Whatever anyone tells you about the romance of winemaking, let me set the record straight. At least 90% of it is cleaning equipment and moving liquid from one container to another. Again and again and again.
This weekend we took our 2006 Syrah out of oak barrels and transferred it back into stainless steel tanks where it will sit awhile before bottling. Of course that necessitates buckets of sulfite solution, power washers, loads of hoses and screaming terriers who view all spraying water as something to be killed immediately.
The whole process also tested the limits of our jerryrigged winemaking operation. It’s pretty amazing that we can process a ton of grapes through all the many stages of winemaking with only two people, but our workflow is in serious need of a re-engineering. (You can see from the look on Andy’s face in the picture above that this hose and chewing gum thing is getting a little old.)
Despite all these handicaps, the results are pretty impressive, especially for the portion of the wine that we aged the longest in a new Hungarian oak barrel. This is significant as Hungarian oak is a fraction of the price of French oak and in this experiment the oak from the Land of Liszt beat out our French oak barrel by a long margin. Maybe it wasn’t actually a fair experiment as the Hungarian oak was new and the wine in it stayed there longer while the French oak was actually a re-cooped barrel (meaning it was an older barrel that had been scraped on the inside to give it an extended life.) The point of all this? No matter what you spend on grapes and equipment, it’s the cost of the oak barrels that will break you. The Holy Grail is to find something that isn’t French oak that works just as well. But, as I remember from my high school chemistry, an experiment is only valid when you only change one variable and we’ve probably changed three for each of the four barrels of wine.
That would also include the tail-end of the crush where Andy thought he needed to oil up the press. That lead to what we thought was a hefty dose of WD-40 going into the last few gallons of our wine. Luckily we were able to isolate this from the rest of the wine that we’d already processed. However, what we’ve been affectionately calling our “Crank Case Wine” showed no odd aftertaste. Hey, it’s all part of the terroir.
Check out these pictures on Flickr of our latest wine processing.