We started picking on Bennett Vineyard on September 11th. That’s not a typo…I said SEPTEMBER 11th. Wow! What a beautifully hot and dry summer we’ve been blessed with for the 2014 wine grape harvest. This is the first of a string of a few reports I’m putting together for all of our harvest watchers out there. Please be sure to comment on the blog below and let me know what you think!
So, as I mentioned on Monday we received our first grapes of the year from Bennett Vineyard & Wine Company just outside of Cheshire, OR on Highway 36 @ Territorial Highway junction. The Bennett’s opened their tasting room this summer so be sure you head out to see them some time. They have some awesome wines!
Anyway, we received 5 tons of Piont Noir grapes off of their E block, which is positioned directly behind their home. The clone of Pinot is a Dijon clone named 115. Very heavily planted in Oregon, my experience on Bennett’s site so far with this clone has been a good one. 115 here tends to produce a wine less powerful and more restrained color and tanin, while exhibiting fantastic aromas and layers of flavors. All of this makes the 115 a superb candidate for our new White Pinot Noir program.
The process is a little different at every winery. The main goal is the same. As a Winemaker, we all look to extract the greatest quantity of high quality grape juice from the fruit in the most gentle way possible. Keeping these goals in mind most wineries are set up with a two or three tiered crush pad. At LaVelle we use a three tiered system which includes a forklift for our third physical tier.
A worker picks up a bin of grapes, which holds anywhere from a few hundred to 1000 pounds of fruit, and we use a bin dumper to turn the bins upside down where a stainless steel hopper and conveyor belts catches it. We then use one to three workers to sort things we don’t want out of the fruit which includes:
- under ripe clusters
- debris (I’ve found plastic clips, bird netting, clippers, a glove, etc.)
- mildew infected clusters
Once the grapes drop off the second tier conveyor belt they drop into the third tier which in this case is the wine press. At LaVelle we use an Italian press brand Della Toffola, affectionately known as Della, which can hold 2.5 to 7 tons of fruit per press load. Since we received 5 tons of fruit we decided to press it whole cluster in two 2.5 ton press cycles. The wine press runs on a computer program which controls the air compressor and the rotation of the drum. Della is a membrane or bladder style press. She has a long horizontal drum with a loading door and tiny slot holes throughout it. Once filled with fruit, the drum rotates and membrane on the inside expands slowly with air. The design allows for a firm, but gentle pressing of the fruit, and allows the juice to slowly roll out into a catch basin.
After pressing, we pump the juice into a tank and let the solids settle out overnight. We run lab tests on the juice mainly to see where the sugar and acid levels are at. Everything looked fine this time around so we racked (moved) the juice from a settling tank to a stainless steel fermentation tank. We leave the solids behind and compost them back onto the vineyard.
Once in the fermentation tank, we pitch our yeast and let the winemaking process begin. After a day or two we turn on our refrigeration system to keep the fermentation cool. This traps the aromatics and keeps them in the wine. After a long, slow, cool ferment we finish our White Pinot Noir with a heat stabilization procedure, and then a sterile filtration and bottling in January.
Our next processing days will be this Saturday and Sunday the 20th and 21st of September. We will be doing the same process but working with Pinot Gris. If you’d like to come out and see the process I’d highly recommend it! We will be picking grapes in the morning, and then processing them from about 10a until we finish! We may even have you help us pick some grapes! I’ll end this post with a quick reminder to please comment on this posting or you can email me directly with any questions matthew[at]lavellevineyards.com.