In this continuing series of harvest images, here are a couple sights in the cellar from pressing red fermenations of Syrah and Pinot Noir. The process is fairly straightforward, use a pump to drain any wine that comes freely from the tank.Then, to unlock the rest of the wine still soaked in the skins, we must get inside the fermenters and dig out the fermented grapes, place them into our press, and gently squeeze the remaining wine.
All of this takes several hours per tank (thanks to all the necessary cleaning!) and generally one yields about 2.5 barrels per ton of grapes fermented. We are starting to fill up the cellar now!
During fermentation, the massive production of carbon dioxide sends the skins and stems we leave in red wine ferments floating to the top (pictured left). All those elements have goodness that we want to extract from them and as a result we need to work to submerge and mix them with the warm Syrah, or Pinot, or whatever it is. One could use a pump to pull from the bottom of a tank and spray the wine over the skins, or one could “punch down” the stems with a long plunger. We do both.
Standing above the fermentation you simply work to puncture the “cap” floating on top and submerge all those great skins. During the peak of the fermentation this is much more difficult than toward the end when the carbon dioxide production as slowed considerably. We have also posted a video here of this process.
“What exactly are you doing in the cellar this time of year” is a frequent question received from fans. It is true that once our Syrah or Grenache or Pinot or Chardonnay head to barrel we trust all that is left to do is wait and blend. Blending surely is something we spend a lot of time doing when we are not visiting our loyal customers during the off-season! And while vineyard visits have begun in earnest for 2012, cellar duties are largely limited to the realm of quality control.
Our Assistant Winemaker extraordinaire Joe Nielsen has a regular program of barrel and lot sampling set up to eye the progress of our wines. There are several easy measurements we can make that act as proxies to potential problems we would want to know about. The principle of these is a rise in Volatile Acidity (VA). VA is collection of different aromatic compounds, the primary being acetic acid, or in lay terms: vinegar. Most spoilage organisms…wait, let me explain Continue reading
I have worked with Syrah most of my career, and one of the remaining unanswered questions: what is the origin of people adding Viognier to Syrah. Most responses correctly explain that adding Viognier to Syrah has its roots in Cote Rotie of the Northern Rhone where they are allowed to add up to 20% Viognier to Syrah (cofermented). Rarely though, do you find an explanation as to why they ever started the practice in Cote Rotie in the first place! That is what I am after for those of us in Sonoma County.
“But Tyler,” you say, “they do it because it adds a floral note to the wine and rounds out the mouthfeel, increasing the complexity and hedonism of the wine.” Of course, but how on earth did they ever discover that? Why would someone add a white variety to a red? Wouldn’t it dilute the color quality?
As it turns out, adding Viognier can actually help the color. This is because most red wine has greater color intensity than it ought to given the concentration of color compounds found in the wine. We know now that colorless compounds called cofactors bind and stack in between colorful compounds called anthocyanins to increase the intensity of the color that meets your eye. And while white grapes are missing anthocyanins, they have plenty of cofactors in their skins which – one could argue – will enhance the color intensity. Pretty cool.
But of course they didn’t know this back when the practice of adding Viognier to Syrah
began. In fact I cannot find solid evidence of when the practice even started but suffice it Continue reading
It takes a lot of hand work to make great wine. Excellent vineyards, sensible decisions, time, cuts, and bruises all help deliver that Donelan goodness. As a new season begins to enter full swing we offer this reflection on the purple hands that handled the 2011 vintage. Enjoy!
Music with permission of New Jerusalem Music
Think you want to work a harvest? Want to find out what that really means? Follow our intern, Sarah Green, as she chronicles her experience as a first time cellar rat. This entry highlights hand stain-inducing task of pressing.
We have pressed the last of our ferments – two small lots of Syrah, from Atoosa’s Vineyard in the Russian River Valley and Richards Family Vineyard in Sonoma Valley. But there’s still a cellar to run. And now we have to turn all of this stuff into wine.
Pressing marks the end of the alcoholic fermentation and the beginning of the malolactic fermentation, which for Donelan happens in barrel. The first step is to drain the wine into barrel. This means trying not to overfill it, which – for those of you following along at home – is definitely something I have done before.
Somehow after all these months of trial and error, that kind of mistake stopped being a constant threat to me. I’m still a rookie who just tries to get through the day without ruining things – but that mythical feel for the cellar has started to creep up on me here and there.
After draining the ferment, barrels are full of “free run.” The next step is the actual Continue reading
After Donelan wine grapes are plucked from the vine, then what? This video highlights our approach to the fruit once it arrives in the winery.
Video is a production of Donelan Wines and Smiliing Tiger Video