All posts by NovaCadamatre

Unified Symposium 2015: It’s All About Strategy

This Tuesday, the world of wine in the US all converges on Sacramento, CA for the annual Unified Wine and Grape Symposium. I haven’t personally been to Unified in several years. It, for some reason, ended up conflicting directly with the Master of Wine Residential seminar and (for those of you who have followed my journey through the MW) I’m sure you can guess what won. That being said if you plan to attend Unified this year, even if it is just the trade show portion I recommend coming with a strategy for navigating the show. It’s all about strategy.

I’m excited about this year’s programming. I’ve signed up for the entire show starting with the Keynote Speaker Luncheon on Tuesday given by the President of Jackson Family Wines, Rick Tigner. It looks like an incredibly fun talk going over important issues such as constraints of label growth, foreign market opportunities, and sustainability challenges and costs. After that I am torn between a Marketing/ PR session entitled “Content is King” and a Winemaking session focused on achieving quality in “Lower-Brix” wines. I sense that will be a game day decision.
Tuesday is the easy day to plan since the talks are not competing with the trade show. This by itself would take up the entirety of the remaining two days if you really needed to talk to a lot of the vendors who come to pedal there wares. It’s very much like an industry Bazar with unexpected treasures lurking around every corner. Need a new barrel washer? Why yes, maybe I do? A discounted subscription to Wine Business Monthly? Sign me up! A T-shirt that proclaims “I like to Wine” in sparkly rhinestones that would make any 80s bedazzler fan proud? They have that too. Tackling the trade show is all about strategy. Who do you want to see really? What are your top 2 things you need to look for? Add at least an hour and a half for talking with people you randomly run into and haven’t seen in years because that WILL happen.

Wednesday morning is dominated by the State of the Industry address. It is a not to be missed panel featuring what’s hot and what’s not in the industry right now. The afternoon is broken up into a series of very tempting talks and the ever present hum of the Trade Show ( You know, I really would like to see that Shaker Table!) after which comes a Regional Wine tasting because up until this point there really hasn’t been enough wine at this wine industry event. After that, of course, comes the ever popular Alumni and “Friends” gatherings of Fresno State and UC Davis. Oh, Cal Poly has joined the party as well! (Mental note to see if we can organize something for Cornell next year…)
Thursday tends to be more low key. Many of the suppliers start packing up early so if you want to go check out the latest in Stainless contraptions it’s best to go early but if you got all that done yesterday perhaps you want to listen to how to “Future Proof” your buisness. With a great panel of speakers covering a dire set of predictions (no water, no labor, high energy costs, earthquakes, fires, floods, freezes, locusts, plagues… Ok I added those last two) this could be very interesting.

After lunch I’m torn again between another marketing session focused on “Craft” and opportunities for the wine industry ( I sense an MW exam question in the making here) and Sustainability Certifications in a Global Market. (Darn you organizers! Why must you put so many intriguing topics all at the same time!!! Oh look, a new optical sorter! Shiny!!!)

You get the picture. It’s madness. It’s crowded. It’s fun. It’s educational. It’s where anyone remotely interested in wine should be this week. Just make sure you have a game plan, bring a back pack for all the random papers and pamphlets you’ll pick up and don’t get distracted by the shiny objects.

See you there!

Cold Soaks and Color Extraction: My Observations

When the blog “The Wine-o-scope” posted this post, “The value of cold soaks for red winemaking” last week I was intrigued.  Having done extensive phenolic analysis for several years with a few different red varieties, I always like to see what other people are finding.   When I say extensive, I mean extensive.  At my previous job, we would run phenolic analysis by Adams-Harbertson assay every day for EVERY high end red during fermentation.  This was mainly Cabernet Sauvignon but also included Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  We also looked at Pinot Noir just for the fun of it but we determined that the rules that govern phenolic extraction in Bordeaux varieties just don’t apply to Pinot Noir and left that sleeping dog lie.  The timing of anthocyanin and tannin extraction still applies in Pinot Noir but I’ve found through my experience that the best analysis of Pinot Noir is still tasting it frequently.

Here is the reality of things based on real world, non research based experience.  In Bordeaux varieties a cold soak absolutely increases color extraction, particularly with extensive cap management, vs tanks with little to no cold soak.  It does not increase tannin extraction because tannins don’t really start coming into the solution of the wine until a reasonable amount of alcohol has built up.

Take a look at this Cabernet Fermentation below… (My apologies upfront for not being able to figure out how to import an Excel graph into my post).
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You can see that at the point fermentation has started there is already close to 400 ppm of Anthocyanins extracted in the fermentation.  This is after a 6 day cold soak with significant cap management.  You’ll also notice that it is not until day 4 of fermentation (around 15 Brix) that we are able to detect any tannin extraction.  This could be ANY Bordeaux variety fermentation.  They all follow the same pattern.  Just for fun, here is a Merlot graph from the same vintage, same vineyard, and same general area of the vineyard with fermentation starting within a day of the Cab above.

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Aside from noticeably less anthocyanin and tannin content at dryness (because it is Merlot after all) the pattern of extraction is pretty much the same.  Cab Franc is the same pattern as well.

Once one looks at enough of these numbers daily one doesn’t really even need the graph anymore.  You just know what’s going on.

As far as the dangers of cold soak go, yes you do see an increase in other organisms and yes, you do occasionally get the random “wild” fermentation if you push the cold soak over 5 days.  Also, if the fruit is not clean coming in the risk increases so sorting is essential to a clean and healthy cold soak.  Dry Ice is your friend at this point and should be used liberally.

To me the true value of the cold soak is the period you are guaranteed to be extracting color without extracting tannin.  Can you extract the same amount of color without a cold soak?  Of course, but be prepared to have much higher tannin levels at dryness as well since you will be working the cap harder during the time of fermentation when both are extractable.

That’s just my opinion and again, this was not in a research but in real winery experience with no controls.  Take it for what it is worth.

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Moving Back to the Finger Lakes

Happy New Year Everyone!  What is a new year without new changes?  This year is no different.

On June 21, 2006, my husband and I drove across the California state line on the final leg of our move from upstate New York to California. We will shortly be doing the reverse.

As of March 2015, I will be leaving my position at Robert Mondavi Winery and my family and I will be relocating back to the Finger Lakes region of New York State.  This was not a decision that was made on the spur of the moment but one that has been thought out carefully over the past few months.  I have started writing this blog post at least 10 times trying to figure out the best way to explain this decision which I’m sure may sound strange to many people.

The number one reason that we have decided to make this move has nothing to do with wine.  My husband and I feel that it is critical that we move back to be closer to our families which still all reside on the East Coast.  Nothing is more important in our lives than family and we want our son to be able to grow up knowing them and being able to see them without us being at the mercy of the ever more expensive airline companies.  The absolute freedom that comes with being able to drive to see family whenever we feel the need is one that we have missed over the 8 and a half years we have been in California and something that we are extremely excited to be able to experience again.

Secondly, I believe with every fiber of my being that the Finger Lakes has huge potential to become a world-class winemaking region and both my husband and I want to be a part of making that dream a reality.  It does not take long to fall in love with a region and a terroir.  After only a few months living there, my heart was lost to those dramatic expanses of water carved into Devonian era shale eons ago by ice.  Even the beauty of Napa could not compete for us against the lush green foliage and bright blue skies of a summer in the Finger Lakes.  It is not an easy place to make great wine.  The winters are one of the harshest for wine on the planet. The summers are humid and are breeding grounds for any number of fungal diseases that prefer to prey on grapevines.  The ground heaves stones every spring to snarl tractors. I am not under any illusions that it will be easy but I want a chance to try and make a difference.

I am very excited about moving back to the area that I was trained in.  I have learned so much from my time in California.  We have made friends that will be missed and we will be leaving teams of colleagues that we have enjoyed working with.  We will be leaving a house which has only just been finished, in a little town which had started to feel like home. For me, the hardest to swallow is that I will be leaving the opportunity to work with such amazing fruit from To Kalon, a vineyard which I have learned to become a part of so quickly.  However, while there is sadness in these things, I know the opportunities and the excitement of building a new life in a familiar area will prevail.  I am excited about my parents driving up to help us move in to our new house at the end of March.  Europe is only a 5 hour flight away! I can use my snowshoes again! We can hike waterfalls without having to drive very far away.  A world of opportunities that I could only dream of in California are now only a few short months away.

I’ve already signed up for the Wine Bloggers Conference which will be held in Corning, NY this August.  I fully intend to continue this blog and will chronicle our move in addition to continuing the coverage of winemaking and travel.  I’m looking forward to being part of the Finger Lakes community again! Come visit if you get the chance.  The area is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful on the planet (not that I’m biased) and was just named to the Top 10 Wine Destinations by Wine Enthusiast Magazine so I’m not alone in my love for the area.

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