Today we tackled the Cabernet press and again, we were lucky enough to have Cousin John to help us. But that also meant two different presses as we are still in the throes of an interesting experiment. Andy and I are processing our Cab with UC Davis yeasts and modern methods. Cousin John, who we “paid” in grapes for his help with the crush, is defiantly Old Skool: sulfite-free, natural yeasts and keep the methodology as manual as possible. For instance, we use UC Davis college-educated yeasts for fermenting, while John trusts his grapes to leather jacket wearing, motorcycle riding, liquor store robbing wild local yeasts. (If you aren’t up to speed on this epic Battle of the Yeasts, read this.)

So our first task was to press Cousin John’s Cabernet, which meant dragging out all our old equipment including the old basket press.

Some would say the basket press extracts too much, including some astringency and herbaceous flavors. Not for Cousin John, he wanted to press to the last drop of liquid.

Some would say the basket press extracts too much, including some astringency and herbaceous flavors. Not Cousin John, he wanted to press to the last drop of liquid.

Contrast that with our new Italian bladder press. A rubber bladder inflates with water and gently presses out the juice from the must, and conveniently turns itself off when the pressure is getting too much for optimal flavor.

Plus the Italian bladder press has that elegant Mondrian color scheme!

Plus the Italian bladder press has that elegant Mondrian color scheme!

Meanwhile back at the Old Skool, it’s a complicated series of tubes, funnels and lots of manpower.

It takes two men and a terrier to handle this Rube Goldbergian system.

It takes two men and a terrier to handle this Rube Goldbergian system.

Meanwhile the kinder, gentler bladder press was considerably easier to man.

Meanwhile the kinder, gentler bladder press was considerably easier to man. But still required extensive hose-ery.

At this point, we took time out to taste the two different wines. Not surprisingly, even though they are both made from the same batch of grapes, two wildly different flavors.

Cousins John is very fruit-forward and a bit astringent. Ours is more subtle with darker fruit tones.

Cousin's John is very fruit-forward and a bit astringent. Ours is more subtle with darker fruit tones.

Thats cause John pressed the last ever loving drop of moisture out of his poor grapes.

That's 'cause John pressed the last ever loving drop of moisture out of his poor grapes.

But, we had to agree, both wines promise to be interesting in their own way.

And both are dark enough to stain a terriers feet purple.

And both are dark enough to stain a terrier's feet purple.

So with Cousin John’s wine in carboys and half our wine in a steel tank, we called it a day.

Well see how Cousin Johns delinquent yeasts make it through the next stage, malolactic fermentation.

We'll see how Cousin John's delinquent yeasts make it through the next stage, malolactic fermentation.

With a good day’s work behind us, we repaired to the barn for a well-deserved cassoulet. But first a check on the Mourvedre and Grenache blends we just put into oak.

Ah, the sweet music of wine gently bubbling in oak barrels.

Ah, the sweet music of wine gently bubbling in oak barrels.

Find more pictures of today’s activities here.

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