Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Young Oak Vineyards: Volume 48 - Oakiness

Hi all:

Hey, one last thing in all these "starts & stops" of our wine making process. How do you get oak flavor from a glass carboy container during aging, you ask? Well, as I mentioned many, many posts ago (my second actually), Professor Singleton of the University of California - Davis had devised the use of wood oak cubes, while fermenting wine in large stainless tanks to get the flavor of the "Tannins" that one gets from aging in oak barrels.

By the way, that word tannin comes from the Old High German tanna for tree, you know like... "O' Tannenbaum, o' tannenbaum, how lovely are your branches..."! And there are several kinds of oak that have distinctive flavors. Our American grown oak barrels help impart that wonderful vanilla flavor you get in many of our California Chardonnays.

Well, during the malolactic process, it is suggested to add oak cubes when using a container that is not made of oak. Not only does it give you the oak flavor, but it offers the malolactic bacteria a place to hide. You can buy a package of little oak cubes (1/2"x 3/4"x 1") as you can see in my picture above. They have even calculated the total surface of a cube versus the one inside surface of an oak barrel, so yo know how much to use.

So things will be chuggin' along until Christmas, when we will do our second racking. Enjoy the approaching holiday season!

From down in the wine cellar,
John

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Young Oak Vineyards: Volume 47 - Malolactic Fermentation

Hi all:

So, now we are in a "stop" mode! Freshly fermented wine has malic acids in it that have a sour taste like you would find in the tartness of sour apples. In "Malolactic Fermentation" (not really a fermentation process, since it does not produce alcohol), special bacteria convert the sour malic acids in wine to better tasting lactic acids, the kind of acids you would find in fermented milk (i.e.: yogurt, keifer, etc.). Lactic acid also has a better "mouthiness" feel to it that winemakers & wine drinkers prefer!

There are naturally occurring Lactobacillus bacteria found on grapes, but winemakers don't like to rely on just the possibility of the malolactic fermentation occurring. So after our first racking, we have inoculated our wine with the appropriate bacteria from our friends down at MoreFlavor! (formerly Fermentation Frenzy). Part of the malolactic process is the production of CO2 gas, so we should see a bit more bubbling out of the Air-Lock Bungs!

We are allowing the malolactic fermentation to occur for three or four weeks. And the next racking is planned for the week before Christmas, so we are really in the home stretch now! But I am really tempted to pull a glass or two out for Thanksgiving dinner!

We hope you all have a truly wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends. Our best wishes to you & yours!

John

Friday, November 20, 2009

Young Oak Vineyards: Volume 46 - Rackin' the Lees

Hi all:

The wine making process does have its "starts" & "stop! So, starting at about 48 hours after pressing, the wine should be "Racked" to remove the "Gross Lees". The Gross Lees are all the dead yeast cells, tiny bits of grape skins and other solids that have settled down to the bottom of the Carboy container after Pressing. And Racking involves siphoning off the wine from one container to another leaving the Gross Lees behind to be discarded, which you can see me doing into my kitchen sink.

I read in one source about pressing the Gross Lees to get more wine volume, but the volume of my Gross Lees is only a couple of quarts with a liquid component of a cup or two. And the reason you want to remove the Gross Lees is because the yeast cells and other solids are organic matter that can start to decay and give you foul off flavors & odors!

During the first Racking, the siphon tube should be place near the top of the new container so that the wine flows down the surface of the Carboy, which you can see happening in the picture to the left. This allows for aeration of the wine one last time. Depending who you talk to, Racking is done several more times, at intervals of at least three weeks. However, unlike the first Racking, the siphon tube is placed at the bottom of the new container to avoid aeration of the wine.

The next "start" is malolactic fermentation, but we'll save that for next time!

Here's to "Beaujolais Nouveau" for Thanksgiving!
John

P.S. - Hey, Young Oak Vineyards Honey will be available at MoreFlavor! (formerly Fermentation Frenzy) right next to Armadillo Wille's, while it lasts!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Young Oak Vineyards: Volume 45: Trivia Question - What Is A Carboy ?!

Well, according to WIKIPEDIA a "Carboy" is:

... from the Persian qarabah (قرابه), or from the Arabic qarraba, meaning "a big jug". You know those 5 gallon water bottles at the office water cooler. Well, for you youngin's, they used to made out of glass, and many a conversation was had around them about office politics, gossip, maybe even about work!

But I digress! Now that the "Primary Fermentation" is now finally over, the next step in our adventure is to "Press" the "Must", removing the "Pomace" (grape skins, bit of stems, solids, etc.). This is done with a wine press of which there are many different designs, like this old beauty below (not mine).


The juice that flows freely through the press without any pressing is called "Free Run". Many winemakers think that the Free Run makes a superior wine and there are those who think pressing offers some additional complex flavors to the wine. Well, I have both. I was able to collect 5 gallons of Free Run separately from 3 gallons of pressed wine, which I squeezed thru a gauge mesh.

After pressing, I transferred the wine into glass carboys. The other choice is an oak barrel, which I am leaving until I know what I am doing and will discuss in a later post. Finally, we placed an ingenious stopper contraptions, an"Air-Lock Bung", on the carboy opening, which allows CO2 gases to escape, but not allow atmospheric air to get back in. Now we can let things settle down a bit.

It ain't vinegar yet!
John