Two Bees Wine

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fermentation Update:

Living in Sonoma County has allowed intimate snapshots of Crush. We might luck upon a winery in action, and watch a bladder press squeeze purple rain out its belly. At Navarro Vineyards in Andersen Valley, they let us sip a wine glass of this first run juice -- ruddy, hazy, and wincingly acidic. We've donned plastic gloves running past our elbows, as though about to birth a calf, and plunged them into massive bins of fermenting grapes. It demonstrated extreme internal temperature variations between the chilly newly pressed mash and the warm batch just a few days more rested.

Tracking and living the maturation process is completely new. It rewards because development unfolds daily, strikingly. While photos offer the only proof that our new kitten doubled, then tripled, in size after a couple of months, the grapes can't hide their flux.

Ours began as heavy berries, densely packed in plump clusters. No doubt they were shocked at the rough treatment they received after picking, when their stems were yanked away mechanically, haphazardly and imperfectly leaving bits of stem and leaf. They were still mostly identifiable as grapes, not juice. After the shock of the day, they slept, exhausted, pressing in on themselves. Later, at the first punch downs, the raft of pulpy fruit floated atop an ever-accumulating pool of liquid.

Temperatures in our bins have stayed fairly steady and warm. But the drama lies in the brix levels. We need the sugars to disappear, for the yeast to consume them. In 5 days they've gone from about 30 brix to last night's dip to 11-12, a slide of about 3-4 degrees per day.

Telltale foam also captures the wonders of fermentation. The first couple of days of punch down yields some gurgling, much like a baby's lazy dribbles. And then, as the grapes start to surrender their precious juice, the suds kick in, a vibrant magenta bath.

The bins look almost rabid with froth, as the puncher sloshes what's left of the solids. They're now so laden with juice that it's easy to whip up the cap, and care must be taken to avoid spashing the ink overboard (though there's some nobility to this stain on one's jeans or sneakers).

The yeast's sugar feast has calmed considerably, the salivation subsiding and subtle. We don't know yet when it'll be time for the next phase -- pressing. But the oak barrel we just moved onto the terra cotta tile in the entryway, an upgrade from the plastic, awaits. Posted by Picasa


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