Wednesday, October 07, 2009

2009 Pinot Gris

Last Sunday I pressed the grapes for my first wine from whole grapes! I've made several batches of wine from kits before, a Viognier and a Sav Blanc, and they turned out quite well. Making kit wine is actually very easy, and relatively cost effective. I figured it cost me around $3 a bottle, so if I made wine that tasted like it was worth more than that then it was a success! And it was.

This year though I went all out and am making two batches of wine straight from the grape. I got in contact with a man named Doug Schaad, owner of Schaad Vineyards. He's been supplying quality grapes to small-scale and home winemakers in the Seattle area for decades now. When I showed up he greeted me looking like a country doctor fresh in from an afternoon's flyfishing in some storybook Garrison Keillor-esq Minnesota. Which is funny, because he actually is a doctor and faculty at UW Med School and is very into fishing. But he was friendly and helpful to a somewhat confused newbie like me. His vineyard is next door to Rex Hill's vineyard in the Chehalem Mountain AVA of Oregon, which is a sub-AVA of the greater Willamette AVA and about 20 miles outside of Portland. The AVA has some other notable wineries, Adelsheim and Ponzi are there, as well as Momokawa Sake's brewery. It's known for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Though I had the option of getting some Pinot Noir, I'm taking it a bit easy on this first run and will only be doing whites this year. Next year I'll take what I learned, plus a winter's worth of study and anxious anticipation, and make some kickass Pinot Noir.

First up was Pinot Gris. The first grapes to ripen in the AVA are often the Pinot Gris and sure enough mine were ready to be pressed and picked up on Sunday. The first step was going through the 70 pound tubs of grapes to select the ones I wanted, then guestimating the amount I'd need to get a good 5 gallons out of it. I went with 110 lbs and we loaded the grapes up and sent them through the Crushinator. Seriously, the crusher-destemmer is a monstrously cool toy. Near as I can tell you load grapes in the top, then tiny gremlins crush the grapes, spitting them out into one bucket, then shoot the now grapeless stem cluster out into another bucket. Magic! (Actually it is a combination of rollers that crush the grapes and a drum with holes in it that lets the grapes fall through, then spits out the stem. Or gremlins, whichever you prefer.)

We then loaded the grapes into the press. Sampled some of Doug's wine. Collected the free run juice. Sampled some more wine. Started pressing. More wine... You get the picture. I had brought a 6.5 gallon carboy figuring it would be enough for my 5-ish gallons. Well the juice just kept coming and coming. By the end I had borrowed a carboy and was at 7 gallons. Maybe 110 lbs was too much. Meh. My only worry is running out of carboys, they are ALL in use right now. It's ridiculous.

So the numbers.

Everett Cellars 2009 Pinot Gris
  • 23.5 Brix (1.099 SG)
  • pH at pressing = 3.18
  • Titratable Acidity (TA) of must = .65 g/100ml
  • Estimated Final ABV = 13.5 to 13.8% alcohol
So as you can see the acidity is a bit low (.7 to .9 is more normal for dry whites) and the Brix is a bit high, which is pretty standard for Gris. The wines tend to be fruity, fairly high in alcohol but with lower acidity than say, a dry Riesling. I may tweak the TA a bit later but right now I'm just letting 'er rip. Also I have to note that I got the pH and TA readings later from Doug. Turns out the Sodium Hydroxide in my acid titration kit expired two years ago. Ooops. And my pH strips are only accurate +/- .1 pH. Which doesn't seem like a lot. But I couldn't tell if it was 3.1 or 3.2, and due to the logarithmic progression of pH that .1 is a fairly important difference. It also is very important in adding the correct amount of sulfite, as its effectiveness is pH dependent.

But I got the must home, did the tests, sulfited the must, stuck the carboys in the lagering fridge for 24 hours, racked off the solids that sank to the bottom, then pitched the yeast. I used two packets of Lalvin D-47, rehydrated in warm water and 7 grams GoFerm per packet. Today I added 7 grams total Fermaid K to the carboys to really get the fermentation going. And it is. I've got some very bubbly carboys in the basement.

Fortunately we get to drink this one young! A couple weeks of fermentation, then racking and clarifying, then into bottles and we start drinking it within about 3-4 months probably.

Up next I have some of his Riesling on order. Last week the grapes were only at 19 Brix so they've got a way to go yet. Hopefully two more weeks should do it. Cross your fingers and hope for good weather down there!


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