Tag Archives: Winemaking

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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Cruising the Finger Lakes, NY

Continuing on the Finger Lakes theme from last week’s post, this week I wanted report on a recent trip to the area.  I spent a total of 3 days in the region driving around and getting to know the area again.

One thing that I can say for sure is that it is an incredibly relaxing place to spend time.  Even in the “cold” by California standards, it was nice to bundle up and sit on an Adirondack chair overlooking Canandaigua Lake at my hotel.

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The first day in the area I was shocked to see zero snow on the ground particularly after the well documented epic snows in Buffalo recently.  However, one thing has not changed about the weather in upstate NY and that is if you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes and it will change.  The next day brought 12 inches of snow while I was otherwise occupied inside.

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One of the most exciting places that I visited was the relatively new New York Wine and Culinary Center which did not exist when I lived in the area almost 9 years ago.  The place is fantastic and very homey with an excellent restaurant upstairs called “The Bistro”.  I had the pulled pork sandwich which was so good it would make any Southerner stop to check that they were indeed outside of the South.  It came with house made chips (the American kind) and a carrot based slaw.

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I paired it with the Ravines 2011 Pinot Noir which confirmed all of my suspicions that Pinot Noir has a place in the future of the Finger Lakes.   The Center itself is split into two stories, the top being taken up by the Bistro and the bottom housing an information center, gift shop and wine shop.  I visited the later and stocked up with a Chateau Frank Sparkling Wine, Hermann J Wiemer Dry Riesling, Zugibe Gewurztraminer, and a bottle of the above Pinot Noir that I was so enamored with.  In the gift shop, I found a book, recommended by my server in the Bistro, by Evan Dawson called Summer in a Glass highlighting the movers and shakers of the Finger Lakes.  It is a lovely read and I devoured most of it on the flight back.  I was excited to see some of my former class mates and colleagues mentioned as well as some of my previous winemaking mentors and some that were new to me entirely.  I highly recommend getting it if you are looking for more information about the region and it was clear that Dawson has the upmost respect and sincere personal relationships with each and everyone of his subjects.

I finished off with a visit to my old winery home, Thirsty Owl Wine Company, for the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail Christmas party.  It is refreshing to find that even after all my time in California, I still think that my former boss and now friend, winemaker and vineyard manager, Shawn Kime, is a genius with Riesling.  The Thirsty Owl Dry Riesling is delicious and I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at the 2014 Rieslings as well as the Gewurztraminer and Traminette (which actually smells and tastes a lot like Torrontes).

It was a fantastic trip which made me want to make sure to have time on my calendar soon to go visit some of the winemakers in Dawson’s book as well as some of my other friends in the area.