Monday, October 26, 2009

And you thought school was boring.


Yeah, we all would have had better grades if every 10:00am class started with 20 wines. Last week we intended Vinitaly in San Francisco, one of two PR campaign stops on Vinitaly's U.S. tour. This is sort of a marketing outreach that preludes Vinitaly in Verona in April, an event with 4200 exhibitors. That is not a typo, 4,200. This brief tasting was entitled Italian Wines for Today's America. We started off with several very nice Proseccos, presenting from the very simple (and enjoyable) classic single-dimension fun quaffing, to a more layered and nuanced one with five month Charmat ageing, and then a Ribolla Gialla Spumante, showing the low acid delicate side. A fat, almost Alsatian Pinot Gris followed, then a Marche Verdicchio with barrel ageing and a ripe 14.5%, again showing the diversity of styles and a fluid competence in execution (all of these below $20 retail). A couple of nice Chianti's followed, one with a touch of Merlot and an attractive $8 price point followed by a big, long maceration Toscana Sangiovese, textured while still retaining the high-strung nature of Sangiovese. Then La Togata Brunello 2004 (great, old-school low oak, high acid) then a blockbuster Amarone Riserva, full of juniper, blasamic notes, meat, all in balance and harmony with almost Bordeauxish tannins. Whew. - The point here is diversity, quality, depth, and QPR.
The second half focused on Sicily, and the details are too numerous but real eye openers where Corbera's superb Catarrato at $10ish and a wide variety of Nero d'Avolas and Nero blends again illustrating depth of price and quality. Wines of the Marche followed, and then the industry tasting followed that. In quaffing all of this Italian wine I was glad to see oak taking a step back and honest tannin remaining. The 2004 Brunello tasting was marred for me abused oak and lack of acid, these wines, mostly 2007 and 2008, seemed to be more centered with an honest identity. There were several highlights for me - particularly the Nero d'Avolas (which we still are dying to plant) and some of the more funky Southern reds like Salice Salento and some Uva de Troia. All in all, educational, enjoyable, and still being processed.

(Removed a long rant here about how bad the wholesale market is and how evil the hypocritical distributors and gatekeepers are with their mountains of Rombauer and Sonoma-Cutrer while they talk about too much oak. Suffice to say, out of about eighty good wines had last week, almost none are available in Sonoma or Napa counties. Sad, sad world. And, this affects us as a small producer as well.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Silly winery tricks 2009

We are in the low 40's - high 30's at night now in Kelseyville. Our tanks are outside and not heated, so sometimes things chill a bit too much. Sounds like time for a winery contraption. This is the fermenting Primitivo, and it is being given one of two splash racks. The idea is to incorporate some oxygen into the fermenting must for the yeast, and also to promote a bit of color set through acetaldehyde production as well as working on the tannins while they are young and gobbling oxygen. But, we didn't want to cool the fermentation down at all, so a bit of engenuity was needed. The wine is draining through a racking valve in the fermentation tank into the catch basin that is positioned over the bin. The basin has a fine screen in it that keeps any seeds or large bits from getting through, allowing seed and debris removal. The level of the wine in the tank is above the bin, so it flows on its own. Mounted at the outlet of the catch basin is basically a PVC tube with glued fittings and a water heater element that is plugged into 240v, warming the wine that flows through it by about twelve degrees. The warmer wine then splashes out against the shovel which allows more oxygen uptake by spreading the stream very thin. When the bin is full, and twelve degrees hotter, it is pumped back over into the tank, mixing it all back together while warming the little yeasties so the are toasty, happy, well fed and ready to finish their job without any excuses. We pressed today, twelve day fermentation and at 0 brix - everything exactly on track and the tannins just right.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Refosco and the simple life...

After quite a few busy days, it is nice to take a bit of time to press a ridiculously small amount of Refosco under the shade of a mighty pine. After a few days of settling in the white drum, it is now going through malolactic fermentation in its 2005 Demptos American oak barrel, tucked in bed for the winter. The simple life...