Seeing Red

Last of the Riesling is pressed and fermenting; whites are all in house for 2014.

Last of the Riesling is pressed and fermenting; whites are all in-house for 2014.

Minnick Syrah, Lagana Cellars first red of 2014.

Minnick Syrah, Lagana Cellars first red of 2014.

September is behind us, Saturday we brought in the last of this year’s white grapes; just over a ton of Riesling from Dionysus Vineyard north of Pasco.  Rose’ and whites in-house is a major hurdle for us, that is over half of the Lagana Cellars and about a quarter of the Locati Cellars fruit.

Tuesday, with the typical delays and hiccups, we brought in 1.3 tons of Dolcetto at Locati Cellars and 3.7 tons of Syrah at Lagana Cellars.  Syrah has such nice coloring I had to take a few fun photos as we went along:

Stomping whole cluster Syrah, great way to finish the first day of reds.

Stomping whole cluster Syrah, great way to finish the first day of reds.

Syrah grapes in the destemmer/crusher.

Syrah grapes in the destemmer/crusher.

The Dolcetto was such a rush knowing we had to cross town to do the Syrah next that I didn’t take my phone up on the ladder with me when we ran the destemmer/crusher at Locati Cellars.

Syrah stems, festive looking, like we celebrated the first reds of 2014 coming in today.

Syrah stems, festive looking, like we celebrated the first reds of 2014 coming in today.

So many photos on Facebook show other local wineries stomping/crushing Syrah today; excited as we ramp things up a notch or two.  It brings our small facilities. with just a few of us, into the whole local wine picture.  We were in fantastic company from what I could see!  Walla Walla is more than wine, but during Crush, it is hard to see much else when you are in the industry.

Cheers!

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A spectacular day in the garden

Two new rain barrels - we had enough rain to water the changed plantings today.

Two new rain barrels – we had enough rain to water the changed plantings today.

Finally hanging the hose so we can walk passed the tomato plant that is taking over the left side of this corner.

Finally hanging the hose so we can walk passed the tomato plant that is taking over the left side of this corner.

We have lived in this house for just over a year now.  Last summer we had a jungle to hack through in the garden: 21 large rose bushes, two over grown butterfly bushes (under one I found a hydrangea), untold numbers of spiraea that had seeded themselves throughout the yard and candy tuft smothering everything in the front flower bed.  Thankfully I have had spectacular help in my husband and my daughter in removing most of the above mentioned plants.  During the last few weeks my husband has valiantly weeded the nearly empty front beds while I have been crushing grapes; between the empty lot across the street and the heat we had quite a crop of weeds all summer.

Hiccups along the way - like splitting an irrigation pipe while digging a hole for the blacklace elderberry.

Hiccups along the way – like splitting an irrigation pipe while digging a hole for the black lace elderberry.

We removed so many spirea from this bed last summer!  Rearranging the plants to begin filling in the big holes today.

We removed so many spiraea from this bed last summer! Rearranging the plants to begin filling in the big holes today.

Today: mid-sixties to low seventies, sunny but comfortable and we were both home which made for a fabulous day to work in the yard.  We moved about ten large potted plants and several smaller ones from the old house that were still in pots.  Now that we could see most of the flower beds we could better determine where the plants we brought would fit.  Removing all but four of the roses meant the herbs could be close to the kitchen around the back patio. The black lace elderberry is also now at one end of the patio, but we had to work hard to put that plant in the ground.  The irrigation pipe isn’t consistent from one end of the yard to the other – this we learned today.  The columnar yews are planted to either side of the living room window, with one of the remaining roses left in front of the window.  The large front bed has been rearranged and some poorly located plants have been moved to begin to fill in the street side of that bed.  We plan to put in a front patio at the back of that bed, so we can sit in the afternoon shade; hopefully that will happen next Spring.

The small 'woodland garden' corner with the white pine, ferns, columbine and hosta.

The small ‘woodland garden’ corner with the white pine, ferns, columbine and hosta.

Where we had to remove the dogwood in the back last spring we put the white pine, ferns, hosta and columbine for a small ‘woodland garden’.  It is so nice to look out the kitchen window and see the neatness of the flowerbed now.  It had been full of old strawberry plants, weeds and landscaping fabric harboring lots of slugs; that is what is filling the trash can now.

Ten year old Syrah from Forgeron Cellars - the best reward at the end of the day!

Ten year old Syrah from Forgeron Cellars – the best reward at the end of the day!

We are by no means ‘done’ but we put all but one of the potted plants in the ground, we removed lots more detritus and salvaged a few other plants that were struggling to grow in awkward spots.  There are muscles we typically don’t use that hurt already, but it was worth the effort today.

Dinner: neighbor's cucumber, our herbs, crab from the Puget Sound and pasta with our choices of wine. Excellent.

Dinner: neighbor’s cucumber, our herbs, crab from the Puget Sound and pasta with our choices of wine. Excellent.

Happily, we had a 2004 Forgeron Syrah open on the counter, so I had a lovely glass of wine once showered.  Hubby chose a 2013 Amavi Semillon.  To cap everything off, we threw together a pasta crab salad from fennel and chives out of our garden, a cucumber from the neighbor’s plant, and crab that my Aunt & Uncle were so gracious to provide us.  Eaten on the back patio, overlooking some of our hard work made for a delightful evening.  My partner in wine is also my partner in life; it is so great to enjoy working hard as much as playing hard.  Hubby, you are the very best!

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Sauvignon Blanc, racked and resting

I think this particular bruise is from moving the racks off of the truck;  not even sure how I get the bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes any longer.

I think this particular bruise is from moving the racks off of the truck; not even sure how I get the bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes any longer.

First Praying Mantis of the season, hanging out on the side of the building.

First Praying Mantis of the season, hanging out on the side of the building.

In the last two days we have confirmed, via lab results, our Orange Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc are dry.  Since I worked in the tasting room at Seven Hills Winery Wednesday I missed the racking of the Orange Muscat at Locati Cellars, instead, we picked up six new-to-us barrel racks from a local winery that was selling racks when I was done in the tasting room.

Thursday we racked the Sauv Blanc; a bigger job than the Orange Muscat due to volume.  Some of the highlights of this experience:

Sauv Blanc nearly drained; you can see the tartrate sheet on the right and the residual grapes that made it into the tank floating.

Sauv Blanc nearly drained; you can see the tartrate sheet on the right and the residual grapes that made it into the tank floating.

The residue in the bottom of the tank came flooding out once the door was opened.

The residue in the bottom of the tank came flooding out once the door was opened.

An up-close of the tartrate crystals that form along the surface of the tank - sometimes on the bottom of your cork, too.

An up-close of the tartrate crystals that form along the surface of the tank – sometimes on the bottom of your cork, too.

Cleaning the tank to rack the finished wine back into it - probably the most time consuming part of the day.

Cleaning the tank to rack the finished wine back into it – probably the most time-consuming part of the day.

Pam's approval of the Sauvignon Blanc wrapped up the day.

Pam’s approval of the Sauvignon Blanc wrapped up the day. Cheers!

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Random thoughts to share with you

Primitivo grapes hanging in Les Colline's Vineyard - lovely to look at, but not ready to pick yet.

Primitivo grapes hanging in Les Colline’s Vineyard – lovely to look at, but not ready to pick yet.

In the middle of our busy days I can occasionally get a photo of something I have been thinking of sharing with you.  This may seem disjointed, but there are things that I have learned and things that amaze me in my quest to make better wine that I hope you can appreciate with me.

Unripe seeds, not yet ready to pick the grapes these came from.

Unripe seeds, not yet ready to pick the grapes these came from.

Tan/brown seeds indicate ripeness - ready to pick these grapes!

Tan/brown seeds indicate ripeness – ready to pick these grapes!

I have now been tasting wine (vinifera) grapes as they ripen for two years; last year I had  lots of questions about how to know if the grapes were ripe since sweetness was far beyond what ordinary table grapes would ever be.  As the rachis matures it ‘lignifies’ or turns woody brown (most do this, some only begin to show lignification before ripeness).  The same is true of the seeds, green before ripe and nut-brown when truly ripe.  White grapes go from green to pale gold while red varietals have their own version of redness that deepens  as they mature.  Knowing what style of wine you want to make determines what stage of ripening the grapes will be picked at.  So many variables make for the interesting wines we have to choose from!

Beautiful color for the Rose' we pressed on Sunday - our juice sample to take to the lab for analysis and better decision making.

Beautiful color for the Rose’ we pressed on Sunday – our juice sample to take to the lab for analysis and better decision-making.

Making Rose’ wine, since fermentation basically bleaches the juice, requires contact with the skins, so how long do you really need to leave the juice in contact?  Varietal has a lot to do with the contact time.  Style of making the Rose’ also has a bearing, but that is a much more involved topic by itself.  As we have taken samples during the last few weeks we squeezed the berries when we pick them to give them time to sit in the bag, with the skins, before draining off the amount we need to test the Brix, pH, and acid levels.  Maturity of the grapes again plays a part in releasing the color from the skins.

Is it necessary to use a lab?  Whether it is in-house or not, having scientific data available to help guide choices has merit.  Having made wine without the benefits of lab results I am a believer in using them.  Wine isn’t all science, but it seems to me there are perks when blending science and art.  Big facilities that make huge amounts of juice don’t actually taste each tank/barrel/blend, they rely on lab results heavily.  Smaller, boutique/craft, wineries can better balance the ‘art’ side of winemaking with the science if they choose.  Having cut my wine teeth in a state that has more boutique wineries than large-scale wineries, I am partial to the small-scale production wines.

Happy yeast, almost ready to pour into the waiting juice.

Happy yeast, almost ready to pour into the waiting juice.

Yeast, native or commercial, have to be healthy to ferment the juice it is thrown into.  Who knew yeast have nutritional requirements and preferences?  When you bake, you learn the temperature and moisture necessary to activate yeast cells, but feeding the yeast isn’t as readily important when the turn-around from beginning to baking is hours instead of days like in wine.  Since we all want our wine to turn out ‘excellent’ we want to reduce the problematic microbes that compete with the yeast we inoculate with, so ensuring our yeast are healthy and happy is a big-deal.

Clean press and rake, ready for the evening press.

Clean press and rake, ready for the evening press.

A well-respected winemaker, from one of the larger ‘small’ local wineries, commented that we are in the ‘controlled-chaos’ state during crush.  After all of the waiting and rescheduling I had to laugh about the controlled part – but it is full of interesting moments!  Some are actually peaceful.  It is a world apart from my previous life and I appreciate that so very much.

Cheers!

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Rose’ and Rousanne, the shell game

First half ton of Sangiovese going into the crusher.

First half ton of Sangiovese going into the crusher.

I have a sun-fried brain, funky tan lines from my muck-boots and shorts attire, and have given up trying to clean the color from around my fingernails for the time being.  Between the two places that we are crushing we had just over 17 tons of fruit come in yesterday; 7 is for Adamant Cellars, but the rest is for us.  None of the fruit came in when it was scheduled, limited resources (labor in the vineyards, one shared truck, and minimal winery help) can wreak havoc on the plans we make.  It took some doing to come up with a reasonable approach to processing all of this fruit without having to stay up 24 hours straight.  It is Jason and I with help at each facility when others are available – 10 tons of fruit sounded daunting to me last night!

There is technique to filling the crusher just right so we don't lose juice.

There is technique to filling the crusher just right so we don’t lose juice.

Last year, as a first year in the WWCC EV program we all participated in the processing, but the decision-making was made by instructors without consultation – good thing as there would have been no consensus!  This year, interning with two small wineries, the whole picture is coming into better focus.  Staying on top of the vineyard samples to anticipate when fruit will come in, watching the weather to be sure no storms will increase disease pressure at the last minute, and having the tanks and space to move in the facility among other issues have all come to the forefront of planning.

This morning, at a not-too-early hour for me, we crushed the Sangiovese for the Locati Cellars Rose’.  It had to sit on the skins for about twelve hours (that

I came home to a salsa party in the kitchen; fresh garden tomatoes and they go a little crazy.

I came home to a salsa party in the kitchen; fresh garden tomatoes and they go a little crazy.

means we are going to be pressing as darkness falls tonight), so we will be returning this evening to finish pressing it into tanks and inoculating it.  Jason went to help Adamant Cellars process their fruit through the day – it is in the high 80’s, so I feel for him.  I chose to come home to have a nice lunch with my husband and do some laundry, write this blog and maybe (not sure there will be time) even a motorcycle ride.  Of course, seeing my daughter was a gift I didn’t expect, but it was wonderful when she arrived a few minutes after me.

Rachis in the right bin, crushed berries in the closer bin - about 12 hours of sitting on the skins should give us the color we are looking for.

Rachis in the right bin, crushed berries in the closer bin – about 12 hours of sitting on the skins should give us the color we are looking for.

Monday, all day, Jason and I will be processing the 6 tons of Rousanne that are waiting for us at the Adamant Cellars facility for his Lagana Cellars label.  With the fruit in the house we are able to make more specific plans.  Since we knew the Alborino would be processed today, meaning we couldn’t do the Rousanne this was the only option.  There should be a reprieve this week as we anticipate (appreciate!) the onset of Autumn and red grapes arrive.

Cheers!

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Some very good news!

I am so pleased to share that our ‘old’ house, the one that was flooded and needed to be restored, the one we had for sale, has a new family moving in next month!  The contractors completed the restoration yesterday (Yes, that would be September 17th, over six months of working on it – ridiculously long!) and we sign the contract with the new family today, Friday.  It is great to know someone will love the house and enjoy living there again.

Meanwhile, back in Walla Wall during 2014 crush, we had over six tons of Pinot Gris arrive to process Tuesday and Wednesday – it is all pressed and inoculated.  The Rousanne is due to arrive some time on Saturday.  The Rose’ grapes, Sangiovese and Barbera,  will most likely be picked on Sunday.  Whether they are brought in early enough to process and let sit on the skins for pressing on Monday is yet to be determined.  But, we have a new destemmer to anticipate using, so anticipation is high!  Knowing the weather here will shift from mid-eighty days to mid-seventy next week and the high probability of precipitation that will accompany it we made a sample run for most of the red varietals we have out there.  Analysis results indicate we are going to have reds coming in hard on the heals of the Rose’.  We seem to be rushing through this harvest at a breathless pace!

Clone 115 Pinot Noir at Breezy Slope Vineyard, dropping acid nicely.

Clone 115 Pinot Noir at Breezy Slope Vineyard, dropping acid nicely.

Red grape analysis begins in earnest!

Red grape analysis begins in earnest!

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Pinot Gris Days

Four tons of Columbia Valley Pinot Gris from Reed Vineyard pressed last night:

From here...

From here…

to here and then into the tank!

to here and then into the tank!

On my way to the farm to press another 1.5 ton of Walla Walla Pinot Gris from Breezy Slope Vineyard!

Cheers!

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The Crystal Ball Prediction

The ‘plan’ for the week:

Monday is bottling day for Adamant Cellars, Tuesday we will be pressing Pinot Gris at Lagana Cellars, Wednesday is busier with Sangiovese and Barbera coming in for Rose’ processing and pressing Pinot Gris for Locati Cellar.  Remember, plans are made to change, so not sure if this will really take place, but this is what I am anticipating.  Can’t see beyond this right now but we have a warm week anticipated so there might be another grape picked and processed… or not.

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2014 first load of Riesling is in the tank

2014 Riesling crush crew - at least those of us present and not behind the camera - for Lagana Cellars.

2014 Riesling crush crew – at least those of us present and not behind the camera – for Lagana Cellars.

First filling of the press with the new shute; waning daylight.

First filling of the press with the new shute; waning daylight.

It is difficult to get the grapes into the press so we had to get a bit creative with our technique. No bladder presses were harmed in the making of this Riesling.

It is difficult to get the grapes into the press so we had to get a bit creative with our technique. No bladder presses were harmed in the making of this Riesling.

Dawn's turn foot-stomping the second press load of Riesling.

Dawn’s turn foot-stomping the second press load of Riesling.

Moon is way up, lights are inadequate, but we are still crushing Riesling.  Probably the last night crush in shorts, it got pretty cold cleaning up.

Moon is way up, lights are inadequate, but we are still crushing Riesling. Probably the last night crush in shorts, it got pretty cold cleaning up.

My turn foot stomping, probably the largest press load of the night.

My turn foot stomping, probably the largest press load of the night.

Yeah, definitely the largest press load, we had to hand press some to fit them on top...

Yeah, definitely the largest press load, we had to hand press some to fit them on top…

It took some manipulating to get the press doors on and bolted tight it was so very full.  Note, even my partner in wine was able to participate in the Riesling crush - that is him front left!

It took some manipulating to get the press doors on and bolted tight it was so very full. Note, even my partner in wine was able to participate in the Riesling crush – that is him front left!

Travis cleaning the shute after that last load, all hands on the crush pad needed to be helping.

Travis cleaning the shute after that last load, all hands on the crush pad needed to be helping.

Riesling juice just beginning to ferment this morning... you should hear it crackling in the tank.

Riesling juice just beginning to ferment this morning… you should hear it crackling in the tank.

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Henry Earl Estates 2010 Merlot

2010 Red Mountain Merlot from Henry Earl Estates - delicious.

2010 Red Mountain Merlot from Henry Earl Estates – delicious.

Before we began harvesting grapes and potatoes this year, my partner in wine and myself decided to visit a new tasting room in downtown Walla Walla: Henry Earl Estates.  It is spacious, two stories with seating on both floors and room for live entertainment on the ground floor, with early nineteen hundreds decor.  As it is in one of Walla Walla’s old buildings the theme fits the space well.  We shared a tasting flight of a couple of whites and a few reds while chatting with both of the guys working the bar.  It turns out one of them is beginning the EV program at WWCC this year and the other one is contemplating taking it.  We enjoyed the wines and the conversation and took home a couple of bottles, one of which wasn’t open for tasting but highly recommended.

Fast forward to Monday evening and enough time to savor a glass of wine while sitting on the back patio awaiting the last Supermoon of the year; the recommended bottle is the one we opened.  Red Mountain AVA sourced Merlot from a cool vintage, Victor Palencia (phenomenal wine maker for Shaw Estates including Henry Earl & Russel Creek, Jones Family Wines and Palencia Wines including Monarch and Palencia labels), and our gamble on the bottle last month didn’t seem too much of a risk – both are well-known to us.  The moon was semi-shrouded in clouds, but bright and lovely, the wine was dark with old leather and Marion berries on the nose, also lovely.  Each sip was cinnamon, clove, plum and blackberry with a finish of tart raspberries.  As I write, Tuesday night, we are sipping from this same bottle which has less pronounced leather on the nose, but more on the palate, more subtle spices but still loads of berries on the nose and palate.  This was a good call.

Cheers!

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