Tag Archives: fermentation

Rain now?

Rain on press

It rained today, September 18th here in Sebastopol.  Not a surprise in most parts of the country, but here it is big news during harvest as the moisture can ruin your crop.  We picked our Pinot last Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday so that is safe.  Our Sauvignon Blanc is still hanging for another month or so…so I blew them off and sprayed them today.

On Sunday we will pick the seconds from the Pinot and some rogue Merlot to either make a Rose or a low alcohol field blend.  Will have to see how it tastes.

As to the picture…we have the press on the left, 1100 pounds of fermenting Pinot in the middle (clone 667), and 95 gallons of pressed Pinot (clone Pommard) on the right.  I’m really looking forward to how the Pinot’s turn out this year as I let them naturally ferment before inoculating with yeast.  Should add complexity.

Winemaking Classes at Vinquiry !

Vinquiry Logo


Vinquiry, a wine analysis lab, is holding a 5 part class, Craft Winemaking , over the next 5 months.  I have signed up to add to my practical experience with technical, scientific supported data.  It is designed for those in the industry who would like to know more about the entire process and winemakers to go from making good wine to great wine.  I’m hoping to continue to add to my knowledge so each vintage my wine is better!  At the end of the classes I’ll summarize the actions and implement them with my 2014 vintage.

Introduction to Winemaking – Overview of the process, concept of style, sanitation, equipment and winery choices, overview of analysis, SO2 management, sensory evaluation.

Maturation and ageing – Goals of aging, how to work with small lots, container choices, racking, protection wine during aging and movements, fining and treatments, potential problems and their prevention and treatment.

Finishing and Bottling – Stabilization, additions, clarification, filtration, blending, quality control, bottling and bottling equipment, packaging.

Grapes and Grape Processing – Sourcing grapes, vineyard sampling, picking decision, crushing (or not), crushing and pressing equipment, fermenters, temperature control, must and juice treatments/additions.

Fermentation – Yeast (or not), nutrition, fermentation management and monitoring, cap management, malolactic fermentation, problem fermentations, problem recognition and treatment.



Stirring Lees and of course, Tasting!



Our 2013 Pinot Noir is now 3 weeks in “barrel” resting on fine lees.  It is undergoing malolactic fermentation and I expect this will take another 1-3 months as the nights here are becoming chilly.

Another item we are doing differently this year is that we will stir our lees every few weeks.  The theory is that it will enhance the mouth feel of the wine.  So…I was off to TAP Plastics this morning to purchase a food grade 54″ long, 3/8″ diameter rod.  Worked like a charm.

And of course…had to have a little taste to start the morning out right.  It was wonderful and I think better than the 2012 at the same stage last year.  A side note…last year we added an enzyme for color and quicker clarification.  We found out this is not needed for Pinot Noir so we didn’t do it this year, but you could notice the wine is not as clear.  It will take a little longer to fall clear!


New Bladder Press in Action !


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.




Destemmer Only?



Last year we were lucky enough to make our wine at EMTU Vineyards with our friends Chris and John Mason.  They are about 7 miles away so it was difficult to punch down 3 times per day for 10 days and do all the work necessary to make wine.  So this year we decided to invest in some equipment and make the wine at our house.

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of the 160 L bladder press that will handle about 1/2 ton of fermented grapes.  Our latest investment is a destemmer, it separates the berries from the stem by use of an auger and paddles.  We went the Beverage People in Santa Rosa.  They brought these in special just for Pinot Noir home winemakers.  They only had three in stock as they didn’t know who would buy these…they said only winemakers who had French friends that had tasted Burgundy would do it.  But wouldn’t you know, the three all were sold in one week, and one was to us!

Normally for whites and many reds you crush and destem at the same time.  However for Pinot Noir the idea is to destem only and ferment with whole berries.  This is gentler on the berry and will prolong the fermentation since the grape is whole and it will take longer for the yeast to penetrate the berry.  The goal is a more complex flavor profile by retaining the aromatics in the grape longer, or so I have read.  Actually, most of the commercial wineries only destem and then do an inspection on a sorter table to take out any bad berries.

Will have to see how it turns out!