Seufert Winery

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Clean bill of health

An experienced winemaker friend offered to check out the health of my grape juice. I took some samples over and he put them under the microscope. Basically, they are in good health. They contain some resident commercial yeast, as well as some wild strains.

The wild types are ok - they will add unique flavor dimensions before their effectiveness diminishes and the commercial yeasts take over. So all is good.

Watching the yeast and other components under the microscope was very interesting - and informative. I'll need practice to properly identify each component, but the potential is huge. You can evaluate each wine and determine the exact microbial contents. I'm hooked.


Today I inoculated my juice with the chosen yeast.

The temps are slowly coming up, and fermentation began with resident yeast. I want some fermentation from the resident yeast to get the enhanced “mouthfeel” they provide. However, I also want to ensure a complete and clean fermentation, so I gave my juice a low dose of commercial yeast.

The logic is that the resident yeast have already produced a sizable population and will continue to ferment even with the chosen yeast present. As the chosen yeast grow and multiply, they should overwhelm the resident yeast and complete the fermentation process.

Tank 1 – a mix of Pinot noir clones 114, 115, and Pommard from young-ish vines. It got the BRG yeast. This yeast was isolated by growers in Burgundy because it ferments Pinot very well and provides good structure.

Tank 2 – exclusively Pommard from mature vines; it got BM45 yeast. This is an Italian yeast (from Brunello di Montalcino wines) that produces a different flavor profile from the BRG yeast. One company describes the flavors as: “fruit jams, rose and cherry liquors, with evident and clean notes of sweet spices, licorice and cedar.”

So there you have it. Now we just need to wait many months to see the results of this decision.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fermentation has started!

I just got back from the winery, and the tanks have started bubbling.

I put small heaters into each of my tanks. The overall temps are rising through59 degrees tonight, but the must (juice) is warmer around the heater. And, surprise, surprise, the native yeasts are taking off. This is all good; life is progressing as planned.

Now the focus is on monitoring fermentation progress. This involves watching the temp, aroma, and elapsed time, and making a judgment call on when to inoculate with the chosen yeast. Right now, I’m guessing this will happen some time on Friday.

The next step is here, and it’s exciting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Product diversification… as result of good fortune I got a few special grapes.

Therefore, Seufert Winery is now making an additional wine – a “sticky” as they say… or perhaps you know the style as a “late harvest” or an “ice wine.”

This will be a white dessert wine made from botrytis infected Pinot Blanc grapes (this is a VERY good thing). As the harvest came in, we carefully hand-sorted the “chosen” clusters and set them aside. While the main grapes were being pressed, I took about 200 pounds of these special clusters to a neighbors’ freezer.

The grapes will be pressed while frozen, separating the concentrated juice from the frozen water crystals. From this point onwards, this intense juice will be processed similarly to other wines.

This is a tiny batch of wine. It will probably yield 50 – 100 half-size bottles. If you like this style of wine, and want to put your name on the pre-order list, send me an email. I’ll send you all of the particulars when the wine is ready and you can tell me if you’re still interested.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

How much to extract?

That’s today’s question.

One very experienced winemaker advocates maximum extraction. He has an established routine to get everything the grape has to offer. His track record is excellent with his wines garnering glowing reviews and top prices. Obviously some people, notably many reviewers, like this style of Pinot.

However, I don’t believe that he’s made wine using grapes from the McMinnville AVA. These grapes tend to produce bigger, fuller bodied wines without extreme extraction.

If this year was normal, I would limit the extraction and stick to the proven approach for this region. However, as previously mentioned, this years’ crop was diluted by pre-harvest rain. The consensus is that I need to increase extraction; the question is by how much?

Here’s my current thinking… of the roughly half dozen techniques that I can use to influence extraction, I’ll fully utilize one or two, and partially utilize another one or two.

For example, different attributes are extracted during pre-fermentation cold soak than are extracted during alcoholic fermentation. One of the extraction tools involves influencing this fermentation. One particular yeast strain prolongs fermentation, and the recommendation was to use this yeast at one-half strength to extend fermentation even longer. This experienced winemaker believes in this approach so strongly that he gave me the specific yeast to use.

I’ll probably try this technique on one of my two batches. My second batch comes from mature Pommard vines. Because the vines are older, with deeper roots, it appears to be less diluted. Therefore, I don’t think it needs as much extraction. For this batch, I’ll stick to my original intent and ferment with the yeast I purchased based on tasting Coleman Vineyard samples.

Given the track record of the grapes I’m using – that they don’t need extraction in normal years – I’m going to play it safe. On the batch from young vines, I’ll target moderate extraction. On the batch from mature vines, I’ll go for some extraction, but something less than the first batch.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Time marches on... and cold soak continues.

Right now, 3,000 pounds of grape flesh, skins, seeds and juice are macerating - extracting flavors, colors and tannins that will make this wine distinct from all others.

I'm going to let the temps slowly increase at this point, so fermentation will start in a few days.

I'm getting lots of valuable advice and input from more experienced winemakers. Our discussions focus on winemaking techniques to properly process grapes that got somewhat diluted by rain before harvest. We're debating sugar and acid levels, and how this year's numbers will affect the grapes from the Mcminnville AVA.

My fruit is awesome - especially compared to what some vineyards have produced. So our discussions will drive stylistic attributes rather than fundamental wine components.

Tonight, I'm debating all of the inputs I've received... which direction do I head? I must decide in the next day or two.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Seufert Winery is located about an hour southwest of Portland, Oregon, just outside of McMinnville.

Winemaking has begun at Seufert Winery!

Through an unexpected series of events, my family harvested the Pinot noir grapes for my first of 2 batches of wine. They had been cooped up in the house all week, and the normal picking crew wasn’t available. On a moment’s notice they offered to help - which is truly appreciated.

This first batch was picked on Thursday, October 13, 2005. I got 1,500 pounds of this day’s harvest from the Coleman’s youngest vines. This fruit is a mix of clones, including the venerable Pommard, along with the Dijon clones of 114 and 115.

The remainder of the Coleman’s Pinot noir came in on Friday. I got another 1,500 pounds of this fruit. This fully mature portion of the vineyard is all Pommard.

I segregated the 2 lots into two 1-ton plastic fermentation bins. Both lots were put on dry ice to cool them below the temp where fermentation can start. This cold soak allows the juice to extract more beneficial flavors and colors from the skins prior to fermentation.

As of Sunday, the temps of both bins hovered around the 45 degree mark. The sugar content of the grapes is currently at 22 degrees Brix. Interestingly, this is lower than the other grapes from the same vineyard. We’re thinking that the quick cooling from the dry ice slowed down sugar extraction. Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Our weather is cooperating!

This last week, Oregon cooled down with highs only in the 50’s and rain. Lot’s of rain at times. It seems like it’s been forever since it really rained here.

Most Oregon vineyards are dry farmed, meaning that they don’t rely on irrigation. As such, they are completely dependent on our fickle fall weather. Deciding exactly when to harvest is guess work at best*, and a very large gamble.

Since our summers are dry, when September comes around, the grapes could be starting to dehydrate. Therefore, some rain is good for them. It plumps them up again, lowers the sugar ratio (degrees Brix), and the cooler temps give the fruit more time to develop complex flavors. The gamble is hoping that the rain stops, allowing the fruit to dry off enough for harvest.

This year it looks like our weather is cooperating. The spell of rain is now being followed by several days of warmer (~70 degrees), dry days. Now the question is how long to wait before harvest. The resulting wine improves with each additional day that the fruit stays on the vine, as long as the rains don’t return.

As of today, we’re going to hold off until early next week. If our weather holds, this could be a stellar year for Oregon Pinot noir. Let’s hope so.

* Note: Many factors that drive the harvest decision are not guesses. The measurable attributes of ripeness are closely tracked. The complicating aspect is that the Pinot noir grapes ripen very late in Oregon. The guessing comes in to play when you try to determine what the weather is going to do.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Our website is now live!

The site is very basic, but it's a start. Check it out - Seufert Winery, at:

Blog Directory - Blogged