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Preserving Flavors

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Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2010 9:56 pm | Updated: 10:18 pm, Sun Sep 26, 2010.

With this week's weather threatening to crack 100˚ for days in a row, nearly-ripe white Mokelumne Glen Vineyards Gewürztraminer was facing the very real possibility of raisining and damaging sunburn.

Even though the buyer of the Gewürz, Borra Vineyards winemaker, Markus Niggli, didn't think flavors were optimal, he called in the crew to save the grapes from over-cooking by picking them last Thursday.

In the cool of the morning, almost three-quarters of a ton were harvested and delivered to the winery in two bins. (By contrast, I was picturing a line of trucks carrying 20-ton grape loads waiting to be weighed-in at Woodbridge Winery.)

Since he'd be getting a smaller load than expected - now a common observation with the 2010 harvest - he deviated from his normal procedure by "chaining" his crush equipment together.

Rather than dumping all the whole clusters directly into the wine press, Markus hoped to get more juice from the batch by first crushing and destemming the grapes and then immediately spreading the crushed grapes into his press.

Such an unusual set-up meant that his two-man crew would spend more time getting the equipment ready and cleaning up afterwards than on crushing such a small quantity of grapes. These small lots drive cellar crews crazy, feeling like they didn't accomplish much for all their work.

Pre-crush, the Gewürz tasted, "Sweet. With a floral aspect," said Markus. The sugar came in at 23˚ Brix, with acid at 3.7 pH and lots of berries showing a reddish tint, explaining why the pressed juice was more brownish than the usual green tint of white wine juice.

With quality control in mind, I grabbed two wine glasses from the lab and scooped up enough juice collecting in the pan under the press to get a good taste. Markus assessed, "Slightly green. Tannins are there. TA is low. 3.75 pH. Will need acid. If I get a barrel and a half, I'll be happy."

Provided the Gewürz turns out nicely after a 3-week cool fermentation, "I hope to be able to put it into the Borra White Fusion again this year as 3-10% of the blend," said Markus.

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