When the going gets tough, the tough winemaker makes rosé. Or something along those lines. We told you earlier how we were planning a panic harvest of the tenderer Mourvedre and Grenache ahead of this typhoon-driven rainstorm that was heading our way. We just made it, harvesting, crushing and securing the harvest into primary fermentation vats just hours before the big storm hit. We couldn’t have done it without my brother who, fortuitously, was here and devoted a vacation day to hard manual labor for no pay. Despite his heroic efforts, it still was a close call. We managed to scrounge up six vineyard workers to pick our harvest on their lunch break between “real jobs”. Not an easy task, given that every vineyard in Sonoma and Napa was in the same emergency mode that we were. That is unless you had Cabernet. Apparently Cabernet grapes are tough as old boots and — barring a storm of Biblical proportions with frogs, toads and fierce Prophets wielding burning bushes — can withstand just about anything.
But as I said, it was a close call. We had six Mexicans picking and three Anglos on the other end desperately trying to process enough grapes to keep shuttling empty picking bins back up to the vineyard. It wasn’t a fair fight. If it had been three Mexicans against six Anglos, it wouldn’t have been fair. Given that one Mexican can do the manual work of eight Anglos. And that’s a Mexican child. I’m telling you, these are the hardest working people on the planet. But somehow we managed to do it.
Then, just before the storm hit, Andy decided it would be a great thing to do something we’d never done and make rosé. Blame it on the glycol chiller he just bought. We’re very equipment-driven here.
So here’s how you make rosé using the saignee method — the only method allowable in France for fine rosé. If it’s good enough for the French, it’s good enough for Two Terrier Vineyards. Saignee literally means “bleed” or”bled”. And that’s what you do:
Typically, you allow the juice to have only a few hours contact with the skins before bleeding it. But with the barometric pressure and the temperature dropping dramatically, we ended up not getting to the process until the juice had been on the skins overnight.
The next morning between the rain gusts, with our trusty hose systems, we siphoned off about a 25 gallon mixture of the Mourvedre and the Grenache into a steel tank and dropped in the glycol chiller to bring the temperature down to 31 degrees.
We returned today, removed the glycol chiller and racked the baby rose into a new tank for fermentation. A few sips told us the juice is tasting really really good. Too early to get excited about it, but it’s a good benchmark, since, if it isn’t good now, it isn’t going to get better.
Let the winemaking begin!
A note on an earlier point: yes, you can make rosé from a variety of grapes. Grenache is a traditional one, but we thought, since we were experimenting, we might as well blend.