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.
One increasingly common practice at harvest is the night pick. Night harvest are really a win win for vineyard and winery. That is of course if you exlude the fact that all parties involved lose sleep, but we lose so much sleep anyway during harvest than another few hours doesn’t seem to matter.
I think vineyard workers enjoy night harvest because they can pick more in a day and harvest at cooler temperatures. Vineyard managers enjoy this as well because cooler weather improves labor effeciency, but over and above that their clients are generally happier with night harvests. Why might that be?
We enjoy night harvest because the fruit arrives cold and early. Cold is important because controlling and predicting fermentation temperature is very important for native ferments, and extraction of all those components that lead to the wonder texture of Donelan Wines. Additionally, cold fruit doesn’t ferment readily decreasing the risk of volatile acidity development in juicy grapes. When the fruit is early it sets up our day much better and we are able to accomplish much more in a day with the chance, the chance, of seeing our families at night!
Sure, you’ve imagined what it must be like to be in a wine growing valley during harvest, but what does it really look like? One common sight besides vines filled with Charonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah: dirty cars. Wine growers drive from vineyard to vineyard collecting grapes to taste and analyze for ripeness. With no time and plenty of dirt, our cars often look like this:
Then of course, there are the contents of the car: flagging tap, sun hats, nice clothes for dinner with a customer, zip lock bags to hold grapes, pruning shears, etc., etc., etc.:
As we walk the vineyard we taste, examine seed color (general browness means general goodness), chew on the skins (how do the tannins change?), and get a gut feel for overall flavor. Then of course we bring the grapes back to the winery to examine sugar and acid to compliment our impressions by taste:
The 2012 Harvest is here! We are beginning to harvest our first Pinot Noir of the season. In this video our winemaker Tyler Thomas describes the approach behind our Two Brothers Pinot Noir. Enjoy!
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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
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
Dear Harvest Widows and Widowers,
I love fermenting stuff. Wine, beer, bread; fermenting stuff is wonderful. There is almost nothing like wine, a beverage that ties you to a season, a place, and people whose hands are purple. Spending all season thinking of weather, soil, vine physiology, taste, and quality culminates in one harvest – one shot to get it all right.
Then it begins: the transformation takes place. This transformation is one of the most exciting parts of our craft: creating a beverage that tastes nothing like its original material. The cellar goes from smelling like wet concrete and stainless steel to smelling like fermented goodness. Floral, fruity notes waft through the air, everyone has an extra glint in their eye and spring in their step. We walk, we glide, we move as if on air as the excitement of participating in the transformative process of making wine lifts our spirits and minds.
But that is not all that lifts us. Fermenting stuff comes with a cost, and the burden Continue reading