It’s Wine Time

Yesterday we took our September 2019 harvest of Pinot Noir which had been crushed, destemmed, sO2’d and chaptilized out of deep freeze. We have 28 gallons of wine now defrosted and split between 2 fermenters filled with 14 gallons each. It’s still too cold to inoculate – just 48º so we have the cellar heat on and hope to raise them temperature to 70º in a day or two.

2019 Pinot Noir Harvested 9/27/19 – frozen – unthawed 6/28/20

Next up we plan to measure our brix, ph and ta, make any adjustments needed then begin primary fermentation.

In another vessel we have 3 gallons of Chardonnay which is resting on fine lees – and has been for 6 months that we plan to inoculate with malolactic bacteria and nutrients like acti-malo and opti-malo plus and set into motion 1-3 months of MLF – (malolactic fermentation or secondary fermentation) The purpose of this process is to soften the mouthfeel of the wine by turning the Malic (harsh) acid into Lactic (softer) acid. TMC = too much chemistry!

Just a few of the additives that go into winemaking

In yet another vessel we have 3 gallons of our practice batch of Pinot Noir (grapes purchased from another vineyard which came to us frozen, crushed and destemmed with the correct brix (sugar) ph and acidity .. that wine has been through both primary and secondary fermentation and is soon to be racked and aged one last time before bottling.

Fungicide and Canopy Management

We have read a lot about which fungicide to use against our powdery mildew problem we had last year. Most use sulfur, some use copper. We went to a local nursery and chose something called Liqui-Cop. They thought we would benefit from the ease of use and said it wouldn’t burn the foliage they way sulfur can if put on in hot weather. (Mind you … the weather is not hot here yet). So away we went with a backpack sprayer – it took Ron less than 1 hour to spray our entire vineyard of 48 vines.

On the following day we examined all our vines up close – taking photos of the fruit set on June 1 and noticed two things. 1. It was time to thin the canopy and get rid of lateral shoots, suckers below the cordon, buds with multiple shoots and give the intended vertical growing shoots a chance at proper sunlight and air circulation. Leaving them to flourish on their own would mean more fruit of lesser quality. Hopefully this year they will attain a better degree of brix (sugar content) by harvest time – so we won’t have to interfere with Chaptalization (adding sugar).

2. We noticed 1 plant had an unusual bumps on some of the leaves topside and a scar-like underside. I queried some folks on a home winemaking Facebook page I follow and someone thought it might be Erenium Mites otherwise known as Blister Mites. We removed the damaged leaves on that plant and are not planning any further action. (*Per an article from UC Davis extension)

The hardest part of maintaining the vineyard is the task of thinning out the canopy and removing so many shoots that are already showing fruit. It’s heart breaking to spend so many hours cultivating something only to go through and snip away buckets of perfectly healthy shoots with little baby grape sets on them. But this is in fact the best way to cultivate a really healthy vineyard full of fruit that will get enough sunlight and airflow to ripen fully.

Spring 2020 Way Past Bud Break ~

We just returned from our winter and COVID19 quarantine in Arizona. We popped in mid April before bud break and returned a few days ago close to Memorial Day weekend.

The vineyard looks beautiful. Foliage on all the vines. We pulled suckers off on the canes and below the cordons today during our first long look.

Next up we will trim the growth along the cordon back to about a fist apart to ensure we have all the energy of the plants working to nurture the grapes with proper sunlight and airflow.

We also need to to use a fungicide like Thiolux to prevent the powdery mildew we got last year on a few of the Chardonnay. We would have done this sooner but COVID19 had us quarantined in Arizona.

Row A Chardonnay
Row B Chardonnay
Row C Chardonnay
Row D Chardonnay
Row E Chardonnay
Row F Chardonnay
Row G Chardonnay
Row H Chardonnay
Row I Pinot Noir/Chardonnay
Row J Pinot Noir
Row K Pinot Noir
A view from the top
An extra Pinot Noir for decoration

First Taste

It’s been 6 months since we left 2 carboys of wine topped off with Argon gas with airlocks. One is a Pinot Noir which we purchased – already crushed, destemmed and frozen from Brehm Vineyards. The idea was to practice on someone else’s perfectly harvested* grapes first. The other is our very own Chardonnay clone Wente 72 from our 4 year old micro vineyard. Our Chardonnay suffered from powder mildew and we had several vines underproduced and about 9-10 that were unusable due to the mildew – so we were fortunate to have rendered what we did.


So first the Chard. This wine has obviously been crushed and destemmed. It has been pressed. It has been given sulfates and then underwent primary fermentation lasting about a week. We added some oak chips for flavor, but we did not introduce any ML bacteria. Malolactic Bacteria is added to most red wines and some whites .. like Chardonnay. This secondary fermentation – subtlety transforms the malic acid (bitter) to lactic acid (softer) … we will probably attempt this process if possible when we return for the summer in June.

The Pinot came to us crushed and destemmed. We gave it sulfates and put it through primary fermentation lasting approx 2 weeks. We even relied on our friends to come over and punch down the cap while we were on a short golfing trip to Canada. Temps were kept at 70º. Immediately following the fermentation on the stems .. the wine was pressed and stored in a carboy and we stirred the gross lees a few times before we racked it off into a new carboy. Then we introduced the ML bacteria and started it into the MLF process (above). We were taking regular measurements of how well this process was going but we had to leave before we got confirmation it was over. It’s not just a dip stick with a reading … it involves calibrating an instrument, introducing reagents at certain temperatures, using diluted drops of wine and it’s all very COMPLICATED and unclear. Ron has more attention to detail and patience for this part, but even so we are not feeling confident about this part of the process. So is it still in MLF? Or is it done? Who knows.

So finally we tasted it. Here’s our findings after approximately 6 months:

1. Chardonnay: Color is beautiful. Aroma is good with a hint of fruit. Taste is slightly tangy or acidic but crisp.

2. Pinot Noir: Color is beautiful. Aroma is very good with some berry notes. Taste is very good, uncomplicated and we hope time will aid in smoothing it out.

We will bottle both of these in June and hope to consume them in summer of 2021.


Secondary Primary.. Who’s on First?

We made an error while starting our primary fermentation on our Chardonnay. We put the wrong additive in with the yeast. We put in a nutrient that was meant for later on during fermentation (Fermaid-K) instead of one that was meant to help the yeast get started (Go-Ferm) Easy mistake as you can see by the similar names.

Scott Labs, who makes both suggested we just re-inoculate with yeast to be sure it didn’t get stuck. So less than 24 hours later we started it again. This time using the Go-Ferm with the yeast.

It’s going now. Happily converting sugar to alcohol one Co2 bubble at a time!