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Winter in the Winery

It’s been awhile since I posted on this blog. Even though harvest and crush are over, there’s still a lot to do in a winery. There are barrels to be tended, wine to be sold, bottles to be ordered, new fans to be greeted in the tasting room and submitting paperwork to state and Federal governments.

I spent about 6 hours today “topping” our 2010 red wine barrels. Topping is the adding of wine to oak barrels to keep them full. When grape must (the fermented grapes and liquid) is pressed and the resulting juice (wine) pumped into barrels, I leave some space for bubbling due to continued fermentation. Otherwise, there would be a gooey purple mess all over the barrel and whatever as underneath (other barrels, the floor, Chester the Winery Dog, etc.).

Now that fermentation is complete, we need to keep the barrel full to minimize the potential for unwanted oxidation and chemical reactions. I also chose to try battonage with our 2010s. Battonage is French for “stirring” of the “lees”--the dead yeast cells and other precipitates in the botom of the wine barrel. After topping each barrel, I inserted a long stainless steel wand to stir the contents of the barrel--wine and lees together. This will be done monthly. I could have “racked” the wine off the lees, resulting in an immediately cleaner and clearer wine, and then added sulfur dioxide as a preservative (common in winemaking).

But short-term aging “sur lie” (on the lees) has a lot of advantages. From Wikipedia: Chemically this can alter the oak flavor molecules increasing the integration, and making the oak seem less obtrusive to the palate. This is desirable because oak
tannins are a polyphenolic acid, and can be harsh. This process can also give an added freshness and creaminess to the wine, and improve color and clarity.

I believe 3-6 months “sur lie” will soften some of the grape and oak tannins currently in the wines, and result in a smoother, fuller wine. I will be topping every few months, since wine evaporates through the barrel.

How About Some More Riesling?
Look for our 2010 Dewpoint Riesling to be released in March. It’s chilling in a tank right now with incredible tropical fruit, pear and apple aromas, and similar flavors. It will be a drier style than last year’s Bronze Medal winner (Tri-Cities Wine Festival) with plenty of acidity. Dry, crisp and simply wonderful! Be sure to signup for our mailing list to be notified of the release party (and special mailing list pricing).