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Corley Family Napa Valley

Chris Corley
February 8, 2009 | Happenings | Chris Corley

Offbeat Thoughts in the Offseason

Every year, typically after harvest, we consolidate all of our notes, experiences and thoughts for a review of the year. We discuss the growing season and winemaking practices and assess the results. This review helps us set our course for the next season, which typically starts the following January with pruning.

Usually, the topics for review revolve around the core of our winegrowing practices - pruning and training techniques, fermentation strategies, barrel selection, crush pad layout and equipment needs, etc.

There are, however, plenty of other, more offbeat, ideas that crop up during the season. Admittedly, these tangential ideas are usually conceived towards the end of a long harvest day, maybe after a cold brew, but always when the collective cellar perspective has allowed itself to drift a little into the ether.

Here are a few of these offbeat ideas that were floating around last year that may or may not be pursued ...

Can we figure out a way to turn a red wine barrel back to use for white wine ? This one we figured out. Historically, once a barrel has been used for red wine, you can't ever put white wine in it again because the red pigments in the wood would tint the white wine and turn it pink. Now we've got a cleaning process to completely decolorize the barrel if necessary ...

How would wine react to having an electric current run through it ? We found some info related to experiments run in the late 1800s on this, but nothing in the meantime. We're thinking the result would have a lot to do with the oxidative rate of the wine and that there may be an impact on tannin development, but who really knows? We'll probably run some small-scale experiments in barrel this year ...

Could we make a palatable 'coffee' from roasted and ground grape seeds ? You never know until you try. We'll need to wait until harvest to collect the seeds and give it a go. We'll probably want to use low-tannin seeds from ripe grapes that are pressed pre-fermentation. I'm thinking Chardonnay and/or Syrah. Maybe there's a way we can think of to incorporate pressed skins. First and foremost, it's got to taste good. Secondarily, I wonder about health benefits of tannins and resveratrol ...

While we don't let these offbeat ideas interfere with the work at hand, it's fun to indulge the imagination. We always learn something, and every once in a while, we come up with a new technique or idea that is worthwhile ...


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