Seufert Winery

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Vineyard Management

It’s time to shift gears; I have a vineyard to tend.

Some friends own Sunny Ridge Vineyard, and they invited me to tend it for them. I’m a hands-on person, and a reasonably accomplished plant grower. Plus, I’ve taken the viticulture class through Chemeketa Community College. With my background and a little coaching from Randy Coleman, I think I can learn a tremendous amount about growing grapes, and perhaps even produce some good fruit from this vineyard.

Sunny Ridge Vineyard is a small vineyard located near my winery. It’s an established site, but recently it’s seen tremendous change. It was originally planted to Pinot gris, and it produced good fruit. However, last year, the vines were grafted over to Pinot noir (Pommard clone).

This entails cutting off the vine completely at the top of the trunk. This retains the established rootstock and trunk, and provides an excellent grafting point. Last winter, two canes were grafted onto each trunk. A walk through the vineyard late last summer revealed that roughly 80% of these grafts took.

Amazingly, these newly grafted vines should produce a usable crop the second year (2006).

Friday, January 06, 2006

The hunt begins…

Although 2006 has just begun, I’m planning for next crush. I’ve estimated the quantities of grapes that I want for each variety, and now the search begins.

Quality is paramount. I want to make the best wines possible, and therefore I need the best grapes. I’m starting to contact grape growers, and a couple have contacted me already… But I can tell that it’s going to be difficult to decide which vineyards to sign on with.

Like so many aspects of winemaking, it’s going to be a balance of science and art/intuition. I’ll analyze the numbers from recent vintages (tartaric acid, malic acid, titratable acidity, sugar content, pH levels, potassium content, etc.), try to taste wines made from their grapes, and then talk to the grape grower to determine if we’re on the same page.

Where will they come from?

The large Willamette Valley AVA recently was parsed into smaller and more meaningful regions. As I increase my volume, I would love to secure Pinot Noir grapes from each of the 6 new AVAs. See the map below.

My 2005 fruit is grown by Coleman Vineyard, which is located in the McMinnville AVA. This is the western-most of the 6 AVAs, and benefits from cooling evening breezes coming in from the Pacific.

In 2006, I’m going to be managing a small ½ acre vineyard that is near the Coleman’s in the McMinnville AVA. If all goes well it will yield a couple of barrels of wine (around 50 cases). This vineyard is called Sunnyridge.

I would like to pick up one to two additional vineyards in 2006, and I’d like them to come from AVA’s other than McMinnville. I have several contacts with vineyards in the Eola Hills AVA, so that is looking promising.

My overarching goal is to let the grapes speak for themselves – to let them reveal their place of origin and the growing conditions that they experienced. Variance across each vineyard-designated wine is to be expected – even cherished.

So, the hunt begins.

North Willamette Valley (Oregon) AVA's

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Malolactic (ML) fermentation nears completion.

I inoculated my Pinot Noir for secondary (ML) fermentation on December 4th. Some wineries allow ML to commence naturally, which can take 6 months to complete in our cool winter winery conditions. However, the wine is vulnerable to harmful organisms during this time, so an expedited ML reduces risk to the wine.

Active ML fermentation gives off CO2, which in turn protects the wine from spoilage. Now that ML is completing, air exposure must be eliminated.

After primary fermentation I ended up with a partially full barrel of wine. I went ahead and put it in a barrel, knowing that I had to deal with it later. Prior to starting ML, I kept a protective layer of inert Nitrogen gas on the wine. Then, the CO2 from ML fermentation protected it. That protection diminished and the wine was at risk of spoilage.

I guessed that there were between 25-30 gallons of wine in the 60 gallon barrel. There are several options for storing odd quantities of wine – most of them involving expensive stainless steel contraptions of various sorts. I opted for the low tech solution and I purchased six 5-gallon glass carboys.

Over the weekend I stopped by the winery to move this wine from the barrel into the carboys. This is accomplished with another old-fashioned and low tech solution – a simple siphon hose stuck into the barrel. It’s slow, but it works just fine.

Transferring 2005 Pinot Noir from an oak barrel in carboys.

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