Friday, December 30, 2011

Oaking the 2011s

Added oak to our wines; more specifically Hungarian oak.  We added in number of beans - 10 beans per gallon to most carboys, some as little as 5 beans per ballon.  Based on the leftovers from a 1-lb pack of beans I'd estimate we added about half of that recommended by StaVin (0.4 oz oak beans per gallon for new barrel equivalent).  That said we recall an oakey batch, so are playing it safe (since you can always add, but can't easily remove).

The Merlot got an additional 25 Hungarian oak beans (supplementing the previously added 15 American oak beans).   Tried one homemade wine where the winemaker used a blend of oaks and I thought it turned out pretty tasty.

Here's more detail on the why's behind each type of oak, and a handy number of cubes per ounce cheatsheet.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Harvest

We finally picked the rest of the grapes - as expected we had some rot to pick through, but ended up with about 25 gallons of red wine must, and 5 gallons of juice only from botrytis-infected grapes. SERIOUSLY committed friends helped with these tasks, took twice as long as we thought and sorting through moldy grapes is not nearly as glamorous as our usual harvest, but a lunch and wine break halfway through helped a lot.
We've never had to deal with molds and rots on our grapes, so we started by picking all the grapes, then hand-sorting while destemming into 3 buckets:
1. Sour grapes - any grape that oozed anything but clear liquid appeared to be rotten.  Don't want any of that in any of our wines.  Pretty sure it's officially called Sour Bunch Rot
2. Botrytis-infected grapes - these for us were grapes with a brown sugar looking mold on them.  This is the 'noble rot' used to make famous fancy dessert wines like Sauternes.  I highly doubt we'll be able to make a similar quality wine out of not-too-sweet botrytis-ey grapes, but we'll experiment and share with caution
3. Perfect grapes, which we'll use to make our second batch of estate red wine

In the end, we had OK numbers - the pH really shot up more so than other numbers, but we're well within reasonable red wine grape numbers. 
Brix: 22.0
pH 3.44
TA: 8.4

To that we added sugar to get our Brix closer to 23-24,  a bit (35ppm) of Potassium Metabisulfate to kill any rogue yeasts, and yeast nutrient (1t straight DAP, 1 t Fermaid K per fermenter) before soaking overnight.  Tomorrow we'll re-measure and pitch yeasts.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


A closer look at row 5; very fall like and those grapes are still hanging in there!  All the leaves have fallen in the less sunny parts of the vineyard.

3 ways to rot

It's rare that grapes hang on the vine this long, but sure enough the TA is dropping, making them more likely to turn into good wine.  Unfortunately the types of rot that are growing on the berries are also on the rise: probably 10% have botrytis (looks like tan bread mold), another 5% sour rot (looks like a pink-redish berry and tastes & smells obviously bad).  Then there's this white surface one; not sure what exactly it is but sure is funny looking.

In any case, our numbers:
Ta: 8.3
Ph: 3.4 
Brix: 21.75 

Given the speed at which the rot is spreading, and the fact that more than half the leaves have dropped, we're going to harvest the rest this weekend.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

First Racking of 2011 Merlot

While pressing the Cab, we realized that we pressed the Merlot about a month ago, so it's high time we racked it off of its gross lees.  Went from 6 gallons of must to 4.5 gallons (we were pretty stingy due to the odd acid levels), added 25ppm potassium metabisulfate and put it on oak: 15 medium toast American oak beans.

Pressing with a new press

The Cabernet's cap is getting very weak and hydrometer reading is 0% sugar, so we pressed it today.  

We usually rent a basket press for this task, but given the fact that our batches of wine are so distributed this year, I looked for a less gear-intensive way to do a light press of our wines.  I went to a local housewear / restaurant supply shop (the one next to 99 Ranch in Milpitas), envisioning  some kind of funnel, or large pasta strainer, to do the job.  After perusing the stainless steel items, I decided to give this fry basket a try (at least I *think* that's what it is).  It's a single layer of about 0.5 cm mesh. 

My technique: I scooped about one gallon / 2-3" of must into this basket, then gently smashed down with the scooper I was using (a 8 cup tupperware pouring / mixing vessle).  I let the juice and some seeds came out the bottom and tossed the dried grape skins aside to compost.  If I was hard-core, I'd get another basket to let them drip-out some additional juice, but doesn't seem like there would be too much benefit to that.

After pressing, we added 25 ppm potassium metabisulfate (very first addition), hoping that that would not be enough to kill the ML bacteria, which seems to still be eating up the excessive malic acid.  Racked into carboys with enough head space to get our stirrer in so we can stir up the lees a couple times a week (to keep the nutrients in the lees feeding the ML bacteria)

Also compared numbers, pre-ferment vs post-ferment:
pH 3.30
TA 0.85

pH 3.45
TA 0.75
This is great news - MUCH better acid levels to have in a finished wine!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hanging in there

Yes, there are still grapes out there.  Even though the leaves are dropping pretty quickly. Their numbers are getting better (Brix 21.5, TA 0.85, pH 3.35), so we might harvest as soon as next week.  Before the vines lose ALL their leaves.