Seufert Winery

Monday, August 14, 2006

Blending, testing, racking, and other fun times in the winery

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the winery over the last few weeks. I’m getting to bottle my wine, and there’s a flurry of associated activity.

For the last 9 months, my 2005 Pinot noir has been resting in oak barrels. The basic approach starts checking sulfite levels to ensure that it is safe to expose to oxygen when moving it out of the barrel. Then you need to determine which barrels to blend together. This is done through a series of blend tasting trials. Then rack the wine – that is move it out of the barrel into a large stainless steel tank.

I have one half-sized barrel that is more distinctive than the others. It has higher acidity and stronger oak flavors than the rest, and it makes a strong statement. I chose to use this barrel as my variable blending component, so I blended together all of my barrels except this one batch of 30 gallons. Right now I have ~225 gallons of wine in one large tank, plus the 30 gallons in this small barrel.

Last week I did a blend trial with 4 samples. Each sample started with equal portions from the 225 gallon blend. To that, I added increasing amounts from the 30 gallon barrel. The first blend contained nothing from the half barrel. Number 2 had the equivalent of 10 gallons. Number 3 had 20 gallons, and number 4 had the equivalent of all 30 gallons from the half barrel.

Several people tasted through these samples, and everyone made roughly similar comments. First, they were all good. But the differences were quite surprising. The wine with no extra wine – number 1, was a nice, easy drinking, softer wine. It would be ready to drink soon, and had nice berry flavors. As the blend ratio increased, the wine got bigger, with more mouth feel, a more complex flavor arc, and a longer finish. The favorite ratio was split between number 3 and 4 – the equivalent of 20 – 30 gallons of the separate wine.

Considering that the wine has been recently moved, exposed to oxygen, and had a small amount of protective SO2 added, it’s changing daily. To make sure I get it right, I’ll run one more blend trial to finalize the ratio.

The current plan is to bottle the wine on August 29th, just in time for official release at the Oregon Vintage Festival on September 1.

In addition to all of the winery activity, I’ve been working to get my label design finalized, choose a printer, get government approval, and get the labels printed. To that end, I picked up the label proof today. It looks great. TTB approval should come in the next day or two.


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