Thursday, December 10, 2009

Young Oak Vineyards: Volume 49 - Stirring The Lees!

Hi all:

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a great turkey meal, accented by a couple of glasses of my home brewed Cabernet that I was able to pull during the last racking! I may be bias, but I thought it is pretty good!

After Thursday, we had a nice "stay at home", long weekend. And just when I thought everything was on automatic pilot in the wine making department, and just like my primary fermentation process, my malolactic fermentation seems to be stuck.

It turns out that you have to "Stir the Lees", the fine lees that settle to the bottom of the container, along with the maloactic bacteria in dormant lump. Also, my cellar (aka: my crawl space) is too cool, from 55-65 degrees, when we should be around 72 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 13-20 degrees versus 22 degrees Celsius for all you metric folk).

So, after ineffectually trying to shake my 5 gallon jug of wine, I bought a food-grade, long handled, narrow plastic spoon used in beer making, as recommended by the folks at MoreFlavor! (formerly Fermentation Frenzy), four bucks ($4 US). So now I can reach the bottom of my 5 gallon carboy and stir up the fine lees (clumps of malolactic bacteria cells, tiny bits of grape skins & other solids).

In the old days they used a long wooden stick ("baton"), but wood can carry unwanted bacteria, which can reek havoc with wines. I have read some winemakers stir weekly, some monthly and the commercial guys automate stirring by storing their oak barrels on roller racks, which can be rotated automatically. Let's try it twice a month and see how that goes!

It was pretty warm a few weeks ago, the last hurrah of Indian Summer, but now it is turning pretty cold. Did you see the snow on the hills this morning! So I am trying to get things a bit warmer down in the cellar, to hopefully finish the malolactic fermentation. I hope you stay warm on these cool autumn evenings as winter quickly approaches!

From down in my cold wine cellar,


P.S. - Miriam Bach, our German exchange student, was almost trampled to death by our herd of pygmy goats in their avarice rush to eat the weeds in the vineyard! See the heroic video below of her near death experience!


  1. Thanks for your informative and cheerful blog! I'm looking forward to learning more about winemaking from you. I've found aging wine in the bilges of my boat is terrific for them - Stable, cool temperature, gentle rocking - Stirring the lees, as you say.
    - Jerr

  2. Hey Jerr:

    I'm passing this on to my brother, Mike, who has a boat. He is planning on planting grapes in Nevada this spring. However, his boat is in Puerto Rico, where I think it might be a bit too warm for aging. If he moves his boat to California, he may need to visit you after all the hurricane damage & day-to-day wear & tear!

    Best of luck in the New Year!

  3. Thank you, John! I enjoyed a summer in Puerto Rico in '96 and have fond memories of lying on deck, looking at the most wonderful night sky with no moon with half a dozen flamenco guitars. Thanks for bringing back that memory. I gladly travel for work and deliver. If your brother has an y questions, I'm happy to give thorough, professional advice on my blog at, as well. It's kind of you to pass my information to Mike.
    Thanks again and Merry Christmas!
    - Jerr