Monday, October 11, 2010

Update on the 2010 California Pinot Noir

Well, after a day of allowing the yeast to get going and the temperature up to 70 degrees naturally, I finally put the thermostat probe into the must and turned on the heater (an electric blanket) to bring the must to my desired fermentation temperature of 80 degrees. When the must was down to 15 Brix, I added K-Fermaid, a nutrient for yeast that I have never used before. It seemed to speed the fermentation at the end and the result was a day shorter fermentation than I'm used to. This morning I went down to check the brix expecting 3 and it was 1.5, down from 6 yesterday morning. Time to press! So I pressed, which releases additional sugar from the grapes and invigorates the yeast with some oxygen, so once it was in the carboys, fermentation picked up again, with a healthy bunch of bubbles on top. Now I will let the wine sit overnight. Tomorrow I will rack it off the gross lees (learned my lesson on that one with the last batch!) and allow it to ferment to dryness before MLF.

In other news, right now I'm sipping my first taste of Marquette (the variety of grape I am growing in my "vineyard") made by Lincoln Peak winery in Vermont. It's amazingly high in alcohol (13.8%) for a grape grown in a cold climate, and the pH is ~3.27, which is quite low. These grapes were ripe (25+ Brix) and acidic, actually a pretty good combination, although the wine tastes to me a little acidic and thin, like it didn't go through MLF. There is no detectible "foxy" taste common to labrusca-based wines. (Marquette is a hybrid between vinifera and labrusca species). It tastes a tad peppery, but honestly between the hotness of the alcohol and the acidity, it's hard to describe many flavors. I get some floral and some licorice on the nose. I hope I can do better with my Marquette, but on the other hand, this shows that a serious wine can be made with grapes grown in a cold climate.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Fall 2010 Grapes are here!

Yesterday I got the call I was waiting for from Beer and Wine Hobby. My grapes were in! So I hopped in the car and drove over to pick them up. I ordered 3 cases (36 pounds each) of "select" northern California pinot noir a couple months ago. After loading the car, I drove home to get right to work. First, sanitizing the primary fermentor, then using my goofball technique of hand destemming and crushing the grapes. (One of these days, someone will market a small, cheap hand cranked crusher-destemmer for guys like me. I can't see buying a big electric unit that I will use a couple times a year for about 5 minutes and then have to store the thing the rest of the time.)

Next I dumped 100 mL of 5% meta solution on the grapes to kill bacteria and took some measurements. I used my refractometer to test the brix since there wasn't enough free juice in there to easily get a hydrometer in. Also, I'm a geek and I like the refractometer. I have been using it to measure the brix of table grapes, wild grapes...pretty much any grape I see...just for fun.

So these come it at:
24 Brix
pH 3.23
Temperature 50 degrees.

My friend Steve who got the same exact grapes on the same day as me came up with a pH of 3.4, so I'll calibrate my pH meter and check this again in a few days.

Since the sugar and acid levels looked good, I could start fermentation without having to mess with anything. But the must was too cold. One of the tips I got from Benoit Germain back in May is to start the fermentation cold so that the yeast gets going before the temperature is high enough for bacteria to take over. Doing it this way, once temperature of the fermentation starts coming up, the CO2 made by the yeast will help protect the must from bacteria. Benoit's advice was to introduce the yeast at 60 degrees and let it get going slowly over a few days, rather than try to warm the must prior to introducing yeast. This is just an invitation to bacterial infection.

So this morning, the must was up to 60 degrees (cellar is currently 64 degrees). I re-hydrated the yeast (RC212) in water with a teaspoon of sugar. Within an hour it was a foaming cup full of happy yeast cells. I dumped them on top of the must. (Never stir them in...they need oxygen to get going so you dump them on top and give them a day before stirring or punching).

By tomorrow I hope to have a nice bubbling cauldron of happy yeast!