Wednesday, September 29, 2010

6 harvests completed with 1 to go, Olives before Montepulciano?

29 Settembre
I am sitting here in front of my computer enjoying my last handful of Garrett's caramel corn from Chicago which was kindly gifted by the Wilcoxons and Tanners during their visit last week.  What a drug it is!
We finished harvesting variety no. 6, the Petit Verdot yesterday and have enough to fill another 1000 liter tank once we take the skins and seeds away.  Here is an example of how we decide when to harvest:
This is the graph I made showing the maturation of the Syrah grapes.  As you can see pH is very stable, while the sugar content (in green) increases while the total acid (in red) decreases.  As Syrah can use a bit higher acid content, we harested with a final Babo sugar content of 19.5 and total acid near 6.  Our Merlot was 20 and 5.6 approximately.

We harvest into small containers to prevent damage to the grape clusters which might lead to premature breakage, fermentation and oxidation and then the containers are dumped into a de-stemmer.
The grapes are then sent off to the stainless steel tanks with a bit of yeast to start the fermentation and then after the fermentation has begun, we start the pump overs which is a process of sucking out the grape juice or wine from below and sending it up to the top of the tank where it filters through the skins which are floating on top of the juice, thus extracting more tannins, color and other important cancer fighting ingredients.  Once a day, we allow the developing red wines to breathe a deep breath by pouring the wine into a huge container outside the tank and then pumping it back to the top.  This gives the wine a bigger exposure to oxygen and some strange and unhelpful odors and vapors escape into the ether.
For the white wines, the process changes in that very little, if any "skin time" is allowed (for my Pecorino-just 30 hours) and many times the grapes travel directly to the press from the de-stemmer and then to the tanks.  There are no pump overs as the white wines are much more susceptible to oxidation and also much slower to ferment as we take away nutrients (grape skins) from the yeast and the fermentation progresses at a low temperature.  Where the reds might take 3-6 days to completely ferment, the whites might take weeks.
We have done this now for 6 varieties and I am becoming more skilled with all the new pumps and equipment.
Now that I have that sugar/butter rush from Chicago, I am off to do it again.  With the cool end of summer and early Fall we have had, the Montepulciano grape maturity may lag such that we will harvest our olives prior.  It has been a strange year.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The harvest and beginner wine making

22 Settembre

We have begun the harvest, with 1st dibs going to the Merlot on the 15 and 16th, then the Cabernet Franc on the 17th and finishing with the pecorino on the 20 and 21st.  We have approximately 3000 liters of the Merlot, 1500 of C.F. and with the purchase of some of our constructors Pecorino we have about 5000 liters of white wine.

Raffaele and I have help from some local youth and can harvest approximately 1.3 acres per day.  We have a Merlot one week old which is not half bad, a Cabernet Franc a bit tannic and difficult to ascertain right now as to its eventual characteristics.  The Pecorino has not started fermentation yet, but the juice was pretty nice.

Harvest days are long and we worked over 12 hours 2 days ago and 17 yesterday.  Tomorrow, we will harvest the Syrah grapes and then next week probably the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot will be ready which will take up 3 full days, I imagine.

I had a great week, with the Thomases of KC and MA visiting followed by the Tanners and Wilcoxons from my old bible study group from Kansas City which met every Friday morning at 0600.  It was great to catch up with everyone and speak English or "American" as the Italians like to say.

The latter 2 couples helped us with the harvest and were rewarded with Bacco t shirts and olive oil as their payment.  They, in turn, brought me some goodies from the US like Garrett's caramel corn, which is seriously addicting and artery clogging as well as some puzzles for whenever winter comes to interrupt this work schedule.  They enjoyed stomping about 180 kg of grapes as well, so the tradition we started in 2007 lives on!  I hope everyone gets to try it sometime.  It was on Jan's bucket list, so she has succeeded in crossing that one off.

The pictures are a series of our winery construction photos from me breaking ground March 25 until September; our contruction workers were great and worked extremely hard to get us ready for the harvest, which as luck would have it came about 10 days later than usual this year.  Right now we have 4 of the tanks taking care of various wines with no. 5 arriving on the morrow.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 memories, winery update

11 Sett.
9 years ago I remember watching live as the 2nd plane flew into the other world trade tower and feeling sick to my stomach as it was then obvious the 1st fire was also an attack.  My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones and hope as a country we are mature enough not to blame a billion and a half people for the actions and beliefs of a miniscule percentage of extremists who wish us ill.
On to more pleasant topics, here is a photo of 2 lucertole (lizards) who are enjoying the last warm day we had before the cloudy rainy weather took over.
It has slowed down our grape maturation which has helped us out as the winery is not quite ready for grapes yet although last night we had the trial run of the refrigerator unit which cools the fermenting tanks and all is covered with ice, which I guess is a good sign it functions.
Today or tomorrow we will analyze the grapes again which have been stuck at the same levels for a week.  We test for sugar content, pH and total acid content and if we had to pick today we would have a wine of about 12.5% alcohol, but not as complex as we would like.  Waiting when you are ready to go is tough, but it is not us who decides when the grapes will be ready, but Il Signore.
We now also have doors on the winery, which allow me to sleep better with the place locked up.
My friend Fernando is digging the trenches for the drainage tubes here and he has already leveled the mountain of extra dirt which was piled up on the southern side of the winery.
Here are a couple of dawn photos from this morning to finish.

The first is a skewed picture of the winery and the other looking back at Nascondiglio di Bacco.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Analyzing grapes and the race to harvest

2 Settembre
I have just turned my calendars over and have arrived at a nice photo of Hallet's, Otis and Taylor peaks in RMNP with Autumn colors on one, a picture of us stomping grapes 2 years ago on another and a polar bear rolling in the snow on a third.  I guess that means harvest time must be near.  I have been analyzing our grapes for pH, sugar content and total acid content and we could be from a week to two weeks away from our 1st serious "vendemmia".  Unfortunately, our weather forecasting station is predicting a week of rain from the 8th to the 16th which would be akin to a disaster.  I am hoping that will change.  The press (above photo) has arrived which leaves the de-stemmer and crusher and refrigerator units left to install and we should be close to ready.
The builders have about finished the roof for the tasting and sales room and all the tanks are now here, I think.
The last bit of cement has been poured on the lower level where my office, the bathroom and shower area and storage will be located.

Now, as I wrote, it will up to the vagaries of the weather and how our grapes mature in the next couple of weeks.
It is a scary, exciting time here at Nascondiglio di Bacco!  
Our B&B is empty for 1 day and it seems very strange with nothing to do for a short time.  I am catching up on some fantasy books by George R. R. Martin and relaxing.