It’s been a crazy wine year, but I feel good! This year, we got about 3/4 of a ton of chardonnay from Clarksburg, which we picked in mid-September. I like my chardonnay like I like my…well, actually, I’m not crazy about Chardonnay. Because of this, I like to make it taste as much like a wine that I do like as possible! For example: Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. So, I keep it un-oaked, pretty acidic, dry, and I avoid malolactic fermentation. The French, and anyone who likes Chard would laugh me out of town for this heresy. Most of the time when I drink white wine, it’s while I’m cooking. If I’m cooking, I like something crisp, dry, and fruity. What this means in terms of winemaking is that I do very very little to my white wines other than make sure that the acidity is where I want it at crush and keep it all clean. Filtering is nice for whites, in my opinion, because of how important the appearance of a white wine is. But, to tell you the truth, I’ve made really really beautiful and tasty white wines without filtering. It gets cold enough in our winery that the wine gets pretty clear all on its own.
The whole group suffered from a lack of funds this year and so we really didn’t get it together to make a deal for some good red grapes earlier in the year. Nevertheless, in mid-October, I got a hankerin’ to do some red. So, last weekend, Sam and I headed up the hill to investigate some leads on some last minute grape deals.
Through a winemaker connection, we ended up finding out about an organic grower in Fairplay who had some grapes that were supposedly ripe and that he’d sell for a pretty good price. Normally, ripeness is not a problem at all in California…but this was a very cold year, and a lot of grapes never made it to a level of ripeness that’s adequate for making good wine before the vines shut down. We didn’t get a good look at the grapes before making a deal to pick them the next morning (it was pretty much our last chance, and it was a good deal, so we took a chance).
When we showed up at the vineyard the next morning, the ripeness and condition of the grapes was all over the place. Some clusters looked great. Some were all raisins. Towards the top of the vineyard (it’s situated on a hill), things looked ok. But, at the bottom, there was a LOT of mold. We ended up picking about 500 lbs (in 4 hours of picking, some of it in the rain) and brought it back to crush.
A week later, we pressed it…and I’m actually feeling like we might make a decent wine out of this. The most award-winning wine we’ve made to date started its life as very troubled grapes and a very troubled fermentation. So, it’s not out of the question that this will be great.
After the press, we kept the skins and seeds, added about 45 pounds of sugar, a pound of tartaric acid, and 30 gallons of water to it and started making a 2nd wine, as we did with our 2008 Zin. We have some new winemaking volunteers in our group who seem to think they have a good use for this stuff….
So, we’ll do one more pressing this year (of the 2nd wine), and then we’ll put the big equipment away for another year. Here’s hoping that 2011 is a HOT SUMMER!