Two Bees Wine

Sunday, January 28, 2007

It’s winter. The vines have long since shed their sunset of leaves, which crisped up and disintegrated with late fall rains, or were clipped and tossed unsentimentally into burn piles. Pruners, dots of yellow on misty hills in their rain slickers, tended to the vines' woody spines and arms in a coma during these cold months.

It’s a brown season at first, rows of spindly bark and rusty stakes in dirt. Eventually, clumpy fava bean plants, then vivid mustard, fill the void. These smiley-face yellow fields of February are as iconic to Wine Country as the lavender of Provence, and people who live here seem to emerge from their bleary hibernation simultaneously. We’re not too local or too oblivious to pull over for a photo to spruce up our cell phone wallpaper. Celebrations themed around mustard and olives foreshadow spring.

In the barrel and carboys clogging the entryway, our wine has been a passive household member. Our muddy boots and wet shoes dried next to the vessels. The cats paid them no mind at all despite initial worries they’d knock off the gurgling fermentation locks.

At Christmas, we passed around a glass of thieved wine for a toast and wondered how the alcoholic, port, and fruit tastes might evolve. I felt cautiously optimistic from its ruby color; Anthony declared it a future sweepstakes winner at the fair!

Topping off became a necessary and periodic activity. Though it pained us to do so, we added a half dozen foreign bottles of zin, 1 or 2 at a time, to counter the evaporation. A winemaker at Audelssa Winery who heard about our in-house storage guessed we’d been generous with our “angels’ share”; a toasty warm house with no humidity means high evaporation. The 4% non-house wine initially seemed drastic to us, but we’ve since made peace with the notion; next year we’ll have our own zin for topping off.

And finally, quietly, malolactic fermentation stopped. There were no more crackling sounds when we put an ear to the bung hole. The taste softened. A paper chromatography test confirmed that malic acid did indeed convert to lactic acid.

Next step: racking!


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