The vineyard has paid off. Sunday morning we finally had a batch of wine ready to put in bottles, cork and lay down.
There is definitely a learning curve going on. All along, there have been things that we have learned, like how to keep the birds from eating all your grapes before they are ready to pick. I can testify that hiring a cat to police the vineyard does not work. Cats are lazy; our “Vineyard Police” would rather nap on the bed and eat kibble than keep the sparrows and finches out of the grapes. Go figure.
Anyway, below is a short photo essay on the creation of the 2006 vintage from The Havens. It begins, of course, with the grapes on the vine.
Once the grapes are ripe, you remove the bird netting, and pick them. This did not take that long last year, due to the fact that we severely limited the amount of grapes the vines were allowed to produce so that they would put energy into making root rather than fruit. That paid off this year after the big freeze when our vines had enough energy to set a second crop of blossoms after the first set was burned off.
After picking, you run the grapes through your stemmer/crusher. Ours is hand operated. For 300 dollars more, we could have had an electric motor powered one. Our vineyard is so small we didn’t figure we needed the powered version.
This is what the grapes look like immediately after being crushed.
After the grapes are crushed, some esoteric things happen to them that I am not familiar with. Something about yeast, and waiting. After a while, they are ready to be pressed, which separates the young wine from the stems and peels.
After the new wine is pressed, then you have to figure out how acidic it is. I’m not exactly sure why this is so important, but it is. Here is Jim, testing the wine for acidity:
After the wine has been pressed, it has to be aged for a while. At this point, there ought to be a barrel involved, but we only had 7 gallons of new wine. We aged it in a carboy and a couple of gallon jugs. This is where we suffered another dose of learning curve. Somewhere in the process, our grapes ended up with too much sulfur. It either happened when they were being dusted for fungus, or possibly during the decontamination of all the pressing apparatus with sodium metabisulfite. Anyway, our young wine had a distinct sulfur smell, which rather spoiled its bouquet. For a while, the sulfur was so strong, it was barely drinkable. Over time, a lot of the sulfur has gassed off, but it is still present as a distinct note in the bouquet and the wine. Bummer. It is imperative that this wine be decanted from the bottle and allowed to breathe before drinking. Hopefully, this year we won’t have this problem. Anyway, here is the wine, ready to bottle:
After running the bottles through the dishwasher and decontaminating them with bisulfite solution, they get a final rinse. This process wasn’t all that tedious with only five gallons of wine. When we finally are under full production and have to clean enough bottles for 60 gallons, I’m sure it will turn into an all day affair.
This is our corking system. I am not going to go into a lot of detail about all the hassles we had trying to make the corks actually stay in the bottles. Another learning curve. Let it suffice to say that we lost about 4 total bottles of wine to that little lesson.
The final product, 24 bottles of 2006 vintage, being put into the cellar.
Last but not least, the House Red 2006 vintage. According to our numbers, that bottle of wine cost us roughly $100, counting all the equipment and planting the vineyard, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Salud!