Several of the 2009 wines are assembled – the Sweet Sunrise Vineyard Syrah and Zinfandel are out of the barrels and now bulk aging in stainless steel tanks. Next up will be the 2009 Rancho Rossa Merlot and the 2008 SSV Sangiovese Select. These four red wines are all delicious and very different from one another, each with their own distinctive complexity.
The 2010 whites are settling and awaiting bottling. All of them (Viognier, Pinot Grigio, Riesling and Gewürztraminer) have had no exposure to oak and are showing beautifully their varietal characteristics.
The 2010 Rancho Rossa Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are in barrels, aging and finishing out the last stages of the fermentation. It’s an impressive lineup and will be a treat for our customers.
Always on the agenda this time of year is the riddling and disgorging of sparkling wine. The Chardonnay and Nebbiolo Rose have both had one more year of bottle aging and will be a fabulous feature of this coming holiday season.
Like all winemakers I’m busy during harvest. New grapes are coming in for the current vintage. The wines in barrels since last fall need to be blended and scheduled for bottling or more aging. I’m juggling tank space and floor space, and thinking about the timing of release dates.
Our ’10 Estate wines made from the grapes that survived the devastating August 15 hail storm will be most unusual. Look for them sometime in 2011 or 2012.
After 20 months of periodically tasting the 2008 Estate Tempranillo (one of a winemaker’s toughest jobs) the wine is ready to bottle. In order to combine all the barrels together (a process called racking and assembling) I pumped it out of the oak barrels and combined in a large stainless steel tank. This of course provided another opportunity to taste it and Joan agreed – “delicious.”
It’ll rest for a few months, allowing the sediment in the wine to again settle to the bottom of the tank, then another racking of the wine before bottling it. The labels are printed, there are plenty of corks and the bottles are ready. It should be ready for this year’s holiday season. The wine is more dense then the 2007 Estate Tempranillo. I used 50% new American and 50% old European Oak barrels so the tannins are complex and fine. Plenty of dark fruit flavors are joined by the tastes of dark chocolate and toasted coffee.
The primary red wine making task during this part of the year is topping off the barrels. Oak barrels are fabulous for aging and storing wine and impart the lovely oaky flavors and tannins that mark a premium red wine. However, the wood is not airtight and a small amount of wine evaporates – about 5% a year, called the “angels’ share.” As the wine evaporates it leaves behind a space that is a vacuum if the barrel bung is tight, but most often contains some amount of air. Most wine making techniques call for filling up that space with wine to eliminate any possibility of unwanted exposure to air and the spoilage that generally follows.
I enjoy the topping off process since it gives me the opportunity to check out the developing wine by pulling out a small sample with the wine thief for Joan and me to taste. In this way I can follow the progress of the wine – a tedious process, but someone has to do it. Topping off the barrel usually results in a little spillage, especially when I smash the bung back in to the bung hole to seal up the barrel. The excess wine drips down the barrel and causes the gorgeous purple stains that run the circumference of the barrel.
It’s time to get the 2009 white wines bottled so they will be ready for their late spring release. The 2009 growing season was very unfriendly to the early flowering white grape varieties and a series of late frosts throughout the state severely reduced the yield for white wine grapes.
I was able to get a modest amount of fruit from three vineyards – Malvasia from Sweet Sunrise Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc from Rancho Rossa Vineyards, and Gewürztraminer and Riesling from Dragoon Vineyards. All of these wines have been fermented and finished in neutral and stainless steel vessels.
The Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are both very clean and crisp with light and luscious fruit flavors. Both are completely dry and will be fabulous summer wines. The Malvasia and Gewürztraminer have a small amount of residual sugar (just under 1% grape sugar) to magnify the amazing and intoxicating fruity and floral qualities – both very different in character for these two wines. They have been racked and assembled. We will be bottling in March. Any volunteers? Email us!
This new year of the second decade of the second millennium (wow, that’s a mouthful) began with the bottling of the 2008 Sangiovese from Sweet Sunrise Vineyards. An eager crew of volunteers (see our blog dated January 20, 1010) helped coax the wine into the bottles. Bottling is a fabulously repetitive mind-numbing task that has such a magical physical rhythm that it becomes mystical for me. I must be nuts. This Sangiovese is every bit as good as the 2007 wine that won the silver medal in the National Women’s Wine Competition in 2009. That wine, by the way, sold out just recently. Fortunately, there is almost twice as much of the 2008 vintage so you’ll all get the opportunity to enjoy some.
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