It’s time for me to log my notes for this year’s wine making experience. it is a Merlot that has me jazzed – it’s just been barreled (last Saturday) and it’s already very good! The fruit came from The Purple Pearl Vineyards in Dixon, CA; the same place I got them last year. The 2007 vintage is not nearly as good as this one, but I’ve done a few things differently this year that I believe helped give it a deeper “inky” color, and the smell (nose) is amazing by other’s standards as well as my own.
On Friday, September 19, 2008, I drove to Dixon, CA, to pick up 1100 lbs. of Merlot. This year I took the 4 fermentation tanks with me and Rory crushed the grapes for me and pumped them directly into the tanks. That afternoon and evening, Jim and I sorted through them and removed stems, leaves and didn’t see any insects at all.
At 8pm I checked Brix (25.75), pH (4.18) and Total Acid (0.45). To bring the TA up to 0.65 (the optimum for most reds), I added 7.5oz of tartaric acid to each tank (about 30 gallons each tank). I added 2g (one 2g tablet) of SO2 to 3 of the tanks, but the 4th tablet wouldn’t dissolve, so I added 2g (20ppm) of potassium metabisulphate to the 4th tank. This is to innoculate the must and kill any bad/natural yeast. I left it overnight.
At 9am on 9/20, The pH was 3.89, so I decided to add 2oz. of tartaric acid to each 30 gallons to bring it down just a little more (increasing TA to 0.67 and lowering pH to 3.67). This year I did not add the “Fermaid” to assist with the fermentation, but I added 50ml to the must (divided between each tank equally) of Vinozine (Color Pro). I had read that it will break down the skins faster in the fermentation and keep more of the inky-dark color in the juice.
At 7pm on 9/20, I added the usual 6 packets of “Pasteur Red” yeast to each tank. This year Tracy Lynn, my next door neighbor, is interested in learning what I’m doing so she’s been helping with the chemicals. I noted the room temperature in the garage was 80°F.
From 9/21 through 9/26 I punched down the crown every 6 hours, and the room was always between 70°F and 80°F.
On 9/27, I added one pound of French Oak power that my neighbor Melinda got for me to try. I had learned from Rory at Purple Pearl Vineyards, that he did that last year and it made the deep color more stable. My research discovered that you can add up to 2.5lbs of powder per ton of fruit to the must 2 to 5 days before fermentation stops. Rory also told me NOT to put SO2 in the wine immediately after transferring it to the barrel. The SO2 causes the color to fade almost immediately. He said to put it in gradually over a 3 to 4 month period, so I will break up the two 5g tablets into 1/4 size, and add them in two week intervals over the next 4 months. I will wait to add the first dose on or close to November 1st.
I continued the punch-down every 6 hours through 10/4, when fermentation had slowed to almost nothing. I decided at that time to punch-down and stir the must only once every 12 hours until I barreled it.
On Saturday, 10/11, Jim and I began to pump the wine into the barrel, and press the must to separate the skins from the wine. The Color Pro had almost completely decayed the skins. The must was more like soup than skins, and because of this and the oak powder I added, I decided to filter the juice through nylon stalkings before pumping it into the barrel. This process was much slower, and at 2pm Kent and Tracy Lynn came to help us finish. The entire pressing process, including cleanup, took from 10am to 6pm (8 hours) with no breaks.
I was able to fill a 60gal. barrel, and 3ea 6gal car boys with the wine. This is the same amount of wine I got from last year’s vintage with 100 more lbs of grapes.
We tasted the wine, and all agreed it is going to be my best vintage so far! I added the packet of ML starter to begin the Malolactic Fermentation in the barrel.
Prior to starting the pressing process, I racked all of the other 3 vintages to remove lees, and top them for further aging. The barrel I’m using for this vintage is one my friend, Anton, helped me get – a 2002 medium toast barrel from Robert Mondavi Winery. All of my barrels are considered “neutral oak” because they have been used for so many years, so I added 3 medium-toast French oak staves (purchased from Napa Fermentation) to the 2007 Merlot. I may add them to the 2006 Syrah before bottling it later this year also, but will wait until I’ve gotten a few more opinions from other wine makers first. I will definitely add the staves to this vintage and to the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. The cab is a good fruity taste, but so thin – it needs character that I believe oak will give it.
And, now we wait, and keep the barrels topped off each day.