Joe’s Winemaking Notes: October 2016
2016 Harvest Comes to a Close (almost)!
It’s been a whirlwind month, full of long days and weekends spent at the winery, but we’re nearly through! We have 59 different vineyard selections that are at various stages of fermentation in tanks and barrels. We’re looking forward to revisiting these young wines in the weeks to come. We have numerous lots of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay; both in tank and barrel fermentations, stainless steel and oak. They’ve been in my mind all day every day, and have even made a few appearances in my dreams!
Now, with harvest winding down, we’re looking forward to reacquainting ourselves with family and friends, watching a little football on the weekends, and enjoying fall until the rainy weather arrives.
Our last email introduced you to the newest releases from Ron Rubin Winery. The 2013 vintage of both our Estate Green Valley Pinot Noir and Cool Climate Syrah are now ready to drink! The Pinot Noir showcases a more powerful expression of Pinot Noir, relative to the 2012 vintage. This was due to more vine vigor and slightly lower yields at our Estate. Don’t worry, though… We made sure the elegant beauty of Pinot Noir still takes center stage! The Syrah is a powerful wine, and a great counterpoint to the Pinot Noir. We’re very excited by these wines, and I look forward to hearing from you, once you’ve had a chance to taste them.
GOINGS ON IN THE CELLAR
Open Top Fermenters
One of the biggest investments our winery has made in the past four years is on our crush pad, with the purchase of many “open top” tanks for fermenting Pinot Noir. There are many different tank designs, with materials ranging from stainless steel to concrete to wood and beyond. Why do we focus on open top steel tanks? Grape juice will ferment to wine in nearly any container, from clay jars similar to those used by ancient peoples, to modern plastics.
I love an experiment as much as any other scientist. And, I’ll certainly conduct future experiments with clay and concrete fermenters at some point. Still, I have a strong appreciation for our modern tanks. The ability to manage fermentation temperatures and effectively sanitize the tanks are real pluses.
But what’s up with the open tops? Why purchase a tank that can be used for five or six weeks, but is unusable the remainder of the year? The answer is they provide advantages; such as increased skin to juice contact, and an ability to “punch down” the floating skins. This allows us to effectively extract the good components from the skins in a relatively short period of time. We also see slightly lower alcohol levels in the finished wines (compared to a tank with a lid), as some alcohol vapor “blows off” into the atmosphere. Lastly, a less quantifiable (but very real) advantage the open tops gives me is a chance to get up close and personal with these fermenting grapes every day. I can reach into the tanks, inspect the skins floating on the juice, and smell the aromas of fermentation. In a way, the grapes really do “tell” me when they’ve given up all the good stuff!
We were fortunate to be chosen as one of the hosts of “Sonoma County Grape Camp” this year! This is a group of forty passionate wine consumers who signed up through Sonoma County Winegrowers to experience the grape harvest in Sonoma County. They visited our vineyard and winery on September 20, for a tasting and tour. In addition to sampling our latest wines, while I introduced them to the Green Valley of Russian River Valley, they were treated to an educational tea tasting, featuring The Republic of Tea. The Beautiful Experience comes in many flavors!
WAITING ON SYRAH…..
As of today, there is only one vineyard block remaining to be harvested – Our Green Valley Cool Climate Syrah. We’re getting close though, and should have these grapes into the winery before the week’s end. It’ll be the second best day of harvest (first picking day is most exciting), knowing that we made it!