Malo-lactic

November 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

chardonnay grapes

I often get asked about malo-lactic fermentation and how it plays into the character of a wine.  Right now in my cellar most of our wines are going through malo-lactic (“ML” for short) fermentation.  The easiest way to explain this type of fermentation is that instead of a yeast, it is a bacteria that is doing the work.  Instead of converting sugar to alcohol (primary fermentation), it is converting malic acid into lactic acid.  Malic acid can best be described as a green apple tart acidity found in wines.  Lactic acid can best be described as a softer, richer mouth feel that in Chardonnay is referred to as “buttery.”  The only wines we make that forego malo-lactic fermentation are our Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Rosé, Muscat Blanc, and our Sparkling.

Wines will typically go through malo-lactic fermentation on their own if not inoculated because this bacteria is in our winery and in our barrels.  I choose to inoculate for ML so we have more control over the process, and more importantly, control over when the process is completed.  Tasting our 2014 red wines that we just made can be very scary this time of year.  When the wine is going through ML the aromatics put off are definitely a little funky. But as an experienced winemaker, I have learned that patience is a virtue.  I am still tasting through these wines for the character of the vintage, and most times I am able to tell if they are through ML just by aromatics.  It is an extended part of harvest that most people don’t think about, but I cannot fully rest until all of my barrels are topped and protected, and this will not happen until ML is completed.

2014 Vintage in a Nutshell

November 4, 2014 § 2 Comments

Erik in tank

We picked the first grapes of the season on August 27th.  It was Chardonnay from Peter’s Vineyard, which is what we will be making our third vintage of sparkling wine from.  Grenache Rosé and Muscat Blanc followed the next day, on August 28th.

Overall, the 2014 season was early and very compressed, but the quality is outstanding.  By the time we brought in the Zinfandel, it was pretty much on target with a normal year, but the hang time was extended due to an early bloom.

Our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast were the earliest they have ever been.  We started bringing in Pinot on Sept 14th, and Chardonnay on Sept 16th.  Usually Peter’s Vineyard doesn’t get ripe until the beginning or middle of October, because of its close proximity to the coast.

The yields were average this year after two big years in 2012 and 2013.  We had great color and flavors, but the acids seemed to be low across the board.

Fermentations were healthy and steady, with huge aromatics and lower than normal yields per ton.  Some of this was expected because of the drought year; we knew we would have big intensity, lower acids and overall less juice per ton, but I think the final outcome is going to be some really yummy wines.

Rain was not a big factor this year, although we did see two small showers in September, which didn’t amount to much and didn’t affect the quality of the vintage.

We brought in the last of our fruit on Oct 11th, which was Cabernet Sauvignon from Ruth’s Vineyard in Alexander Valley, making it the earliest finish that we’ve had.

Although every year is uniquely different, the 2014 vintage can be summed up by this:  it came quickly, early, and the intensity of the fruit was exceptional.

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