A matter of style

The ferment is currently at 6.4 degrees Brix, leaving some sweetness in the wine.

The ferment is currently at 6.4 degrees Brix, leaving some sweetness in the wine.

Primitivo juice, cold and clear, when we crushed it a week ago.

Primitivo juice, cold and clear, when we crushed it a week ago.

Tuesday morning we got out to the winery on the early side; we wanted to catch the Primitivo fermentation at about 6 Brix to extract a barrel of still-sweet wine to make a Port-style wine.

Our timing was excellent, so we set the pump up and moved the barrel prepared for this purpose into the cold room with the fermentation bin.

Pumping the wine from the bin into the barrel.

Pumping the wine from the bin into the barrel.

We added high alcohol spirits, made from grape pomace, Grappa-style.

We added high alcohol spirits, made from grape pomace, Grappa-style.

Once the barrel was 2/3 full we measured the amount of high-alcohol spirits needed to exterminate the yeast and preserve the wine and poured it into the barrel.  The smell of the wine was great, the smell of the high-alcohol spirits was less so to me as it was so concentrated.

Topping off the barrel with more Primitivo wine to fill it once the distilled spirits were added; this essentially kills the fermenting yeast.

Topping off the barrel with more Primitivo wine to fill it once the distilled spirits were added; this essentially kills the fermenting yeast.

The high alcohol spirits destroys the silicone bungs used to cap the kegs.  Even with a plastic barrier this bung was deteriorating.

The high alcohol spirits destroys the silicone bungs used to cap the kegs. Even with a plastic barrier this bung was deteriorating.

We filled the barrel the rest of the way with wine and bunged it with a fermenting bung.  For several hours we could still detect the release of carbons dioxide but by the middle of the afternoon this reduced significantly – we were successful at obliterating the yeast in the wine.

This barrel will be stored in a back corner of the busy winery for at least a few years, until it is deemed ready to bottle.

Cheers!

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Wine delivery

Pre-punchdown foaming volcanoes in the fermenting Barbera - there are some happy yeast in that must.

Pre-punch down foaming volcanoes in the fermenting Barbera – there are some happy yeast in that must.

Submerging the cap creates a candy-colored mass of bubbles as the carbon dioxide is released from below.

Submerging the cap creates a candy-colored mass of bubbles as the carbon dioxide is released from below.

Walla Walla is in the southeastern corner of Washington State which is about 360 miles East-West and 240 miles North-South.  My family lives on the western side of the Cascade Mountains, which trend North-South dividing the state into Eastern Washington (the lesser recognized ‘dry’ side where we grow most of the grapes in the state) and Western Washington (the more populated, ‘wet’ and recognized side).  There are many occasions that we make the drive from our little burg here in the corner of the state over to my family.  This weekend was one of those occasions with two family birthdays to celebrate.  As all hands are needed until the wines are barreled and crush is declared over, my missing hands required Jason to take on all of the punch downs we have for the day I was gone.  In return, my journey west included eight cases of wine, a combination of Lagana Cellars and Locati Cellars wines, to be delivered to a couple of places.

Headed west on I-90 on the east side of the Cascades, about mile marker 68 on Sunday morning.

Headed west on I-90 on the east side of the Cascades, about mile marker 68 on Sunday morning.

About a minute later the light shifted and we were treated to the other side of the rainbow.  Instantly after passing this we had a full arch right in front of us spanning the road.

About a minute later the light shifted and we were treated to the other side of the rainbow. Instantly after passing this we had a full arch right in front of us spanning the road.

An hour and a half before daybreak we were on our way west.  The sun rose behind us as we drove over sage brush spotted basalt ridges, heavily farmed in grapes, hops, various tree fruits and row crops where there is sufficient soil.  The natural terrain has an austere beauty to it.  Once on Interstate-90 we began climbing toward Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades.  Where the evergreen trees grow thick with the residual rain coming over the mountains we were treated to a light show of vivid rainbows!  It was interesting to watch them shift with the angle of the light, a couple of seconds there were double rainbows several feet apart.

We delivered wine in Bellevue in the morning; probably not legally parked, but we were the only people on the street for the fifteen minutes we were there.  Our birthday celebrations were fun, full of laughter and worth the drive.  My amazing husband is already on his way to eastern Idaho this morning, so we had to return that evening.  It took only five minutes to deliver the last few boxes of wine, also in Bellevue, on our way home.

The return trip to Walla Walla we were treated to clear skies as we drove south on I-84 between Ellensburg and Yakima.

The return trip to Walla Walla we were treated to clear skies as we drove south on I-84 between Ellensburg and Yakima.

The higher we climbed toward Snoqualmie Pass on this western slope the heavier the rain fell; flashing signs warned about standing water (hydroplaning problems).  We were aware the snow level was predicted to be about 4500 feet, it may have been already there and dropping.  The drive down the eastern side was as wet as the climb had been!  All the way into Ellensburg, as we climbed the second pass, Manastash Ridge, we needed our windshield wipers on.  But as we rounded a corner and crested the ridge we were dry, no more precipitation all the way home.  Of course, it was well after dark when we arrived, weary but accomplished after our not-quite six-hundred mile adventure.

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As our extended Summer turns to Autumn

Jason and our last bin of Barbera for 2014 Harvest!

Jason and our last bin of Barbera for 2014 Harvest!

Tuesday Jason and I crushed almost 12 tons of fruit in about four hours at Locati; both wineries have all fruit in!  Primitivo and the Estate Barbera are fermenting in their bins.  Punch downs, pressing and barreling this last fruit and the 2014 Harvest will be put to bed.

Two tons of Primitivo from Les Collines Vineyard fermenting in front of barreled Sangiovese, Sangiovese Rose', Dolcetto and Cabernet Sauvignon, nice haul for the 2014 Harvest.

Two tons of Primitivo from Les Collines Vineyard fermenting in front of barreled Sangiovese, Sangiovese Rose’, Dolcetto and Cabernet Sauvignon; nice haul for the 2014 Harvest.

Lagana Cellars has 22 tons of 2014 fruit and Locati Cellars has just over 58 tons – that is over double what we expected to bring in at Locati.  When I anticipated my internship I wanted to do small quantity rather than large since I am aware of my physical limitations (this body isn’t as young as it once was).  Eighty tons of fruit is far more than we bargained for, but we did it.

Jason was stung at the beginning of harvest one time while we were pressing whites out at the Locati Farm.  When we were cleaning the crusher Tuesday afternoon I was stung; thought I would make it through Harvest without it.  (We were also both stung early on last year at the farm.)  Otherwise this has been a charmed season; lots of sun and rain only when we weren’t actively processing grapes.  As if on cue, the rain dumped in buckets Wednesday afternoon on our little valley. My rain barrels were spilling over there was so much water.

Cheers!

Last crush day was sunny with a breeze; we were spared the rain forecast for the day!

Last crush day was sunny with a breeze; we were spared the rain forecast for the day!

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An unusual harvest issue

Oscar and Dragon last Spring.

Oscar and Dragon last Spring.

Two years ago this month Oscar, our two year old semi-feral cat, began hanging around our previous house.  Dragon, our original cat, didn’t seem to mind her presence and we witnessed them frolicking in the yard together, standing at the back door together, etc.  It was a no brainer to welcome her into our household that Autumn.  But we discovered a small problem with both Hubby and I being gone so much for our respective harvest work this year; there is a neighborhood cat coming into the house via the pet doors we are so happy our two kitties use!  Rudy, we were able to get close enough to read on his heart-shaped tag, is a beautiful, charming cat that also has a bell on his collar.  He has taken to hanging out in our garage, coming into the laundry room through the pet door and consuming the food we have out for our two feline.  He has learned that walking slowly with his head down keeps his bell from ringing.  But I would think it is difficult for him to hunt successfully moving as slowly has he does to remain quiet.

Rudy, our unwelcome feline guest.

Rudy, our unwelcome feline guest.

We have hardly seen the three cats in the same place, so it was difficult to tell how the three were getting on.  A couple of days ago I realized Oscar was coming to the back door rather than using the pet doors again.  Dragon has only been going outside when I have gone out to water plants and check on the newest plants rather than spending time outside on his own.  Today, my first full day at home in ages, Dragon sat in the hallway meowing in a distinctly different call than I have ever heard in his 8+ years – I found Rudy in the laundry room in front of him.

This evening, as I cooked dinner for the first time in months, my wonderfully supportive husband (he has been the chef in the house for the last few months) opened the back door for Dragon to go outside.  Rudy was on the other side of the door and attacked, hissing and spitting with claws out as soon as Dragon crossed the threshold!  Smart cat, Dragon backed into the house again and Rudy was chased by us two-legged giants from the property.  Reassured, Dragon went outside and has been enjoying the mild October evening knowing his territory is his own for the time being.  Oscar seemed to realize the interloper was not around and came into the house a few minutes later.  She was quite loving and social, chatting and eating before crashing on our bed.

Tomorrow we are both at work all day again, but my work schedule will be loosening up after that.  Rudy best beware, his presence will not be tolerated any longer.  I did ask a neighbor if she knew him; apparently he is quite an adventurous feline as she tells it.  I wonder if his family knows of his exploits.

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Using my head, finally!

LED headlamp for barrel filling and press cleaning!

LED headlamp for barrel filling and cleaning equipment after dark!

As the temperatures drop and the days shrink, we still have Barbera and Primitivo to bring into Locati Cellars; Barbera is anticipated this coming Wednesday.  Although we know there isn’t as much Barbera as there was Sangiovese (that would have been 20.1 tons two weeks ago) we aren’t sure what time the fruit will come into the winery making it difficult to predict when we will be cleaning up.  The large light that fills the parking area and illuminates the front of another building completely misses the crush pad.  Today, on a quick trip to Costco with the aim of picking up cat food for our resident feline, we passed a display of LED headlamps right by the large screen tv’s and stereos.  The photos showed fit bicyclists, a runner and a guy in a garage peering into a machine (car?).  But I wouldn’t be caught running by day, never mind by night, and I don’t think biking at night will be something I have to consider… filling barrels, cleaning the press and crusher after dark and a myriad of other uses came to me in an instant.  My partner in wine had similar thoughts, grinning as I grabbed one of the two packs before we navigated to the cat food at the far corner of the store.

Now one of the two headlamps resides in the garage where it will be useful for rare trips into the attic, under the house and while putzing on various vehicles.  The other is going into my bag to go with me to work for the above mentioned uses.  During the spring and summer there will be camping trips to exciting places and in the garden for slug hunting expeditions (gross but necessary) to reduce the numbers of these slimy pests.

Cheers!

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2014 Mid-Harvest

A few photos for you to consider…

Freerun wine.

Free run wine

A lady beetle helping with inoculation.

A helpful lady beetle

 

Pumpkins and other winter squash are being harvested now too.

Pumpkin harvest too

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Hydrating Oak Barrels

Ready for wine!

Ready for wine!

With the red grapes finishing their ferments in the open top bins we have been preparing oak barrels to store the pressed wine in.  Most of them have already been used, have been sitting empty and are dried out in our low humidity environment.  Have you had an old piece of furniture, say a chair, that gets wiggly and unstable?  Same concept at work here; but we can’t use furniture polish or oils on the barrels.

Sometimes barrels dry out while they sit empty; using water to rehydrate them is more efficient than losing wine for that purpose.

Sometimes barrels dry out while they sit empty; using water to rehydrate them is more efficient than losing wine for that purpose.

During the last week there have been barrels that have dribbled a few drops of water and sealed up nicely and there have been a couple that would have made stunning fountains in the right place they were so dry.  There is the option of having a cooper rework the barrels (long before we needed them) or tamping the rings a smudge tighter, but it was only the two worst barrels that would have benefited from that work.  Each of them took two or three days to seal.  Steam, hot water (until the hot water heater runs out), soaking the outside of the barrel head (the end of the barrel) and just running water through them until they finally seal again was required.

We have a few new barrels, only one had a few small leaks when we filled it.

Here’s to delicious oak characteristics that we love in our wine! Cheers!

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Exciting news in the midst of chaos

When you face a day that seems to require double the 24 hours allotted just to get through what needs to be done a little good news goes a long way; Friday was such a day.

Two wineries, at opposite ends of Walla Walla, requiring action for fruit that was already in or coming in.  I was taking care of Locati Cellars punch downs, all of the Sangiovese that had come in on Tuesday then driving across town to help him press Syrah and crush Pinot Noir in between.  The punching down of the sixteen bins took a while, the drive each way took a while and I ended up being very little help for Lagana Cellars that day.  Later in the afternoon, when I was stomping a bin of whole cluster Pinot Noir grapes, Jason was made aware of the November 2014 edition of Wine Enthusiast’s Best Buy section for Washington Whites containing both his 2013 Sagemoor Riesling (page 192)  and 2013 Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc (page 193)!

Lagana Cellars has been in business for about 18 months; 2013 was his first vintage.  The two 2013 red wines he has are still in barrel; the only two wines he has bottled are on this list!  Jason graduated from the WWCC EV; program that I am presently working on.  During his time at College Cellars he helped make award-winning wines; looks like the lessons were learned well.  Congratulations, Jason and best wishes for many more accolades to come!

Lagana Cellars 2013 Sagemoor Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc wines are 'Best Buy' wines in Wine Enthusiast November 2014!

Lagana Cellars 2013 Sagemoor Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc wines are ‘Best Buy’ wines in Wine Enthusiast November 2014!

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So many grapes, so little time

Locati Cellars Sangiovese from Mission Hills Vineyard well on its way to becoming wine.

Locati Cellars Sangiovese from Mission Hills Vineyard well on its way to becoming wine.

The Sangiovese is inoculated and happy, the Dolcetto is barreled, the Cabernet Sauvignon is scheduled to be pressed on Saturday morning; Locati Cellars has been a busy place.  We are about 75% complete here; Barbera and Primitivo are still hanging.

Thankful for the tractor with forks in the Breezy Slope Vineyard - we didn't have to carry the bins by hand.

Thankful for the tractor with forks in the Breezy Slope Vineyard – we didn’t have to carry the bins by hand.

Locati isn’t the only place we work, Lagana Cellars has not been idle during this time. This afternoon we delivered bins to Breezy Slope Vineyard and hydrated barrels that had been sitting empty to ensure no leaking when the wine is pumped into them.  The Syrah we brought in on the first of October is ready to be pressed in the morning and three tons of Pinot Noir crushed into the cleaned bins.  This is the last  of the Lagana fruit this season – it is amazing to think that all fruit is in-house before the middle of October.  (At this rate we will have it all barreled before Halloween!)

Hydrating barrels at Lagana Cellars to seal any leaks.

Hydrating barrels at Lagana Cellars to seal any leaks.

Pinot Noir from Breezy Slope Vineyard coming in Friday morning for Lagana Cellars.

Pinot Noir from Breezy Slope Vineyard coming in Friday morning for Lagana Cellars.

Cheers!

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20.2 Tons Sangiovese in 11.5 hours

Locati Cellars is a small winery, we do the best we can with what we have – but some days we are smoking’ hot!  The new crusher/destemmer, a couple of forklifts, Jason, Pam & I accomplished this very task.  The results:

20.2 tons of Mission Hills Estate Vineyard Sangiovese in 14 bins crushed in 11.5 Hours.

20.2 tons of Mission Hills Estate Vineyard Sangiovese in 14 bins crushed in 11.5 Hours.

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