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Delicate Winemaking at Estate Crush

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Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 4:29 pm

One of Lodi's most beautiful vineyards is a little 10-acre patch of Viognier planted by Steve Borra back in 1999 north of the town of Lockeford. Half circled by the Mokelumne River 7 feet below, the vines look like perfect hedge rows, sunken on their own shelf, isolated 40 feet under the rest of Borra's Gill Creek Ranch.

Monday was the day to pick the vineyard's Rhône-style late-ripening golden clusters not only for the Borra Vineyards winery, but also for Jessie's Grove. A crew of about 10 began filling lugs at 7 a.m. under a thin layer of cooling river mist as the sun rose.

Viognier is known for producing extremely floral wines, filled with honeysuckle, golden apple, and apricot. But to capture this full spectrum of aromas, the grapes must be handled delicately.

Taking advantage of new, high-end winemaking equipment and expertise, Borra's winemaker, Markus Niggli, selected Estate Crush in downtown Lodi to process his prized Viognier.

Over the next 2 days, Brandon Herrmann and Oscar Ortiz of the Estate Crush cellar team, headed by new resident winemaker Matthew Ridge, will go about filling their specialized, air-inflated bladder press with nine 2-ton loads, working through over 17 tons of Viognier clusters to gently extract juice.

This juice will then be slow-fermented with its own native yeast at 55˚ F over the course of 2-3 weeks. By mid-February, Markus will have Matthew's team blend in Gewürztraminer to create Borra's 2010 White Fusion, chill it down to near freezing to make sure it won't make crystals in the bottle, and filter it to be ready for bottling.