Pressing and Barreling Down the Pinot Noir
The last of the 2010 Pinot Noir is going into barrel today!
The grapes were picked the last couple weeks of September and had about a five day cold soak followed by 8-10 days of fermentation. When the fermentation was over (meaning the Pinot was dry which means no residual sugars as evidenced by a Brix reading of -1.5-ish), the Pinot was allowed to "free run" into a tank. After the free run was captured, the must was moved to the press where it was gently pressed over a two hour period to get the remaining wine from the must.
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With each press cycle there is an increase in pressure which means that as you taste the wine from each cycle, it tends to become sharper and more tannic but you also get a tiny bit of sugar from the berries and mid press run the wine is very soft and supple as a result. It was interesting to notice this year in all Pinot noir lots that the pressed wine was not picking up any green or sharp characters. Our guess is that the very long growing season let us reach optimal maturity so the tannins coming from the seeds were mature and not sharp. During the Pinot pressing, the flavors varied from soft strawberry to earthy and varied in color from a milky light purple/pink to a dark clear dark purple/red color. Depending on lot size and vineyard we go directly from the press to barrel, or sometimes let the wine settle for 24 hours, and then move to French oak barrels.
The process of going from the tank or press to barrel is called "barreling down." We used a combination of new, one year old, and neutral French oak barrels for the Pinot. It's really interesting in spring to compare the tastes between the different barrels and see how the wine is influenced by the quantity of oak that each barrel gives off. Alan chooses this mixed regimen of barrels to get the greatest variety and depth of flavor so that when he blends the barrels together before bottling the wine has greater complexity.
It is immensely satisfying to get the wines into barrel in such great shape. And this season, more than any we have seen, was a challenge for growers. We owe a huge debt to Warren Burton at Floodgate and Steve Alden at Perli Vineyard for the many sleepless nights and hard work it took to deliver such wonderful grapes.
Cheers, to them.