Jim has the last of the 2009 vintage wine bottled. He finished the job this weekend, and it occurred to me that as Jim was bottling the last of the 2009 vintage, the 2010 vintage is growing on the vines. They are looking pretty good right now.
Despite the heavy rains earlier, we seem to have a pretty good handle on any fungus problems, and the grape flea beetles have virtually disappeared, thanks to a combination of promoting beneficial insects and bird insectivores and the trapping system. In spite of that, eternal vigilance is necessary, and as soon as I am finished with this post I will be out in the vineyard looking for fungal spots on leaves and removing any infected leaves.
So, with any luck at all, in late July the grapes will look like this:
Way before they start looking like this we put the bird net over them, as the birds do not particularly care whether the grapes are fully ripe before they start eating them. For winemaking purposes, the grapes need to be a LOT more ripe than a bird deems necessary for palatability.
Shortly after they start getting ripe, Jim starts testing the juice for acidity and sugar content. This is the acid test:
The sugar content is ascertained by using a very sweet little tool called a hand-held refractometer. Once the grapes are deemed ripe enough, we go out into the vineyard and pick them.
The reason we wear gloves for this task is that by the time the grapes are full of enough sugar to make wine the bees and wasps are very excited about this sugar source.
They are so sated with juice that they don’t really care that we are picking the grapes, but even though they are very mellow fellows they do not appreciate being squeezed. To minimize any accidents, we wear gloves.
Once the grapes are safely picked they go into the stemmer/crusher and get made into must.
From there, they go into the primary fermenter, where they proceed to make the magical change from juice to wine.
That process occurs in the dining room of this establishment, and while it is going on it definitely smells like a brewery in here. The rich thick smell of fermenting yeast permeates the house. During the first couple of days of fermentation, the busy clicking of fermentation locks makes a quiet little conversational background to every activity.
After the fermentation process is complete, the wine is pressed.
That big bottle the wine is running into is a 5 gallon carboy. When they are full, we add toasted oak slats to them, and fermentation locks. They rest for several weeks in the root cellar. Sometime during this aging process, the fines settle out into the bottom of the carboys, and then they are racked into a clean carboy to rest and age some more.
After several months, the wine is ready to bottle.
First, the wine bottles have to be cleaned and sanitized. From previous experience we have learned that this is SO much easier to do if you have meticulously cleaned the bottles before you store them. They get retrieved from the wine cellar, rinsed (and scrubbed if need be), and then sanitizer is squirted up inside.
This is the corking system we use.
After a suitable period of aging in the wine/root cellar, the final product is ready to drink. (Sometimes the aging period is all of one week. . . Of course, if you can wait longer the wine improves.)
That is a glass of 2009 Marechal foch. What a color it has! It also has a beautiful spicy nose, fruity vanilla taste and a long delicate finish.
Making our own wine is a lot of work, but we surely enjoy the end result. Not the least of my enjoyment is the knowledge that my wine does not include any pesticide, herbicide or fungicide residues.