Sunday, September 13, 2009

Winemaker Notes

Brad Post:

While most people were enjoying their Labor Day weekend at the beach or picnicking with friends, many of my fellow Iowa winemakers were busy picking wine grapes and processing them.

I thought it might be interesting to share some of my winemaker notes with you. These particular notes represent my efforts to craft a medium-bodied, Marechal Foch red table wine.


Grower: Tom and Vicki Capper (Old Mans Creek Vineyard)
Quantity: Purchased 156lbs.
Quality of Grapes: After two weeks of heavy rain (3-11 inches) the berries we picked were in remarkably good shape. Although there were some indications of rot in some berries (we left those) but some probably got into our bins. The berries were mostly sound, few greenies, and few light red berries, but overall the berries were very good. We harvested on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend (9-6-09).

Marechal Foch Table Wine
Background: We wanted a medium bodied, low-herbaceous Foch wine, so we wanted to press early.
Brix: 21.2 (potential alcohol: 11.7%)
pH: 3.41
SO2 Addition: 1.5 grams (30ppm, sound quality grapes).
Pressed: 9-8 (t=36 hours)
Yeast: Inoculated at t=18hours (9-7) in morning (8 gram yeast).
Go Ferm: added with yeast (10 gram).
Quantity of must before pressing: ~11 gallons. (note: I didn’t press as hard as I could).
Quantity of juice after pressing: ~5.5 gallons

Notes: We had spontaneous fermentation on the morning of 9-7 and promptly inoculated must with cultured yeast. We also added 4 grams of VRSupra Tannin (2x more than I was supposed to – doh!).

9/7/09: Inoculated with yeast
9/8/09: Pressed must; very dark juice
9/9/09: Hydrometer: Brix = 13.5; added 4 grams of Fermaid K
9/10/09: Fermentation going very well
9/11/09: Fermentation slowing down and nearing completion; tastes and smells good.
9/13/09: Added: Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) - rehydrated with Acti-ML (nutrient). FYI: The LAB will convert the sharp tasting Malic acid in the wine to the more smooth Lactic acid. *Note: need to be careful about oxygen ingress from here forward as alcohol fermentation is nearly complete.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oh my, another Crush?!

Brad Posts:

Labor Day weekend will be here in a couple of days and that means one thing: I am about to become very busy with the Fall grape harvest! The first wine grapes of the season have already been picked, crushed, pressed and are fermenting away quietly in stainless steel tanks.

Just last weekend, at the winery where I work part-time, forty volunteer pickers (i.e., they picked for a donation to a charity of their choice) worked their way through three cold-hardy, white wine grape varietals – La Crescent whose small, golden berries were filled with sweetness and about to burst from the recent rains tasted delicious; St. Pepin, planted in between neighboring rows (because they need other grapes to pollinate) were green-yellow and full of bright flavors; and Briana teased the growers with her gorgeous voluptuousness and full-on fruity goodness.

In just a few short hours our volunteers had hand-harvested more than 8,000 pounds of wine grapes! We promptly dispensed with the grapes.

That is just the beginning. For the past several months I have been working with regional wine growers and negotiating prices for our wine club (Eastern Iowa Wine Club) – and on Saturday we’re at it again! Last year we purchased somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000lbs and this year we surpassed 9,000lbs – and the logistics alone is a bit overwhelming! Trying to manage club member purchases, grape grower requirements, transportation, and crush-pad plans – sheesh, “what did I get myself into?”

I know its crazy-busy now but in about 6 weeks the rush will be over and our wines will be peacefully fermenting and all will be quiet. But right now the grape volume is about to get cranked up! This coming Saturday we will pick up Frontenac grapes (about 2.5 hours from here) from a grower south of Des Moines and on Sunday many of our club members will be hand picking Marechal Foch at a friend’s vineyard bright and early.

There are still lots of choices to be made: 1) do we crush and press the Foch right away or let it macerate for a few hours? 2) do we give the delestage technique a try (removing the seeds from the ferment)? 3) yeast selections? 4) enzymes? 5) fermentation temperatures? 6) and many other questions we haven’t even thought about yet.

The grapes will keep coming and coming until one day it will be over. There is a bitter-sweet aspect to the harvest season – it is exciting, exhausting, thrilling, frustrating -- and a lot of fun!

Have you ever tried a port-inspired Frontenac wine? Oh, it’s goooood.! Like I said…Fun.

Happy Crush!