"Posted By : Chris Corley
1. overflowing with fervor, enthusiasm, or excitement; high-spirited.
2. bubbling up like a boiling liquid.
We drained and pressed our Pinot Noir lots in mid-October. Now three weeks into their barrel aging, the wines are starting to shake off their youthful exuberance and are embarking on their graceful transitions into wine. In addition to continually tasting through all of the different lots, this is a time for us to run preliminary analysis on the wines. One of the numbers we run at this time is the alcohol. To do this, we use technology that is hundreds of years old and based on a simple concept. We use an ebulliometer. We boil water and record the temperature to within a tenth of a degree. Then we boil the wine sample and record to a tenth of a degree as well. The difference in the boiling points is an accurate gauge of the alcohol in the wine in almost all cases. The science of ebulliometry is appropriately named ... you might think of the results as a measure of the happy units in the wine.
We learn from teachers and books that yeast convert sugars to alcohol at a ratio of 0.595. My observations in the cellar have been that the conversion is generally closer to 0.610, so thats the number I use for my pre-harvest calculations. For example, I would expect a batch of grapes at 24.0 brix to produce a wine around 14.6% alcohol. Tracking metrics like this is helpful for us to make projections about our wines, as most of a winemakers decisions are oriented towards how a wine will taste in the future, not how it tastes right now.
That said, and with the caveat that we constantly generate an unbelievable amount of numerical data about our wines, what really makes me ebullient is tasting them and getting to know our wines on a personal level. With the primary fermentations complete and the Pinot Noir settled down a little bit, we can begin to see the personality of the different lots express themselves a little more clearly.
We grow four different clones of Pinot Noir on the Home Ranch vineyard which surrounds the winery grounds. Clones are sub-designations of a given varietal, generally selected for specific and positive attributes and propagated (cloned) from cuttings. Our Pinot Noir clones are 777, 667, 113, and 115. While they ripen similarly, each of these clones has a subtly different tone that is appealing and complementary. I find 777 to be ripe in redberry flavors and round on the palate. 667 tends more towards floral tones on the nose and has a lighter body. 113 generally has lighter berry tones and a little more midpalate. 115 tends to have the darkest berry flavors and a little more tannin than the others. I don't have a favorite. I like the differences in all four clones. In most vintages, I prefer the blend of the clones over any individual one.
Most of our Pinot Noir this year was picked between September 27-30 this year, almost three weeks later than what we consider 'normal'. 2011 was a wonderful year for Pinot Noir for us. We grow our Pinot Noir in a reasonably warm area for the varietal. The cooler, longer season our Pinot Noir experienced this year allowed the fruit to ripen fully, but more importantly slowly, and without the typical fast rise in sugars that we would usually experience were we to let the fruit hang that long in a warmer vintage.
In 2011, I've isolated 4 small batches of clonally designated free run Pinot Noir from Block 3 and a small batch from Block 2 as well. These wines are tasting fantastic in barrel right now, displaying loads of berry fruit and taking on the some of the nice toasty tones from the new french oak barrels that they are settling down in. I'm not sure if we'll bottle these clonal designates separately, but we might. It would be fun for our Monticello Faithful to experience these distinctive components that are the building blocks of our wines. Stay tuned ..."
Posted By : Kevin Corley
As we go into the final weeks of harvest, I thought you might like to get a little update on how things are shaping up.
I love to talk about the first half of harvest because, in spite of some unusual weather “ heavy spring rains, a summer never really showed up “ this should be a fantastic year for early-ripening varieties. For us it means Montreaux (our sparkling wine), Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Even though the cool conditions can cause some hand-wringing about getting the crop ripe, we're already seeing the benefit of a prolonged ripening season.
You've probably heard references to the term œhangtime. It's literal - the amount of time the grapes spend maturing on the vine. And, when cool conditions stretch out the growing season it can mean exceptionally good flavor maturity. We're all for that!
Pinot Noir is one of the few early-ripening reds and we finished harvesting it by the end of September. Large yields and Pinot Noir are incompatible if you want any character or flavor intensity, so we've got it on low-vigor rootstock. Most years we eek out about 2.5 tons an acre and this year our yields were just slightly less. My brother Chris, our winemaker, is ecstatic about the quality of the fruit. We picked a few weeks later than usual but at about the same brix (sugar) as last year. As he says, œBasically that means we enjoyed three extra weeks of flavor and tannin development without the brix getting too high. We're looking forward to rich, dark fruit, ripe tannins and moderate alcohols. I think it will be yummy. Perhaps magical¦ It's doubly satisfying to have such a good year for Pinot because it's Dad's first love.
As expected, our Chardonnay was late coming in and the yields were down by about 30%, just under two tons per acre. It got caught in the rain last June, when it was flowering, and pollination was impaired. While we think of Chardonnay as a September variety, we've continued the harvest into October, now, three vintages in a row. Because of slight variations in our soils here at our home ranch in Oak Knoll, we have three separate blocks of Chardonnay, each adding to complexity by contributing something a little different. It creates a nice mix of fresh flavors like apple, pear and citrus along with richer elements like crème brûlée, apple pie and lemon meringue pie.
It was great to see these thin skinned varieties safely “in the barn” before Mother Nature threw us a curve ball earlier this month. More on that soon.
"Posted By : Chris Corley
We're navigating our way through a very interesting growing season. Navigation as opposed to destination is a theme we'll revisit in posts later in the season. At this stage, we've got all of our Pinot Noir harvested, fermented and pressed. I'm very excited about the quality of the wine we have in barrel. Careful sorting in both the field and on the crush pad delivered immaculate fruit to the fermenters. The slower pace of this vintage so far has been really nice as well, allowing us more time than usual to belabor over the details.
One detail that we monitor daily is brix and temperature of our fermenting batches. On average, I figure our enologist Mark measures about 50 brix readings over the course of a crush day. Over the course of two months, thats 3000 brix readings a season for him. This is his sixth vintage with Monticello, so he's likely run something in the neighborhood of about 18,000 brix readings in our cellar. He's pretty good at spinning a hydrometer.
Mark & The Amazing Spinning Hydrometer
Despite all the advances in technology and science related to winemaking and enology, we still rely on some pretty simple concepts to track our wines on a daily basis. Our measurement of brix is done with a hydrometer. This is a simple enclosed and vaccum sealed hollow glass cylinder which floats in the fermenting juice. The heavier (or denser) the liquid is, the higher the hydrometer floats. The lighter (or less dense) the liquid is, the lower the hydrometer sinks. The hydrometer is gauged so that you record the level it floats at and monitor the fermentation thusly. The weight of a liquid is sometimes referred to as its 'Specific Gravity'. Clearly, the monitoring of our ferments is of grave importance to us.
Freshly crushed grape juice is pretty thick. It usually is about 24-25 brix (roughly 25%) dissolved sugar. Finished fermented wine is much lighter than the juice it was fermented from. This is because alcohol weighs less than water. Accordingly, the hydrometer floats high in grape hjuice and sinks low in wine. We can monitor within about 1/2 brix (1/2%) range the progress of the fermentation simply by spinning this little device in a cylinder of the fermenting juice. The reason we spin it is to pull off any CO2 gas bubbles that may form on the cylinder and cause it float higher in error. Mark usually spins with his thumb and forefinger in a clockwise direction. We've wondered recently if he would need to spin counter-clockwise if we were working in the Southern Hemisphere (apparently things go in the other direction on that side of the rock. Maybe we'll plan a trip someday down under to investigate.
All that said, really all we're doing is floating a tube in the juice, using the same concept as the hydrometers we made from plastic pipes inhigh school science class. Simple, but specific gravity.
Although there is a lot of technology and some pretty complex ideas related to winemaking, much of it is based on basic concepts and attention to detail. I think much of life is the same. Seemingly complex systems usually can be condensed to a simpler core concept. Not unlike your enjoyment of our Monticello wines. There are lots of ways to banter about wine, with exotic lingo and wild metaphors. At its core, it really just boils down to 'Yum' or 'Yuk'. We hope you experience the former with Monticello. What are simple descriptors you use to talk about wine that are meaningful to you?
Next Post : An Ebullient Pinot Noir"
Posted By : Chris Corley (from 30,000 feet)
Our family has been in Napa a pretty good long time. We've been growing grapes for 40 years and making wine for 30. Our dad settled in in the beginning of this current incarnation of Napa Valleys history which I would submit began in the mid to late 1960s. We're still innovating and learning and always looking for and creating ways to do what we do better, but for the most part, we've figured out what works and what doesn't.
When you've done something for a long time, eventually people will seek your opinion, and value your advice on how they might be able to conduct certain aspects of their business. We don't do a lot of consulting ... we've got plenty of grapes and barrels of our own to keep ourselves entertained, but every now and then a project will come along that sounds like so much fun, we jump in. One such project is in the Valle de Guadalupe of Baja, Mexico.
2011 will be the fifth vintage of our consultancy in Baja. The wines are tasting great, and we're confident that the producer will soon be releasing the best wines that Mexico has to offer. The trips to the vineyard and winery are enjoyable, although the days are long. The people are friendly and the food is fantastic, some of the best meals I've had over the last several years have been in Tijuana.
Working on these types of distant projects would have been difficult when our dad, Jay, first started Monticello in 1969. The travel would have been slower, communication would have been limited to landlines and perhaps the pony express. It would have been extremely challenging, perhaps impossible to oversee the dynamic details of a winemaking operation from a distance.
Fast forward to 2011. My brother, Stephen, has done a wonderful job with our internal computing, setting us up with remote access to our desktops and funneling all of our communications to our phones. With Wi-Fi everywhere, it is increasingly easy to stay connected and function in real time, even if the project is 600 miles away and across an international border.
I can't imagine that our dad could have ever imagined that someday we could be sitting on an airplane, with full internet access to their desktops and being nearly as productive at 6 miles up as we are behind our desks (of course I'm just sitting up here in the sky writing a blog post, but you get the idea). For that matter, the internet alone wasn't even on the radar.
All that said, the technology won't necessarily make our wines any better. It will, however, make it easier for us to make more of those better wines, and to explore areas that may have previously been out of reach for us.
Time for me to sign off as the plane lands in about 15 minutes ...
Posted By : Chris Corley
There's something magical about Pinot Noir. It has an allure that seems to entice anyone within striking distance. Like a great relationship, this varietal engages your whole range of emotions. We feel anticipation when the clones and rootstocks are selected and the plants go in the ground. We feel a slight nervousness during fruit set, hoping it goes well. We feel excited when the plants are growing healthily and the tight little clusters of dark black berries are forming on the vine. We feel anxiety when the skies darken towards the end of the growing season because we know that these tight little clusters of thin skinned grapes don't always do so well in the rain. We feel energized when we see the grapes rolling across the sorting table, the little stem fragments (called "jacks" because they resemble the childrens toy of that same name) being carefully plucked out by a fluttering of eight sticky, wrinkled, calloused hands. We feel ecstatic when we stick our head in the top of the tank and smell the wonderful juicy aromas of dark berries and sweetness that wafts in the headspace of the tank. We feel a thrill when we plunge our bare arms into a bin of fermenting must, and the grape skins crawl up your arm, and the seeds get stuck between your fingers, and you realize that you just connected with a wine through your fingertips. Thats magic. Thats what we love about pinot noir. And thats what we did at Monticello this past week/
We've just finished picking all of our 2011 Pinot Noir. We grow four unique clones (sub-designations of the varietal) in two different blocks on our Home Ranch at Monticello. The fruit this year tastes great. We picked a few weeks later than usual, but at similar brix. Basically that means that we enjoyed three extra weeks of flavor and tannin development without the brix getting too high. As a result, we're looking forward to some really great Pinot Noir from 2011 that is full of rich dark fruit, ripe tannins and moderate alcohols. In other words, I think it will be yummy. Perhaps magical ...
Posted By : Chris Corley
I've spent a lot of time trudging around the vineyards with little plastic baggies lately, mostly collecting grape samples and checking out the fruit as it gets closer and closer to harvest. For that matter, I've spent a lot of time trudging around vineyards my whole life, although when I was a kid, it was usually with a skateboard in hand, and with less wholesome motivations than crafting tasty beverages from pristine clusters of shimmering fruit.
I've grown very fond of plastic baggies over the course of the last 25 years. They always seem to be oriented something that is appealing to me. Over the course of my life, I have tended to associate good things with plastic baggies. As with most aspects of life, my tastes have evolved. I used to be content with the thin sandwich baggies and would be really happy if it was two-fingers deep. Now, my tastes have shifted and I prefer the zipper style freezer quart bag. With age comes higher expectations, so I now fully expect to see four-fingers of product in my baggies. I also don't like to find herbal or green aromas in my sample baggies now, although 20 years ago, this was appealing.
As I do each harvest, I'll keep stomping through the vineyard with my baggies in hand, pulling samples waiting for that special day to pull the fruit. Maybe this year I'll drag an old skateboard behind me just for old times sake ...
Posted By : Chris Corley
As the harvest slowly approaches, we have been very busy bottling wine, finalizing barrel orders, and starting to walk the vineyards more often pulling grape samples. This time of year is always very exciting with the fruit in the vineyard approaching ripeness, the activity in the cellar at full tilt and football season starting up. My sons team (7-9 year olds) won their first game of the season Saturday and the 49ers sealed the home opener in exciting fashion with a couple of touchdowns in the last six minutes of todays game.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja, Mexico
Adding to my personal harvest adrenaline, for the last five years I've been consulting on an wine project in Valle de Guadalupe of Baja, Mexico. It has been a wonderful project to work on as I have had the opportunity to work with fruit in a very different region than I am used to here in Napa. I think this has helped me improve my skills as a winemaker and helped to broaden my perspective, both as an individual and as a winemaker. The people involved in the winery are fantastic. They are a friendly, welcoming, family-oriented group. The owner is the British Consul for Northern Mexico. My south-of-the-border winemaking office in Tijuana is sandwiched between the British Consulate and a whiskey bar. Thats the way they roll in TJ.
I was just down last week to check on the grapes in the Valle de Guadalupe. Its not unusual for us to travel in the consulates armored Jeep Cherokee, which looks like a beater from the outside, but is fully replete with armored doors and bulletproof windows. You'd never know it seeing it from the sidewalk. About halfway to Valle de Guadalupe on a very hot Thursday last week, the engine started overheating. We had to shut the AC off, which meant we were now hurtling through the hot afternoon in an armored incubator with 1/2 inch thick windows that couldn't be rolled down! We were blazing. Just up the road was a military checkpoint. The strategy was show them the British diplomat plates and let them draw their own conclusions about the gringo (me) in the backseat. We went through unquestioned.
Sierra Blanca, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja, Mexico
After a few hours walking the rows and sampling grapes at the vineyard, during which time we got the Jeep all fixed up, we made our way back to the winery facility in Tijuana. To my surprise, the winery had a mesquite grill going with carne asada, fresh made pico de gallo and a few bottles of 2007 Pinot Noir, the first wine we bottled down there. They had made me a special lunch for my 40th birthday, which was a complete surprise and greatly appreciated. The power went out about halfway through our party, which we found out shortly was part of a much larger blackout that covered parts of Arizona, southern California and northern Mexico. All the flights that evening were cancelled, so we made arrangements for me to stay the night in Tijuana. Although I had just scheduled to be down for the day, it ended up a being a very productive and enjoyable two day trip. My crew at Monticello managed our activities up north without grief.
I've worked at Monticello my entire life. This will be my 22nd harvest at my family's winery in Napa, the last ten as head winemaker. We are very busy at Monticello, and I'm not looking for more things to do, but something really struck me about this project in Mexico. It was such a unique opportunity, and I was very impressed with the quality of the vineyard and the nature of the people involved. It has been as satisfying as I had imagined and a reminder that, ironically, every now and then we need to break our rhythm in order to keep our rhythm. Here's to a great harvest!
Posted By : Chris Corley
Today, we're looking forward to fireworks, swimming with the kids and maybe a barbeque this evening. I wanted to write a short piece about the 4th of July. The more I thought about what to write, the deeper the days meaning became to me. I took a little time to read The Declaration of Independence this morning, and it became very clear to me that there were no new words to be written today. I hope you can take a few minutes to read this incredible document and reflect on the events that transpired on this day 235 years ago. Then enjoy your freedom to have a hot dog and cold beer.
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Posted By : Chris Corley
We spend a lot of time talking about wine in our family. We talk about how certain wines taste, how they tasted in the past, how they’ll taste in the future, what foods they taste best with. Wine runs through our blood to the point that my son, Jackson, wrote the following Mothers Day note to my wife, Julianna, in his first grade class – “Happy Mothers Day. My mom is soft like a dog and ruff like a lion. Thank you for makin good wine …”. I wonder what his first grade teacher thought of his poem when he turned that in.
In talking about wine, we use a pretty diverse vocabulary. We speak of wines in every metaphorical means imaginable. We refer to wines in terms of colors – ‘black, blue, purple, red, golden’. We speak of wines in terms of textures – ‘smooth, rough, rich, grippy’. We converse about wines in terms of weight – ‘fat, thin, heavy, light’. We debate wines in terms of numbers – ’96, 91, 89, 92′. We revel in wines in terms of sensuality – ‘elegant, sexy, voluptuous, alluring’.
In every instance we use language to convey the message. We discuss, with words, the emotions or feelings that the wine has invigorated within us. Most of us in the professional wine tasting world understand each other when we’re in the midst of a winespeak tasting session. I imagine that it might sound like a load of gibberish to someone who is not immersed in this metaphorical world of winejaw.
When I’m presenting wines to visitors at Monticello, one of the first things I try to glean is their understanding of wine and more directly, at what level do they engage in winespeak. We don’t have a babel fish to put in our customers ears to translate my enological ramblings, so it’s important to communicate in language that everyone feels comfortable with. Note : A babel fish is a small fish that when placed in the ear will translate any language in the galaxy for the listener (from ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).
Today we are hosting our Spring Release party, and will be releasing our 2008 Corley Proprietary Red Wine. The festivities will include a wine component / blending presentation that will be largely conveyed via my piano (my babel fish). I’ve deconstructed a song I wrote on the piano and matched the three main preliminary components of our 2009 Proprietary Red Wine to three main components of the song – the bass line, the melody, and the chorus. We’ll taste each of the wines while listening to the musical component. We’ll taste the blend while listening to the song as a whole. The goal is to convey one art form by using another, to minimize the words and revel in the emotion of the blend. Most everyone can feel music. You don’t need to have perfect pitch or be able to snap your fingers to a complex 7/8 rhythm. Most of us can tell when a note is out of tune, or a basic rhythm skipped. Music is a wonderful means of communication. Its inside of all of us.
A Babel Fish Composition
Today, I want to share that visceral pleasure that I enjoy when blending our Monticello wines. At the blending table, I like to close my eyes and savor the wine, to instinctively feel and experience its pleasures or faults. I like to clear my mind of titratable acidities and tannins, and focus on the ethereal and sublime that can be found in the glass. The intellectual aspect of winemaking is done before and after the blending table. The blending table is where art is created, where the paint wets the canvas, the pen hits the paper, and the fingers strike the keys. I’d like our wine club members to experience this today. And I’d like to share it today through music
"We were in Brooklyn a few weeks ago visiting our wine broker and spending a few days with my wife Julianna's sister, Joy, and her husband, Noureddine. Depending what airline we fly, we either check our wine (Southwest - bags fly free) or we send it ahead (all others). This time, we shipped several cases ahead (it cost the same to ship as it would to check, so may as well let the shipper lug it around!). It's nice to have wine ready for you upon arrival, and we were looking forward to some great bottles during our trip. Approximately a third of the wines we took to taste with our broker, but we also had plenty of nice wines for drinking, including plenty from other producers (we don't just drink our own stuff all the time!)
On our first night there, I was craving a big fat glass of red wine after a long day of family travel, and was almost salivating on the way from the airport, just thinking about popping a cork. We pulled out our first wine, and to my great disappointment, the wine was corked. It wasn't terrible, but it definitely had that familiar wet cardboard, aquarium gravel kind of smell that I just can't get out of my head once I smell it.
Cork taint is a topic that we as an industry pay close attention to. It can arise from the combination of wood product, moisture and chlorine. The offending molecule that raises the stink is called trichloroanisole (TCA). A lot of corks (wood) used to be sanitized (moisture) in chlorine based washes (chlorine), an malevolant olfactory trifecta. A winery could have a systemic problem with TCA. Many older wineries were stick-built (wood), are humidified (moisture) and historically used chlorinated tri-sodium phosphate (chlorine) as a sanitizer. Most wineries and cork producers have moved on from chlorine to other forms of sanitizers. We stopped using chlorine-based cleaners years ago, and keep our cellar relatively dry to avoid having too much moisture creating mold in our cellar.
Back in Brooklyn, we had plenty of other bottles to open, so we did, and we moved on, but it kept bugging me, and we had a fair bit of conversation about the corked bottle. I remembered reading something somewhere about using cling wrap to help remove the cork taint from an afflicted wine. I'd never tried it, but why not? It was the perfect opportunity, we'd be tossing the wine out otherwise. We wadded up a ball of cling wrap and tossed it into the decanter and swirled it around and let it soak for a few minutes, then fished it out. Interestingly, our anecdotal conclusion was that it did seem to have an impact on reducing the impact of the TCA in the wine. Not a major difference, but something noticeable and positive, and what harm is done? You've got a bottle that you've put aside anyway due to the TCA, you may as well play around with it. I'll add that this 'highly scientific' test was conducted while drinking a fair amount of other wines. While traveling, we try to complement all of our activities with copious amounts of wine, including our 'scientific' tests on the road!
Cork taint is a big topic in the wine biz, and I'm just keeping it light and anecdotal this evening on The Corley Blog. For the curious, you can read a little more about TCA at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cork_taint ."