The harvest has finally begun. And as it happened last year, the Cinsault was the first of our varietals to ripen. Which is a good thing since we’ve planted very little of it. It’s a gentle beginning before the tons of Mourvedre, Grenache and Cabernet get going. Further good news is that we kind of know what we’re doing by this point. Or, at the least, we have better equipment. So up at the crack of dawn Sunday for the harvest. Just us two. And some terriers for comic relief.
A bit of background: Cinsault (pronounced San-So) is a traditional Rhone blending grape. I have seen one or two single varietal Cinsaults around Sonoma, but mostly, since it’s pretty sweet, it’s used to give a little balance to a Rhone blend that is mostly Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and/or Merlot. The predominate nose is supposed to be strawberry. I can tell you that was NOT the dominant aroma of last year’s Cinsault. But hey, the vines weren’t mature yet and we didn’t really know what we were doing. We have higher hopes for this year’s harvest.
Unlike the tiny tanniny berries on Cabernet vines, Cinsault bunches are big, fat and sassy. With an almost sweet flavor right off the vine.
Meanwhile, once at the crush pad:
So the bins are dropped off at the top of the crush pad. I sit on the concrete ledge here and drop the grapes, bunch by bunch, into the crusher/destemmer that you can just glimpse below. Andy then pours the crushed grapes into the big white primary fermentation vats, in the right of the picture.
After this point, Dr. Frankenwine retreated to his lab to do very complex things like testing acidity and calculating how much yeast and tartaric acid to add to the whole mix. It’s all a little beyond me, so that bit will have to wait until I can get the Mad Scientist to sit down and explain everything. Meanwhile, I discovered something alarming: a mouse invasion (the crush pad is outdoors after all.) Recently the mice had built a nest on the engine of the crusher/destemmer and one poor guy had crawled into an empty vat and died. Yes, all of these things were cleaned and disinfected before the crush! Although I’m told the French would just shrug and say “Eet ees thee terroir.” But this is America. So Andy devised an elaborate plastic and duct tape mouse barrier to go underneath the vat cover.
Oh, and all those stems that were separated from the grapes? Those go over the side of the hill for the deer. They love them!
More pictures of the Cinsault 2009 Harvest and Crush here.
This is great to follow. Thanks for taking the time to educate us readers. I’m clueless on wine. Can you please tell me what is a varietal?
I’m using the terms “variety” and “varietal” interchangeably, which isn’t exactly correct, unless, like in my case, you think of your vines in terms of the wines they will make.
We have four varieties of grape growing: Cinsault, Mourvedre, Grenache and Cabernet.
From those, we will make four varietal wines, or wines using predominantly only one type of grape (I think there is an actual percentage that you must reach to qualify as a varietal which is 100% if you are in France and 75% if you are in the US). So our varietals will be Cinsault, Mourvedre, Grenache and Cabernet.
Now since we’re never ones to know our limitations, we are going to venture forward making Rhone style wines which are always blends — which can be any of a number of different mixtures of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and several other Rhone-grown grapes. However, Grenache and Syrah are usually the foundation grapes (we didn’t plant Syrah since it was overplanted in Sonoma and we can buy the grapes cheaper than we can grow it.) Mourvedre, Cinsault and several other grapes are “blending grapes” which are used almost as flavorings or to balance out something that is lacking in the predominate grape that season. So once we blend those Mourvedre, Cinsault and Grenache varietals — perhaps with some Syrah — they will no longer be varietals (unless we do a blend with at least 75% of one of those grapes.)
The Cabernet, we’ll process as a varietal. In other words, a bottle will be labeled Two Terriers Cabernet and it will include 100% Cabernet (good enough for France.)
People are walking by my office wondering why I’m laughing — I blame Oscar.
Love these photos! Great post! Thanks 🙂