This past weekend marked the harvest for my 2015 vintage wines. This was two weeks earlier than last year's harvest and the Brix, pH, and acidity numbers were much closer to my annual targets. This can be attributed to a very hot and dry summer with cool nights here in the Hudson Valley of New York. Harvest was very productive, minus a lost battle with the wasps this year for my Concord variety. I was only able to salvage about 50% of the crop. My Vidal Blanc production was about 75% percent of last years. I can't fault the Vidal vines though, as I let them overcrop last year. They responded by reducing the crop themselves while producing much sweeter and beautiful fruit. Nature has a way of responding to the errors of humans. Don't you wish it could right all our wrongs?
All the grapes were processed along with those I purchased from California. I will say, the grapes I received from California this year were far from perfect. Most of them were partially dehydrated. I realize that California has been through a drought and has had a lot of hot and dry weather. I'm also guessing that because of a need for an early harvest there much of the grapes I received were probably being held in coolers for a couple of weeks before I received them. All that said, I like to try to look at the glass as half full. As the grapes were partially dehydrated, they were packed with sugar. This also made the skin to juice ratio much higher; which should enhance the tannin and color extractions, as well as the flavor and aroma. In blending these with my grapes — which were picture perfect — I'm hopeful for a very special vintage this year.
So, minus a deep watering of the vines to help them prepare their carbohydrate stores and hilling them up to protect their graft unions before winter, my winegrower hat has been changed to my winemaker hat. All the white grapes were crushed, destemmed, and pressed. The juice was put into a large food-grade tank, a ½ teaspoon per gallon of pectic enzyme was added, and it was allowed to settle overnight. The reds were all crushed and destemmed and the must was broken up into my various food-grade blend tanks, based on my blends this year. After about two hours of skin contact, I bled some juice (pictured to the right) from each of the blend tanks in order to make my rosé, as well as further enhance the skin to juice ratio of the dry red blends. Again, pectic enzyme was added to enhance juice extraction from the grapes, and everything was allowed to sit overnight. One of my dry red blends this year is 42% De Chaunac, 29% Old Vine Zinfandel, and 29% Cabernet Sauvignon. I call this one Mélange. Mélange means blend in French. I can't really call it Meritage, as the main grape component of this wine is not one of the Noble grapes. Some get very upset by stuff like that. My other dry red blend is 33% Corot Noir, 25% Noiret, and 42% Pinot Noir. I call this one Noir. I think it's pretty easy to figure out where the name came from on this one. My last red blend is 75% Concord and 25% Pinot Noir. This one will be made off-dry to semi-sweet and will also be the base for my Port this year. I typically don't blend anything with my Concord; other than a bit at topping time, but due to the “wasps share” this year I had to supplement.
The next day I measured the Brix of each of my future wines and determined if they needed to be chaptalized for target % alcohols of 13.5% and 12% for my reds and whites (and rosé too) respectively. As I suspected, the dehydration of the California grape greatly increased the overall Brix of the musts and I had to add little to no sugar to achieve my targets. I then added 1 teaspoon per gallon of Fermax yeast nutrient to each of my musts and clarified juices. I prepared my selected yeasts for this year – Lalvin 71b (reds and rosé) and Red Star Côte des Blancs (whites) and inoculated the future wines. My white wines and rosé were transferred down to the wine cellar to ferment at lower temperatures; resulting in a lower rate of fermentation to preserve as much fruit and aroma as possible. The reds ferment on their skins, with caps getting punched down three to four times per day, in my garage. I'm keeping an eye on the fermentation temperatures, predominantly of the reds, as it is still a bit warm here in the Hudson Valley. Excessive outside temperatures coupled with the exothermic reactions of fermentation can quickly overheat the process and cause the yeast to slow or even die off. After roughly a week I will be pressing the red musts and transferring then red wines to their secondary fermentation and maturation tanks....