Check back often for news on harvest, winemaking, events and other fun wine-related things.
We finished the 2020 grape harvest on October 20 and put our last wines in barrel on November 9. For those who like numbers, here is some fun data about the 2020 harvest:
Now that harvest is over, we can get ready for the busy holiday season, fine-tune our wines and prepare for next year's bottling. This week we will start malolactic fermentation (ML) in our newly barreled red wines. This secondary fermentation converts harsh malic acid in the wine to the softer lactic acid. This takes from one to three months. Once that's complete, we can top off the barrels and let them rest for awhile.
Bottling will be in February or March, but corks, screwcaps and bottles need to be ordered in the next few weeks. The red wines need to be blended, so we are doing more blending trials this weekend. Soon after, we will create the blends and let them rest in barrels until bottling.
Finally, we are working on some great holiday specials so watch your email and our website for details later this month
Our 2020 grape harvest has begun! Pinot Gris has typically been our first pick, but for the first time in 10 years, we started with Merlot from Red Mountain's Quintessence Vineyard. This wonderful fruit will be part of the 2020 Fly Rod Cellars wine. Harvest was Sept. 9, we crushed that night and did a three day cold soak to help bring out color from the skins. Then we began a very active fermentation (photo to right).
Next was our Gamache Vineyard Pinot Gris, used for our Three Forks Rose'. Harvest was Sept. 10, and crush was Sept. 12. After a three day cold soak, the juice was a pinkish-red, ready for pressing and settling. Fermentation has started in stainless steel tank, and we expect to do a long, cool fermentation to maintain flavors and aromas.
Our next scheduled picks were delayed due to hazardous air quality for the vineyard workers due to wildfire smoke. Our final pick of Red Mountain Merlot (from Ciel du Cheval Vineyard) was Sept. 19. Our Ciel du Cheval Grenache is scheduled for Sept. 22. The good news is that the smoke filtered the sun, so ripening was also delayed. The smoke has now cleared, the skies are sunny and blue, and the weather is warm. Hopefully harvest 2020 will finish without more challenges.
What impact will smoke have on the 2020 wines? We're a bit unsure at this point. Smoke taint isn't always perceptible in the grapes or newly finished wines. It often shows up after bottle aging. We had a week or more of smoky, hazardous air. Several sources said that the smoke was mostly larger particles that do not penetrate grape skins. The smaller particles that would be a concern peaked for only about 90 min., so their impact could be minimal.
We are monitoring ongoing smoke taint information from Washington State University and our industry orgainzations. We can make a few changes to our normal winemaking techniques to minimize smoke taint in finished wines, but so far haven't found it necessary. If wine ends up smoke tainted, the best advice right is to drink it early and not let it age.
Save 40% now on cases of our 2019 Three Forks Rose' and 2014 Mistral GSM Blend. Rose' is great any time of the year-- #Rose'AllDay. Normally $240/case, our Rose' is priced at $144/case, a savings of $96. Our fruity and earthy Mistral is normally $396/case, on sale now for only $237.60, a savings of $158.40. Sales tax and shipping (if applcable) not included.
You can reserve your cases now by purchasing online and choosing either shipping ($19.98 flat rate) or winery pickup. Sale pricing valid through Nov. 1 or until the wine is sold out.
For vines, grapes are a vehicle to spread DNA so that they may perpetuate the species and colonize new locations. Co-evolution of grapes alongside birds and mammals has resulted in a mutually beneficial exchange. Animals receive a nutritious and delicious fruit snack as ‘payment’ for dispersing the digestion-resistant seeds within, and the seeds, effectively transported away from the parent vine, are conveniently deposited in fertilizer after passing through animals’ guts.
Véraison heralds the start of the ripening process, which is brought about by the expression and repression of hundreds of thousands of genes. At this time, berries begin their transformation from hard, green, and bitter, with enamel-stripping acidity, to aromatic, sweet, attractively colored, and pleasantly acidic.
Grapes start to accumulate sugars, proteins, anthocyanins, tannins, and flavor and aroma compounds, and metabolize acids and increase pH. The entire process is brought about by the expression and repression of hundreds of thousands of genes. The changes during this time heavily influence the final quality and composition of the fruit at harvest. Physical changes include:
Source: Cornell University
On August 4-5, we went over the mountains to check on how the grapes were growing. Generally, everything is ripening on schedule, with most vineyards starting some level of veraison. Growing Degree Days (GDD) is tracking about the same as last year, a bit cooler in some areas. We discovered a great taco truck and stopped on the way back to refuel with tamales.
What are Growing Degree Days? The following is from WSU: The progression of in-season grapevine development is strongly influenced by air temperature. As such, average heat accumulation is often used to compare regions and vine growing condition. This average heat accumulation is often referred to as Growing Degree Days (GDD). The summation of daily GDD units can be used for a variety of things: comparing one region to another, comparing one season to another, and predicting important stages in vine development (bloom, veraison, and maturity). GDD units can be calculated in °F or °C. Washington State University calculates all GDD in °F, with a base temperature for grapes at 50 °F. Therefore, GDD is the cumulative number of degrees over 50 °F from April 1-October 31.
Through July 31, there were 1,933 growing degree days recorded on the Wahluke Slope. A year ago, it charted 2,023 GDD. During the 2015 vintage, it stood at 2,345 when August began.
At the Benton City station near Red Mountain, there were 2,073 GDD recorded. A year ago, it read 2,081 GDD. In 2015, there were 2,486 GDD.
On Snipes Mountain in the Yakima Valley, there were 1,960 GDD registered. A year ago, the accumulation stood at 1,961 GDD. During the blistering 2015 season, it was 2,436.
Tacos and Tamales. Driving between vineyards throughout Eastern Washington and walking our rows of vines is hard work. El Guero Tacos Garcia in West Richland sustained us Tuesday afternoon with tasty pork and chicken tacos, and chicken quesadillas. There is some seating, but we pretended to be at a Seahawks game and tailgated. Our drive home on Wednesday included a must stop at the James Beard Award winning Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap. Hurry to get their asparagus tamales before they're out of season, and be sure to pick up frozen tamales to eat at home. As someone said "it takes a lot of Mexican food to make a good wine".
Blending wine is part art, science, and economics. For this session, we were tasting the 2018 bordeaux varietals and 2019 rhone varietals for bottling in early 2021. All of these wines are very young and will benefit from some time in bottle.
We began with the rhones, which have been in barrel less than a year. The 2019 Grenache that comprises Mistral is fruity, vibrant and juicy. The 2019 Mourvedre will become a Fly Rod Cellars wine that is big, bold and dark, with a little smokiness from a barrel of new oak.
Our Merlot oak experiment resulted in significant differences between barrels. We have three barrels of Merlot: one neutral oak, one new French oak and one new American oak. The American barrel was soft with a hint of characteristic coconut. The French barrel was more smoky, vanilla and almost overpowered the wine. The neutral barrel was fruity and aromatic. All of these will be blended together as the base for Storm Front along with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.
We will physically blend these wines just before harvest begins so they have an opportunity to integrate in barrels. We can make additional adjustments prior to bottling after the blends have a chance to further age.