2016 Vintage – Fall Schedule

Welcome to another year of winemaking! After two successful (?) years under our belt, Leah and I are at it again. A few months back, we preordered 1000 pounds of Syrah from Amador, and are planning on getting a smaller batch of Merlot again if the timing works out. The past couple of years, the wine has been light in color and body, so I’m really going to try to fix that. It would seem that enzymes might help, though certain parties disagree, most notably Oak Barrel where I get the grapes.

Grape Stats:
Syrah Brix: 26.6
Syrah pH: 3.79
Syrah TA: .74
Syrah Yeast: BM45
Syrah Rosé Yeast: RC213
Syrah Additions: SO2, Lallzyme EX (4 hour mark), OptiRed (12 hour mark), BM45 yeast (24 hour mark), Yeast Nutrients ( 4 day and 7 day mark)
Merlot Brix: 24.5
Merlot pH: UNKNOWN
Merlot Yeast: D254
Merlot Additions: SO2, Lallzyme EX (4 hour mark), OptiRed (12 hour mark), D254 yeast (24 hour mark), Yeast Nutrients ( 3 day and 6 day mark)
Read about yeast descriptions here.

September 28th – 1000 pounds of Syrah came at 6:30pm and we are handling the transportation better and better every year. Leah rented a truck, and Ben met us with a dolly. I brought the three big trash cans, two small buckets, and the four 16gal self storage bins that we have. As a result, the heaviest big was only 150 pounds, which is much more manageable than years past. A big thanks to Ben for showing up for the “not fun” stuff. Oak Barrel dosed them with sulfite getting to about 40ppm. We got all the grapes home and in the apartment in an hour or so and Leah returned the truck. Right after, I syphoned off 6gal of free run into a bucket which will be made into rosé. Later that night, I added 12g of Lallzyme EX to enhance the body.

September 29th – I went to Thatcher Bay Vineyards again this morning at 7am with four empty bins to get some more Merlot. They filled them up, but I carried them back to the car since I didn’t want to wait for the tractor to get back. I worked from home which was nice so I could just take them straight home. I unpacked them and took them to the patio. After working, I started to crush them. But this year wasn’t as fun as last year. There were more than a few earwigs in the grapes. I don’t remember these at all last year. I destemmed and Leah killed ’em. Leah then foot stomped the grapes and was a little apprehensive with the presumably hidden pinchers inside … I don’t blame her. She wrapped her feet in trash bags. After that, we moved the Merlot outside so that any survivors would flee. I added 120g of OptiRed and BM45 yeast to the Syrah from yesterday, two packets of RC213 yeast to the rosé, and dosed the fresh Merlot with ~40ppm of sulfite. I’ll be honest, the bugs were creepy and might make me stay away from destemming in future years.

September 30th – I added the yeast for the Merlot. I started punching the cap on this day as well.

October 1 – I moved the Merlot inside since there has been no signs of bugs left. The two bins were very cold from being outside, this might have retarded the fermentation process a bit.

October 2 – I added half of the 3oz of yeast nutrients to all musts.

October 5th – Brix reading, the Syrah was 10B.

October 6th – Brix reading, the Syrah was 5B, Rosé was 8B.

October 8th – Brix reading, the Syrah was 1B. I added the Malolactic bacteria to the Syrah and Merlot. This is the first time I’ve done it before the pressing.

October 9th – Pressing day, we started at 4pm. We did the pressing on a weekend this time, which made things a whole lot less stressful. Things went pretty swimmingly. We filled #1 and #2 with free run Syrah, #3 and #4 with press run Syrah, then a 6gal carboy with Syrah. Then we moved onto the Merlot filling #5, a 5gal carboy, a 1gal jug and a .5gal growler. I siphoned the rosé into a carboy to help protect it from the air for longer term aging. All told we have 96gal of wine (68gal Syrah, 22gal of Merlot, and 6gal of Rosé). Colin and Trevor did the bulk of the pressing, and Ben helped out a bunch too.

When pressing the wine both the Syrah and the Merlot looked really *really* darkly colored. This is very encouraging since that was one of my areas of concerns in previous years and something I wanted to correct. The Syrah has the Rosé taken from it (to increase concentration), while the Merlot did not. Since both were darker, I’m attributing this to the enzymes used.

I capped and airlock’ed the various containers and slowly cleaned up the apartment over the next few days. Note that I didn’t have an airlock for the last carboy, it built up pressure and exploded shooting drops of wine all over that side of the apartment, oops. I cleaned it up and switched it to an airlock.

That it for now. Now is time for patience. 3-ish rackings and 10 more months and this wine should be good to go.

Second Racking Update – February 4th
I forgot to write an update for the first racking, oops! It was probably done around mid November. I racked all the kegs around, and collected the dregs in a carboy and then siphoned that carboy a few days later. Pretty normal.

The second racking was on Feb 4th. I did a normal racking. I racked the kegs around, collected the dregs into a carboy for it to settle. There isn’t much in that carboy so the wine is mostly clear at this point. I tested the SO2 levels and found them around 40 or 50. I added ~20ppm to each just for safety. While they were open, I added French Oak. I got 9 4oz bags of French Oak, the good stuff. I soaked them in SO2 solution for a few minutes before dropping them in at the rate of 4oz per 10 gal. I also racked the Rosé. I did a rack-and-back into the same carboy and topped it off with the last remaining growler of Rosé. I collected the dregs and drank them that night. It is surprisingly good and crisp! Here was the racking plan:

#2 -> #1 – Free Run Syrah #50ppm
#3 -> #2 – Free Run Syrah #40ppm
#4 -> #3 – Press Run Syrah #45ppm
#5 -> #4 – Press Run Syrah #40ppm
#6 -> #5 – Merlot #40ppm
Rosé carboy -> Rosé carboy #50ppm
Syrah carboy #40ppm
Syrah Merlot 50/50 carboy #40ppm

Third Racking Update – May 20th
I just did the third and final racking, which took about 2 hours. I disassembled the “wine tower”, and did the 5 rackings of the kegs. I then topped off with the carboys, and dumped the dregs of the kegs I collected, into the carboys to settle. All told, with the wine pump, this took about 2 hours.
I also had a couple glasses of the Syrah with dinner that night … it was pretty young and a little harsh. I measured the SO2 of one carboy and saw that it apparently lost 20ppm, so I decided to add that amount to all the kegs. At this point, all the work is done; bottling is next in a few months.

#5 -> #6 – Merlot
#4 -> #5 – Press Run Syrah
#3 -> #4 – Press Run Syrah
#2 -> #3 – Free Run Syrah
#1 -> #2 – Free Run Syrah #40ppm

Bottling Day
We bottled all the wine on August 26 and 27. I rented the corker from Oak Barrel, and got ~450 corks and a bunch of bottles for those that didn’t have any. I measured the SO2 of the first two kegs, and they were both at 50ppm, so I didn’t add any SO2 to any of the kegs. I bottled 1 keg and 1 carboy, ~100 bottles, myself on Saturday and it was really physically taxing. Leah and I made lasagna that Saturday night as well. People arrived the next day and started bottling. We did the Syrah first (with people getting 30, 20, and 10 based on level). And then after that was done, we did the Merlot (with people getting 9, 6, and 3). There was a minor snafu when the Merlot was being siphoned into the Syrah as it was being filled. This created the accidental “spectrum” blend that certain people were interested in anyway. There were no major problems, holdups or spillages. I found that one person can fill 75 bottles (one keg) in 1:45. That rate can double with 2 people.