For some time now, DH and I have talked about 'starting a winery' together. This prospect has been met with equal parts enthusiasm & evasion. "So you're buying a vineyard?", inquisitive loved ones inquired. The reality of starting a winery is far smaller scale than that.
In fact it amounted to two half T-bins of tiny-berried, Clone 76 Chardonnay from the Manchester Ridge Vineyard in the Mendocino Ridge A.V.A. in Mendocino, Ca.
The sum of the pick amounted to not even a full ton but .93 ton; a whisper of a start by any man's measure.
Since this is entirely our own project, we quickly realized we would need all our own equipment (i.e. racks, bungs, topping keg, ect.) so we made a quick trip to Napa Valley Fermention Supply. NVFS has been in business just shy of 30 years and is an institution to professionals and amateurs alike. We purchased the needed supplies and what ensued was one of our great follies.
Barrel racks are a relatively easy thing to transport, unless of course your transportation is a Toyota Corolla. Ever the MacGyver and never one to take 'NO' for an answer, DH rigged a bungee cord under the roof of the trunk and around the barrel rack and like that, we were off...verrry sloooowly, back to the winery and back to a fair amount of ridicule. These are our humble beginnings.
After the great jura-chablis debate, we agreed to foot-tread half the lot in order to impart some of that Jura-like, tannic complexity without overdoing it. This ancient process allows the grape skins to have contact with the grape juice before going through the press.
An hour or so later, the lot drops into the press and goes thru a 90 minute, washing machine-like cycle to ensure all the juice is extracted from the grapes. The first part to pass thru is called 'free run', or the juice produced from the foot-tread experiment.
Next comes the light run, typically the sweetest juice of the lot as it is from the berries with the thinnest skin.
The longer the press runs, the more intense the juice becomes, due to longer contact with the seeds, skin & stems. Some winemakers opt to keep each of these press cycles separate but we are opting to keep the lot together for the entire life cycle of the wine.
Once the cycle finishes, the pressed wine is transported to neutral French Oak barrels to begin fermentation. We opted to use neutral oak because it does not impart the flavors of new oak but it does allow the wine to breathe (unlike stainless steal fermentation tanks).
And that, in a nutshell, is how you start a winery!
Stay tuned for more!...