Journey: Thoughts and Reflections along the path. 

Sheldon Haynie
 
April 26, 2014 | Sheldon Haynie

Fining

White wines are generallty expected to be clear, a delight to the eye as well as the palate. The juice is pressed and even after settling, contains solids and yeast that form lees after fermentation completes. Our wine making style is to allow extended contact with the lees, until first racking, and then to work to clarify the wine for bottling.

Tradtionally this is done by gently rackjng the wine from container to container, each racking leaving behind more. Since some of the sediment is microscopic, and remains suspended, the technique of fining has evolved to accelerate clarification. Fining involves introducing an inert agent into the wine that will agglomerate tiny particles into larger ones by electrostatic attraction and/or chemically bind to unwanted compounds. 

Depending on the wine, and the desired outcome there are several agents that could be used. We typically use Bentonite and PVPP. Bentonite is a very fine clay,  we use it to bind proteins that would otherwise show up as a haze, especially if the wine was allowed to warm. PVPP is a very fine powder of Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone, an inert plastic, which agglomerates fine particles to itself and is then filtered out or precipitates as the particles clump.

Typical usage is in the range of a 1/2 gram per liter, and we run fining trials to determine the best rate, balancing clarity and flavor modulation,  as too aggressive a fining can strip the wine of its aroma. This involves preparing a series of samples and introducing Bentonite and/or PVPP to obseve the results. With seven whites this year a ten way matrix involves a table full of 375ml bottles.  A few days of standing and we then run the wine through a simple multiple coffee filter to emulate our production filter and evaluate to select the best treatment. 

After determining which to add, we will mix into the aging tanks, and then filter while racking to to leave the wine ready to bottle. 

 

Time Posted: Apr 26, 2014 at 5:04 AM
Sheldon Haynie
 
September 18, 2012 | Sheldon Haynie

New skills and even more new tools

One of the necessary items for making wine is a container to do it in. We use French Oak barrels by preference, and choose to buy used ones and supplement with convection toasted oak inserts, as its both more economical and allows us to tailor the oak exposure. 

Since we buy the barrels used, they are empty when purchased, and may have been empty for a while. Usually that is no issue, if they have been gassed or had sulphur burned inside every 6 weeks or so. However if they have been left empty and were allowed to sit outside in the hot sun, then they can start to dry out. This results in the seams opening up. 

Not per se a huge issue, its the experience of every Northern wooden boat owner that their craft will leak in the spring when re-launched until it swells up. And so it is with barrels. We soak them, depending on the leak rate by simply filling, or if they are particularly weepy, by sitting in a bath of water to allow them to take up the moisture they need. 

Occasionally a barrel will sit long enough that the hoops become slack, and that is where the new tools and skills come in. We've ordered a "hoop driver" and cooperage supplies to allow us to tighten the hoops which hold the staves. The supplies include wedges and splies which fill in leakage paths and also coopers nails which hold the hoops in place. 

I'm looking forwards to re-working the few barrels that seem to need some attention and learning another archaic skill. 

 

Sheldon Haynie
 
July 15, 2012 | Sheldon Haynie

Summer better than others

Summer is supposed to be a fun time; vacations, family time, a chance to be outside and enjoy the marvelous Mediterranean climate that graces our area. For those who are fortunate enough to be within a short drive of several of the worlds best wine grape regions, its easy to take it for granted. The same conditions which grow excellent grapes are also pleasant for people. Warm mornings, hot dry afternoons, and cool evenings give inducements to be outside and grow anything that is watered and somethings that are not. 

We are filling our working days with irrigation maintenance and vine thinning and continuing to label, and many evenings with charitable work to support various foundations and worthy causes. When we started Lightheart Cellars, neither Jane nor I had an idea of how popular we would become, as it seems we have nearly daily requests to come and showcase our products. Of course most of the showcasing is essentially gratis, where we donate our time and product, or occasionally receive a very modest compensation that would cover the cost of the bottling. This is part of the industry, akin to the tradition of pro bono work in law, or of physicians treating all who need it, regardless of resources. We are glad to help out as we can, considering it to be good karma, and even good marketing, where manifesting abundance will return it to us. 

Our good works are extending to employing a small cadre of part time staff who assist in the vineyard, winery and tasting. We're stretching a bit at this point to do so, but we're making a point of developing confidence and skills, so that they are able to accomplish more and represent us, which allows us to grow as the market responds. 

Sheldon Haynie
 
February 12, 2012 | Sheldon Haynie

Science and Art

Winemaking is a combination of science and art, some of the chemistry is well understood, and can be reduced to practice. A certain brix converts to a certain alcohol, sufficient sulfites will suppress volatile acidity and fining agents will agglomerate the fine suspended particulates and precipiate them to the bottom.

But what about the taste?  A gas chromatograph can tell you a lot of the constituents, but not how they taste. For that, the winemaker needs to continually sample, assess, and compare the new wines to make decisions for blending, racking and eventually bottling. 

Sheldon Haynie
 
December 14, 2011 | Sheldon Haynie

Cellaring

Cellaring, Barrelling, Topping, call it what you will, its the routine of checking, topping off and adding sulfites to barrels and tanks that goes on through out the year. Jane and I just topped off and added sulfites to 23 barrels and about a dozen carboys ("extra" wine that we use to top off the  barrels,) as the "Angel's Share" evaporates. 

This involves clambering around on the barrels, pouring, pumping and otherwise transferring the few quarts each that are needed to bring the level up to the bung. Not exactly a romantic evening, but a good workout for both of us that gets us in contact with all of our inventory on a routine basis, the better to check on it's progress. We'll be bottling the 2010 Reds and the 2011 Whites this spring, to release over the summer and make way for the 2012 wines, so we will be testing, tasting and evaluating the maturity frequently.