On Monday, November 14, we finished pressing off the wine from the grape skins, pressing Grenache. I had help from our new friends, Fred and Beth Ennis, from Lawrence, Kansas. We met them when they helped us get our daughter settled in college. They were here to visit Fred’s cousin, Sally.
When we were back in Kansas we tasted a couple of wines from Fred’s cellar while watching KU (University of Kansas) football on tv. When he told me he was coming out to the Seattle area I suggested that I might be pressing wine at that time and he should come to the winery and he could help me. As it turned out, I only had the Grenache left to press, having pressed about six other batches over the last ten days.
Fred was a champ while Beth photographed the pressing. We set the press up just outside the sliding front door of the winery. It started out kind of dark and raining, and a bit cool, and ended up sunny and very fall-like with beautiful yellow and green colors.
Fred buckets Grenache into press
I had never made Grenache before and it was really exciting. It is a combination of fruity and powerful. And I got a lot of it from a ton of grapes: three barrels. It was really interesting to taste the free run wine that poured out of the press as we bucketed wine (with skins) into the old wooden basket press, compared to the pressed wine that was expressed from the skins as we applied downward pressure from the hydrolic press.
In the final pressing, the color of the wine coming out of the press into a plastic catch basin was very amazing, pinker and brighter than even Merlot which is pretty stunning. And the flavors were amazing. In fact I thought I could taste a bit of black, almost white pepper; a trait I look for in Grenache-based wines.
I am hoping to blend it to some Walla Walla Syrah, which was also a first for me.
All in all, I am happy with the grapes this year though as you know from my previous blog everything was early this year….except the Pinot Noir which is grown here on Vashon. That was harvested on October 20th, eight days earlier than last year, but still very late.
I just tasted the Pinot yesterday from barrel after pressing it last Saturday. It is wonderfully fruity with hints of cherry and raspberry and a terrific bright pink color. This is really interesting because it is made differently than the other wines. With Pinot I did a five day cold soak with dry ice to keep it cold, then it was fermented to dryness and pressed at dryness. With the other wines I did an extended maceration (allowing the wine to stay in contact with the skins for up to five weeks, though usually only a couple of weeks past them being finished fermenting.
In total, I made seven different types of wines, in eight batches as the Cabernet Sauvignon came from two different vineyards, one from Walla Walla, the other from Upland Vineyards in Sunnyside. The Walla Walla vineyard is owned by Rex Noah of Vashon Island and is organically grown and dry-farmed (non-irrigated).
An observation that I made with all these different grapes being available almost at the same time: normallyI find it very difficult to tell the difference between grapes, especially not knowing what they are, but this year with all the different grapes coming in in about ten days it was easier to see the differences; same with the juice and eventually the wine.
I have lots of people to thank. First, Lars Strandberg, whom I play tennis with for the use of his truck. It carried the first one ton of grapes perfectly. Next, another tennis player, Al Stover, ended up transporting most of my grapes this year. Al was terrific and was an experienced carrier with all the straps, a big truck, and a big trailer.
Al tying down the bins
On this side, I got timely and wonderful help from Shana Anderson, Ginny Nichols, Justin Hirsch, Carol Eggen, Mary Beba, Bob Jones (and his family including Ryder and Uncle Louie), Art Chippendale, and Verne Johnson. On one of my trips over I took along an intern, David Fruchter, son of a good friends of mine. It always amazes me how they make themselves so available and seem to really enjoy helping crush and press the grapes. I think it is generally pretty hard work and we are usually pretty tired when we are done. And all of these people have a wonderful work ethic and stay around until everything is cleaned up.
Carol, Shana, and David crushing
Oh, and this year Joe Curiel and Tony Raugust, who grow the Pinot Noir, were able to help press the wine. I think it was a real eye-opener for them to taste the young wine and to see how is changes, and like Fred from Kansas, they were amazed at the flavors in the pressed wine.
Joe and Tony, buckets of Pinot
I think the wines are going to be very good, perhaps a little acidic, but wines that should last a long time. I am most excited about the Pinot Noir and the Grenache. I think the Merlot is going to be special. I think the Syrah is potentially one of the most unique wines we have ever made, concentrated and rich. The Rex Noah Cabernet is also one of the most concentrated Cabs we have ever made.
Now, two months after the first grapes arrived, I finally have some room to move, most wines are in barrel and I can finally think about selling some wine.