From the Grape to the Glass Pt 4: Press to Barrel
Work, wait, work, wait, work like heck, wait, work, wait, enjoy! This seems to be the order of the winemaking process. Add in a lot of cleaning and a lot of beer and you’ve got some good wine. For the last several months we’ve been following the 2010 Bacchus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Barrister winery.
The 2010 vintage has kept owners Greg Lipsker and Michael White on their toes. In their 10 years as winemakers, 2010 will go down as the most challenging. The cool season kept the fruit on the vine longer than normal. Harvesting on November 4 yielded a fruit with lower sugar levels, higher acid and higher pH than in previous years. The snowiest November on record compounded challenges as well.
Interested in the process? Take a look at the previous posts and see what a grape goes through before it gets in your glass.
Fermentation is where the sugar in the grapes is converted to alcohol. This process typically takes 7-10 days after the wine is inoculated with yeast (food for the sugar). Barrister winery uses four different types of yeast that emphasize different characteristics of the wine (aromatics, flavor, structure). This fermentation happens in stainless steel tanks. For 2010, Barrister decided to let the wine undergo extended maceration. This is the process where the juice and skins stay in the same tank for an additional period of time. This helps to soften the flavor and provide more weight as the short ‘hard’ tannin chains link together to become soft.
This extended maceration means…more work. During this time the skins must continually be “punched down” to avoid the cap from drying out and to keep the skins connected with the juice. The 2010 Cabernet spent a total of four weeks on the skins hoping to capture the traditional softness of Barrister wines.
Two years ago Barrister bought the HAL 9000 of the press world. This beautiful blend of computer programming and stainless steel is their reward for using a small hand press for the first 8 vintages of their wine. This specific press company makes 8-12 machines per year and wineries like Betz and Col Solare use them in Washington. Prior to entering the press the “free run” juice (the juice that happens as a result of press, fermentation and punch down) is pumped into a temporary holding tank. The remaining juice – trapped in the skins goes into the press. The computer goes through a series of press and pause cycles to provide a consistent and soft extraction of juice. The juice goes through four filters before being pumped into the storage tanks. Barrister lets the pressed juice sit in the tanks for 24 hours to let additional sediment settle before being pumped into barrel.
The tradition of using oak barrels has been around for hundreds of years. Used properly the oak can impart beautiful layers of vanilla, charcoal, smoke, toast, tobacco, and more. Barrister uses French oak barrels for their 2010 Bacchus Cabernet. After soaking the oak barrels in water to swell any leaks, the free run and pressed juice are tucked in for their long rest. Barrister is lucky to have a large 7500+ square foot barrel room where hundreds of barrels rest single high in the naturally climate controlled basement. The smell is amazing. If you haven’t been to the Barrister barrel room, leave a comment, I’ll help arrange a visit for you. Access to the basement is through an old service elevator with an old fashion hand operated gate.
The Cabernet will rest in the barrel room for 18-26 months gently rocked by the trains that pass next to the winery several times per day. Part 5 in the series we’ll revisit the wine as it ages and talk about the barrels, blending and more. After all that wait, work, wait, clean, wait and work…now the long wait begins as the wine sleeps, rests and matures to become the beautiful Barrister Cabernet you’ve come to love.