Tag Archives: Cabernet Sauvignon

Harvest 2015: Weeks 1-3, Meanwhile Back in New York…

It was a year ago today that the earth shook at 3:15 am and I turned to my husband and said “That’s it! I’m ready to go home now.” After seeing twitter light up over a 4.3 or so quake in Oakland last week I’m reminded to be grateful that I’m on much more stable ground this harvest in more ways than one.

At the first of last year’s harvest posts, I was musing that I may need to add a week 0 to the round of posts and this year I definitely would have needed that week as much of California got off to a fast start at the end of July for one of the earliest harvests on record. (Unfortunately I am unable to link last year’s week 1 post since it has been deleted some how…)  This was largely due to a very warm January and February which led to an early bud break.   This has been another drought year and the fires have been terrible this year. I hope that the rumors of it not impacting the vineyards have been true.  Having lived through selling the 2008 wines of Alexander Valley, I know it can be problematic.  I have heard rumors of 25 and 26 Brix Cabernet Sauvignon in some areas meaning that everything is coming ripe (at least sugar wise) around the same time.  I shutter to think about the amount of water which will go into the fruit this year to try to tame the rapidly climbing brix.

Meanwhile, back in New York…

 Cabernet Franc on Keuka Lake

After one of the coldest winters on record which included snow on Easter this year, we are getting back on track after a season which has spent much of the year behind.  We saw 7-8 inches of rain in June with only 8 days in the entire month without rain.  We are accustomed to rain here but that was pretty intense.  One grower stated that he didn’t get a chance to get off the tractor on the clear days when he could get into the vineyards.  The good news is that the growers out here are used to the wet stuff and I have seen very little mildew issues.  The remainder of the summer has been lovely.  We’ve flirted with 90 a few days this month but the majority have been a very nice 75-85 range for the highs and most nights are cool enough for the windows to stay open.  We are still waiting for veraison in Cabernet Franc but Lemberger (aka Blaufrankish to the rest of the world) was turning about 2 weeks ago.  Most of the vinfera fruit will be ready to harvest in October and we won’t get started with Natives and  Hybrids until the end of this month.  While California is looking at another harvest spread over 3 months, I’m enjoying the last days of summer and looking forward to smelling the first fall mornings sometime next month.

A friend’s Riesling vineyard overlooking Cayuga Lake

I’m also frantically trying to get my Visa for China and can’t wait to see what that harvest will be like.  Hopefully it will oblige with a late September harvest which will put me back in New York just in time for the vinifera varieties to be harvested.

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).
IMG_1344.JPG

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.

IMG_1345.JPG

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.