Just a quick update to check in on the 2010 Vincent Pinot Noirs in barrel down at the winery. We have 13 barrels and some extra wine for topping, as a little wine evaporates from the barrels during the aging process. 11 barrels are from the Armstrong vineyard up on Ribbon Ridge. The other barrels and extra wine are from the Zenith vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. There are two new barrels in the mix, both with Armstrong vineyard wine in them. One once-filled, also filled with Armstrong. One twice-filled, which has Zenith and is the formerly once-filled barrel that gave us our 2009 single-vineyard bottling from Zenith. The rest of the barrels are essentially neutral, meaning they give very little oak flavor to the wines. Not none, but nothing like new or once-filled barrels that might give any variety of charred, toasted, spicy and sometimes fruity nuance to the wines they hold.
Lately, all the barrels are actively fizzing their way through malolactic fermentation, the secondary fermentation most red wines go through where a beneficial bacteria degrades strong malic acidity (think green apples) into more creamy, weaker lactic acidity. The other product is carbon dioxide, so the wines become fizzy during “ML” and can be challenging to taste. They really need to finish, release their gas and settle back down. Then you can really get a sense of where the finished wine might turn out.
The work right now is all about monitoring ML fermentation, assessing progress through paper chromotography, which is a simple but cool process for seeing if any malic acidity is left in the wine. If none looks present, more detailed testing can show you if ML is done. If so, some sulfur dioxide is added to the barrel and the wine left to settle down and continue the elevage or barrel aging process. We also check pH in the wine to see the shift up as strong malic acid is converted into lactic acid, ideally without such a shift up in pH that the wine is overly soft or perhaps more prone to microbial issues. Which are harmless to people, just compromise wine quality. The point – there’s a lot to monitor and be careful about, in order to make sure the wine you get in the bottle is as delicious as possible.
Once ML is done and each barrel is quietly left to continue aging, the next step will likely be racking the wines from barrel to barrel in June. That’s the process of siphoning or gently pumping the wine from one barrel to another, clean barrel. Leaving behind sediment and giving the wine a little beneficial aeration. That means most of the work these days is selling wine. We still have good availability on our 2009 Vincent Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills. Let us know if you would like to purchase any. Retail price is just $24.