What happens when winemakers combine science with nature's given course? That's what 40 wine experts aimed to find out Tuesday at a Juice and Wine Phenolics seminar presented by Steven Price of ETS Laboratories.
Five red wines were poured and waiting at each seat as winemakers, grapegrowers and industry consultants took their places in the Estate Crush Tasting Room.
Estate Crush, a custom crushing and winemaking business on Lockeford Street, holds four seminars a year with ETS Laboratories to teach winemakers how and when to analyze their grapes, juice and wine to make best use of the information.
"Information is power," said Bob Colarossi, who owns Estate Crush along with his wife, Ali and Nick and Sandy Sikeotis. "The more information you have about your wine, at every stage, the better wine you are going to produce."
Price wants to help winemakers make informed decisions at all stages of production.
"Winemakers are asking, 'How can I move my product in a new direction?' We're about turning sophisticated analytical tools into practical tools for wineries," said Price.
Price explained how tannins and other indicators can be used to change the life of a wine.
For example, in an expensive red wine, consumers expect high tannin levels so the wine has room to age.
A cheaper wine might have fewer tannins so it can be enjoyed the same day of purchase.
Does your vineyard have high tannins in its future? Take a look. Small, stressed berries and lots of sun and air exposure are the first signs of high tannin levels.
Testing at ETS Labs picks up on these signs even earlier so that winemakers have time to make changes.
Sending in juice or wine samples at different stages of growth can act like snapshots. It takes about a pound of grapes to get enough information to guide growing, harvesting and processing choices.
"You're creating control by controlling the direction," said Price.
The depth of information put some winemakers in over their heads.
"Some of it was a little hard to interpret, but it really makes you think about how I use tannins, especially with harvest coming up," said Andrea Maley, of Wild Rose Vineyard.
Heather Pyle, winemaker and consultant, said Lodi growers and winemakers are starting to think more in terms of putting vineyard and grape data to work.
"At least the thinking is there. It's so difficult to do anything but maximize tonnage. Until you know you can make a living at it, you just hang as much as you can," Pyle said.
Winemaker Victoria Pouches will apply the day's lessons to the vast fields of Cabernet at Stamas Winery.
"He gave us a lot of information on what to look for in a vineyard to get what we want, that balance between the grapes and the end product," she said.
Estate Crush partners with ETS Laboratories to provide a drop box for wine samples. If a sample of grapes, juice or wine gets to the box before 10 a.m., the results could be emailed by that evening, depending on the test.
Plans are in motion to create a satellite laboratory on site, which could lead to even faster result times and more extensive testing.
The next seminar will be in December, and is open to wine industry members. More information can be found at www.estate crush.com.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.