final process.
IMPROVEMENTS FROM 2012
1. Less watering from set to veraison to reduce pH of grapes – This was a success so far. Our grapes came in at 3.76 ph vs 3.9 last year even though brix went up from 23 to 24.
2. We will “oak” our wine during secondary fermentation instead of waiting until it is finished
3. We purchased a bladder press and a destemmer only. The destemmer did not crush the grapes so we hope to have some whole berries and I think we will get a better juice from this small press.
4. We did not add enzymes this year. From what I read and discussed with other winemakers this is not needed from Pinot Noir due to the thin skin.
5. We will press the grapes before they have gone dry to reduce the amount of harsh tannins you get from the seeds. Seed tannins are alcohol soluble.
6. We picked at a higher brix for a riper berry. We hope this will add more complex flavors, but not to high to be overpowering with alcohol.
7. When we sulfur after malolactic fermentation, we will add a larger dose of sulfur upfront instead of trying to keep it at the correct range every month. The intent is to stop any harmful bacteria from growing initially by binding them with sulfur and make adjustments a few months later.
WHAT STAYED THE SAME
1. The cold soak is still 5 days with dry ice.
2. We will continue to use oak adjuncts with our Flex Tanks. We think the Flex Tanks give us a better aromatic profile than oak barrels. In addition, with a small winemaking operation oak barrels are difficult to manage. We have had 2 friends whose wine went bad due to bad barrels this last year.
3. We used Assmanhausen yeast again this year. Many people ferment with wild yeast but with our higher pH that would be a big risk.
I have not posted in a while, so I’ll give you a little update on how our 2013 Pinot Noir crop is shaping up.
Three weeks ago we finished veraison so the nets went up to prevent the birds from getting our crop. Only took 5.5 hours this year top put them up…better than 9 hours last year.
Sunday Joey and I took brix (sugar) readings throughout the vineyard. As expected the vines closest to the house averaged 20.4 and the ones furthest away were at 19.3. We expect to pick when the brix reach 23…so around September 16th!
Now the fun part…as you can see from the picture, we bought a small bladder press. The capacity is 42 gallons, or enough for 1/2 ton of fermented Pinot Noir, or around 400 pounds of Sauvignon Blanc. In addition, we bought 2 thirty gallon breathable tanks for aging, and some 5, 3 and 1 gallon glass containers. Next up is to get a destemmer and a few smaller items and we will be set to make wine this year!