Sonoma County is a truly breathtaking area. The region consists of 18 appellations making up 60,000 acres of vineyards. And with over 425 wineries, this single AVA in California has about the same number of wineries as the entire state of Texas.
As the grapes sit in their picking bins, the weight of the grapes on top puts pressure on the grapes at the bottom. This natural pressing of the berries means juice settles in the bottom of the bin. The longer the grapes sit in the container, the more berries will be pressed resulting in more liquid. With red grapes waiting to be processed, the juice has contact with the red grape skins and color leaches into the liquid. As the grape clusters go through the destemmer, some are smashed, and juice squeezes out. These juices flow out of the machine, through a hose, and into a container. Sometimes this juice is added right back into the fermentation tank with the grapes. Other times this juice is discarded so that the ratio of grape skins to liquid results in red wine with more color. And some will use the juice to make a rosé wine.
The French term Saignée means “to bleed.” We refer to this when juice is bled off or pulled from the red wine and fermented to make a rosé wine. This style of wine can be darker in color with flavors bolder than a rosé made from grapes picked for the purpose of making a pink wine.
Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned red grape resulting in light-colored red wine. The technique of bleeding off some juice is often needed to ensure depth of color. Sometimes the winery makes rosé from the juice. Other times, it is sold to another winery or to be distilled into grape spirits. One perk of working this crush is access to a little bit of grape juice to make a rosé to take back to Texas.
On August 23rd, we received 30.6 tons of fruit, including Terra de Promissio’s Pinot Noir. This was 6.879 tons of Block 7 Swan clone, Block 8 clone 943, and Block 9 Calera. Charles and Diana Karren own the vineyard and I have had the pleasure of getting to know them over the past two years. Charles personally delivered the fruit. He was the one who first introduced me to the head winemaker, Theresa, last year. When I owned Perspective Cellars tasting room in Fredericksburg, this lovely couple came to pour their Land of Promise wines at an event for me. Their fruit is highly valued, and the 2009 Kosta Brown Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was made from their fruit and was awarded Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year in 2011. The vineyard was first planted in 2022 and now totals 50 acres of Pinot Noir vines. Diana now holds back a little of their fruit to make wine for their own label, and I quite enjoy her wines. We have had the pleasure of being guests in their home at the vineyard on a couple of occasions now and I’m eager to share the wines I am making when they are next in Texas. Learn more about their story from their website.
I chose this fruit to be the source of my tiny batch of wine. I pulled off 60 liters of juice that showed a pale purple hue with even a hint of brown. The arriving fruit was 3.39 pH, 22.4 Brix, and a Total Acidity of 6.55. I used Lalvalin yeast BRG typically used for Chardonnay. After two days in cold storage, the Brix had not yet started to decrease, so I was concerned about the health of the yeast.
I moved the carboy outside to the crush pad in a well-shaded area. The next day, the Brix had dropped to 17.4. By the ninth day, the juice was officially wine at -1.3 Brix. With a pH of 3.23 and 8.34 Total Acidity, the color was like the skin of a white peach. The nose and palate both leaned towards candied grapefruit and tangerines. The acidity was lively on the tongue, and the finish was pleasant but light. A few days later, I racked the wine out of the 60-liter carboy into two 30-liters while leaving behind the sediment. Sulfur Dioxide was added at 35 parts per million to serve as a preservative as we loaded the carboys into the RV for the trip home.
Now that we are home, my concern was the rosé may not have enough complexity or flavor. Maybe I should add oak chips to create more interest. Or even infuse fruit other than grapes to add more flavor. But last night, I shared the simple wine with some of our favorite wine friends, and it was well received. Michael Barton, my friend and mentor, reminded me to have patience! And I was pleased with the apricot color and flavors of dried apricot and orange zest. I will soon bottle this little gem to share with our friends and family over the holidays.
So, while the 2022 vintage is at a close and my little family is back home, I am compiling more stories to share. Early next year, look for my book, So You Wanna Be a Winemaker… In the meantime, I hope you’ll follow more accounts of my winemaking experiences at www.SoYouWannaBeAWinemaker.com.