Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tank Vacancy & Pre-Turkey Day Topping

The cellar is an eerie place these days. Its spotless, vacant walkways lined with hollow tanks give no indication of the furious activity this very space beheld just a couple of weeks ago. The action is outside now and the crew continues as though nothing much has changed. It’s as though we are all in on this little secret that was the hectic harvest and now we continue at a normal pace as though this is how it’s always been. But I guess that’s just how life is. We share a meaningful moment with others and it feels like life should pause for us to appreciate together its significance, but of course life cannot. Time barrels ahead leaving us alone to process the fleeting moments through our individual recollections of them. It’s the times like Thanksgiving, which give us the opportunity to pause together and to reflect collectively. This year I am thankful for a time to give thanks!

Lony and Pablo topping barrels of 2010 Chardonnay.
Anyway, the action is outside the cellar on the crush pad now. The press runs with the contents of the last few tanks of young wine, the newly-filled barrels of Chardonnay are brought outside for stirring, and the older vintage wines brought outside for topping.

 Peju’s signature Sycamores have been stripped of their leaves for the winter, their spindly, exposed limbs a beacon for the brisk season ahead.

Well I wish you all a joyful, meaningful, restorative, fun and delicious Thanksgiving weekend. What will you drink with your turkey? I wonder how many people don’t actually eat turkey on thanksgiving… food and wine for thought...

Have a good one!


Peju Sycamores, Trimmed for Wintertime

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

With All Our Grapes Safely in Tank and Barrel, We Begin Our Descent Into Winter Calm.

The last of the fruit-carrying bins
leave the crush pad
 That's not quite all folks, but we have brought in the last of our fruit. Friday the 4th marks the end of the 2011 Crush, nearly a month later than 2007's October 11 end date, but sooner than we were thinking it would be a few weeks ago.

With the number of work orders diminishing each day, the cellar dance has changed from a swift and sprightly Viennese waltz to the more moderately-tempoed American variety. I watch the team work now and I imagine the cellar like one giant music box with the song coming to an end and all the players slowing simultaneously to a halt as the box lid closes us inside the dark, quiet of winter. We can no longer celebrate (or commiserate in) the craziness of being ‘in the middle of Harvest’, yet there is still work to do. Interns and temporary workers are starting to prepare for their migration to the other side of the equator for the next one. The high of Harvest end’s cheer and festivity gives way to the realization of what will pretty immediately follow: a (relatively) cold, wet winter with less time in the day and less people in the Valley. But whoa woe, it is also the Holiday Season! Americans’ favorite time of year! A time when opportunity abounds to spend quality time with family and friends. A time of reflection and joy and thankfulness and snuggling in tight. A time of cooking up old traditions, of getting inventive with those that have gone stale, and a time when red wine never tasted so good. 

Much of what is now 2011 red wine in the Peju cellar has been drained and pressed, though a handful of ferments are still finishing up. When a ferment finishes, Sara usually lets the wine mingle with the skins in the tank for a bit before pressing off the skins and putting the wine into French and American oak barrels to age. This prolonged contact of the wine with the skins at the end of fermentation is called ‘extended maceration.’ Maceration is simply the name given to the process by which all that good stuff in the skins is extracted by the juice. This occurs naturally upon contact with one another. Phenolic compounds give color to what would otherwise be clear(ish) juice and tannins give structure/body to the wine, which also give it the potential to age. Sara does a cold maceration at the beginning of each ferment, too, to allow the pre-fermented juice to extract water-soluble components. The water-soluble components are less likely to be extracted once alcohol is produced in the juice during fermentation. It is all of these numerous steps taken to ensure that the wine maximizes complexity, concentration and integration which distinguishes ‘fine wine’ from the rest, and makes it so-o fine.

Below is the mouth of a tank that has just been drained and sent to press and then barrel. What you don’t see is that in order to empty the tank to the extent it appears here, a member of the team has to climb into the tank through this very opening to shovel out the skins, all the while attached by a harness to a fellow crew member outside the tank in the event of a Carbon Dioxide overdose, which is an actual cause of death during every harvest!!! Yet another example of just how much goes into the production of a bottle of wine.

Quality Control Lab Tech Nick presses the last truck samples for testing.

The last yeast inoculation.

Asbel represents our collective joy at this being the last time we will have to clean the crusher-destemmer!!

And resourceful, winemaker Sara sabers a bottle of bubbly with a draining-valve clamp to honor a Phase-One well done.


The Cellar Team at the After(Crush) Party on the Peju Crushpad

Stay tuned because there is work left to do and words left to write for Harvest 2011!

Until next time,

Be sure to check out our spanking new Holiday Catalog. It's hot off the press with a whole slew of lip-smacking new releases from Peju. 
May you always have cheer in your cheeks and great wine in your glass! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yellow Vines, Whinnying Winds, Seasons Change. That Was Fast.

Three days ago I looked around at my cluttered desk and three-page to-do list and decided to take a stroll through the vineyard. Perspective was indeed gained when I stepped outside and into a different season. Wasn't it just last week that the vines were green, that we were in the midst of harvest, and that much to everyone's relief, the midday sun shone hotly on our ever-ripening fruit? With a high of 60 degrees F, 20% chance of rain, and wily, whispering winds blowing yellow leaves from the exposed vines, today we have no choice but to accept that Autumn is here, and Winter confoundingly close. 

Cabernet Sauvignon Vine, Peju Rutherford Estate
Mid-Morning, November 3, 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon Vine, Peju Rutherford Estate
Mid-Morning, November 3, 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon Vine, Peju Rutherford Estate
Mid-Morning, November 3, 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon Vine, Peju Rutherford Estate
Mid-Morning, November 3, 2011

Tomorrow, we bring in the last of our fruit. But of course there is still much work to be done. Fermentations will be finishing, we will drain and press and clean out tanks, and transfer freshly fermented wines to their new homes in French and American oak barrels where they will live and breathe and age and develop for the next 12-36 months, depending on the wine. 

I can't believe I took those photos above just this morning. I'm feeling a strange mixture of marvel at the novelty and beauty of the changed surroundings, and anxiety about the frenzied, fleeting passing of time. But this is nothing new!

What's the weather like where you are?

Autumn cheer and cheers!