Fermentations

We picked Merlot early this morning at Bressler. This is the second year for harvesting Merlot off of their young vines. We got a nice crop, with tasty fruit, and it looked really good.

We took the grapes over to Andretti Winery, which is a satellite winery of Laird. It’s not very far down the road from Laird. They do some of the small fermentation lots there, since they have more small tanks and presses there. The Merlot was just over two tons, so it went to a small tank. We were done crushing it by 11am, since we picked early. I’ll have some numbers tomorrow, so we will see how it turned out.

I also went to another client of mine, Dalla Valle Vineyards, early this morning. We decided to pick one block today that we have been looking at for awhile, and another block tomorrow. The grapes that came off today look really nice, and it was a nice crop.

For Selene, I have a few things going on. The first Sauvignon Blancs that we brought in are fermenting their way down. They are around 5 brix now, so around the end of this week we might be able to top those barrels off. As I might have mentioned, we leave them down about 5 or 6 gallons a barrel, so they don’t overflow, since the fermentation can create some foam. It can be quite a mess if you fill your containers you are fermenting in, whether you are talking about a tank or a barrel or even a little carboy. So we are careful to leave some headspace. As they get a little dryer, we need to be considerate of the fact that less CO2 is coming off from the fermentation. CO2 is protective of the white wines from oxygen. We need to be aware that production of the C02 is going down as the fermentation slows, and that is the time to think about getting the barrels all the way topped up. I think near the end of this week will be about the time to top them off.

It’s not unusual for the oak barrels to retain a little bit more heat, since wood is an insulator and metal is not. The stainless steel barrels tend to stay cooler and ferment a little more slowly. The oak barrels tend to get warmer (about 2 or 3 degrees Fahrenheit) and ferment a little bit more quickly, so they are ahead of the stainless steel barrels by about 2 degrees brix. But, by the end of the week they will even out nicely and we can top them off all at once.

I stick my nose in those barrels everyday to make sure there is still CO2 coming off, and now that we don’t have an inch or two of foam on top, you can actually see the must moving around inside from the activity of fermentation. You can also see the prickles of the CO2 coming off, so I know they are still active. They are still nicely protected and have fermentation bungs in them. At the end of this week, they will be a little bit quieter.

A subtle point about when things get re-topped up: They can start to foam again if you try to top them off too early. They are super saturated with CO2 even after all the sugar is gone for some period of time. There are a lot of proteins and a little bit of solids left. If you have seen Champaign or sparkling wine come off a scratch in the glass then you understand that it’s a focal point for CO2 bubbles to form. In a situation like a barrel fermentation you can create little explosions when you try to top them too soon.

The tank fermentation of Sauvignon Blanc that we picked last Friday just got racked yesterday. There isn’t any fermentation activity yet, but by tomorrow I expect there will be.

Tomorrow I’ll be sampling a lot more grapes, both for Selene and my clients, to make picking decisions. I’ll also visit with some clients to get caught up on everything and answer any questions they might have.

Haiku from this morning:

Waning crescent moon
Orion with sword
Early morning sky
Like first harvest