Tin Barn Vineyards | Amy Tsaykel

Posts Tagged ‘artisanal’

Aging: Of Bears & Barrels

In Uncategorized on 12/10/2009 at 6:37 pm

“Hibernation is a covert operation for more overt action.” ~Ralph Ellison

Wine in hibernation...

Seasonally speaking, late fall is the ideal time to lay things away to rest–from luscious jams and jellies to delicate plants and shiny bicycles. Wild animals know this, fattening themselves well before toddling away for hibernation.

It makes sense, then, that this is also the time when winemakers rack their must, or fermenting juice, into cooperage for a long winter’s nap. Much like tucking in a newborn, it’s a careful process.

It begins when the winemaker has deemed the initial fermentation complete, and drains the tank of juice. This is not merely a matter of opening a valve: “Digout” is a laborious effort to completely empty the tank of all skins and organic matter. It not only requires a pick and shovel, but plenty of elbow grease!

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Punchdown: Mixing It Up

In Uncategorized on 10/20/2009 at 4:22 pm

Now in the throes of harvest season, winemaker Mike Lancaster is constantly in the cellar. Lately I’ve noticed he’ll leave in the morning and return a couple of times throughout the course of a day. Gracious, I thought. Is he making wine or nursing a newborn in the ICU? What could require such constant attention?

“Punchdown,” he explained. 

Oh. I had no idea what that meant.

I’d witnessed a bit of the winemaking process firsthand.  For starters, I knew that it was nothing like this:

I’d first observed the Pinot Noir crush. Then, when the Syrah grapes came in from Coryelle Fields in northern Sonoma County, I’d stood with Mike and his business partner, Gray Fowler, as several tons of ripe fruit were squeezed to a beautiful, smoky-sweet pulp. But that was just the beginning.

Syrah crush: view from up above

Syrah crush: view from up above

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Happy Accidents

In Uncategorized on 09/29/2009 at 8:10 pm

Lately I have been thinking about imperfection–in people, in art, in life, and (of course) in wine. When is it a detriment, and when is it actually an asset?

This all arose  when, the other day at the winery, I opened and (eek!) served a bottle of corked wine. Cork taint occurs when  2,4,6 trichloroanisole–a chemical found in many pesticides and wood preservatives–infects a cork and causes wine to taste and smell of damp newspaper.

Cork tree (Quercus suber)

Cork tree (Quercus suber)

I’d discerned cork taint before, but this time missed it. Was my head cold to blame, or did I just make a rookie mistake? Either way, by the time a customer–who happened to be a veteran winemaker–sniffed it out, I’d sold 18 bottles of the stuff to eager buyers, none of whom noticed any problem.

This begs the question: In this instance, was cork taint such a bad thing? Tin Barn winemaker Mike Lancaster doesn’t cut himself much slack.  “In the end,” he says, “a flaw is still a flaw.”

Reassuring. And certainly this modus operandi rules the Tin Barn cellar–a spotless and well-kept workplace. But I wonder if a flaw can also simultaneously be a benefit?

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