To Rack or Not

June 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

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In winemaking, the process of moving wine from one vessel to another is called racking. This process can happen several times throughout a wine’s life, or as little as once when the wine is being prepared to bottle. The way in which the wine is moved is an important part of racking, and at Kokomo we choose to move our wine with inert gas (nitrogen), instead of using a pump. Being a small producer allows us to do this, thereby eliminating the risk of bruising the wine by running it through a pump.

Racking wine throughout the winemaking process is a stylistic choice of the winemaker, which changes depending on what type of wines he or she is trying to create. In the past, I would rack our wines more often than I do now because it is a safer route. But now, after ten years of winemaking experience, I feel more confident with where our wines are at throughout their aging process, and less inclined to rack as frequently.

The sediment at the bottom of the barrel is referred to as lees. It is made up of dead yeast cells pecked in from the grapes, and other particles that precipitate to the bottom of the barrel. The lees can be useful in the winemaking process, but it can also harbor bacteria and other spoilages. Although it is sometimes dicey to age wine on its lees, it can also be very beneficial because of its reductive qualities. It allows me to use less SO2 on our wines, and shows more of the esoteric characteristic that derive from the vineyards.

The process of sur lee is even more aggressive, as it calls for actually stirring up the lees inside the barrel and allowing it to resettle. This is done to achieve a fuller, richer mouth feel in the wine, and the frequency of repeating this process is stylistically different amongst winemakers. At Kokomo, we use this technique primarily on our Chardonnay, but I also experiment with other varietals as well. I am definitely developing a more experienced style with each vintage, and it will be interesting to see how my winemaking style evolves over time.

2014 Another Big Year??

June 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Grape pic for blog

After the 2010-2011 vintage, we were all hopeful for a bigger crop come 2012. The 2012 vintage delivered, not only quantity but in quality as well, and was backed up by an equally good 2013. So going into 2014, growers and winemakers alike, all felt like the vines needed a break and that it certainly would be a below average crop.  While a big crop can be a blessing, it can also put pressure on a boutique winery like ours to make sure we have a place to put the surplus of grapes for fermentation, additional barrels to store the wine in, bigger bottling costs, and longer hours during harvest.

However, after going through the vineyards the last couple weeks and looking at the fruit set, we are all very surprised and pleased to find that it looks like once again we will have another above average crop.

As we know from 2010, anything is still possible, and there is a lot of growing season still left. We lost 60 percent of the Zinfandel at the beginning of August in 2010, due to the extreme heat and sunburn, but that was very unusual. As a winemaker, my mind goes to nutrient levels in the vineyard after producing back-to-back big vintages. Nutrients are very important in fermentation because the yeast rely on nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus for food to maintain health fermentation. I feel blessed to work with a fourth-generation farmer who puts his money back into the vineyards by planting winter crops, putting compost in the vineyard, and keeping a close eye on the soils for maximum fertility.

Cheers to a beautiful and bountiful 2014 vintage, which marks Kokomo’s 10th Anniversary!

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