"It takes a lot of good beer to make great wine" ... a primitive cellar hand likely coined this phrase several thousand years ago shortly after the discovery of fermented bevereages. We certainly enjoy a cold beer at the end of a long hot harvest workday. In the cellar, we have varied tastes for beer. Most of the cellarmen enjoy the lighter styles of lagers, while I prefer a little heavier beer, pale ale. Our lab guy, Mark, tends towards the thick stouts, which I enjoy as well, particularly in the colder winter months.
This year, with some help from the guys, I'm going to home-brew batches through the winter. Yesterday was the first brew, an India Pale Ale. Given time and more familiarity with the process, we'll get increasingly creative with the recipes. I'm looking forward to home-brewing all different types of beers, but likely will gravitate towards ales, porters and stouts through the winter. I'm hopeful that the first batch will be ready by Thanksgiving so all the guys can take a bottle or two home.
In some ways the process is not all that different from making sparkling wine in the traditional bottle-fermented "Methode Champenoise", which we've used for our 'Domaine Montreaux' sparkling wines since 1983. Over the last 25 years of making Napa Valley sparkling wines, we've come to appreciate the beauty of the bubble. In both sparkling libations, the secondary fermentation within the bottle generates the effervescence.
We love growing things as well. It's in our nature to grow our own raw materials, as we've grown most all of our own grapes for our wines since day one. So it goes with beer. In the spring of 2009, we'll plant a small amount of hops so we can learn about these fragrant vines. I've ordered 10 organic rhizomes for next season. The rhizome is the root mass from which the plant develops in the spring. For this first season, we'll plant 5 different varieties of bittering and aromatic hops - Northern Brewer, Cascade, Fuggle, Perle and Willamette. As hops can grow to lengths of 20' tall, we'll grow these organically in used wine barrels along the west side of the winery building, with the trellis system supported from the roof of the building. They'll get plenty of afternoon sun and will provide some shade for that end of the winery in the summer. They'll also provide us some excellent home-brews next winter !