Friday, November 11, 2011

Cedar River Cellars 2011 Crush Beatdown

Well folks, the 2011 harvest/crush/processing is officially completed for us.  This year marks our 3rd professional vintage and it was easier and harder than ever before.

First the easy parts:
We optimized some of our processing steps to save on extra manual work.  The big one was putting the destemmer/crusher on top of the bins and standing on the back of the truck to load the hopper.  Plus adding the use of a pitch-fork to scoop grapes out of the bin into the hopper sped things up.  The ultimate win, of course, would be to have a bin-dumper or forklift with a bin rotator, but hey we like getting intimate with the grapes.

This year we had a lot of help from friends and family.  This was the first time we had *ALL* our parents involved with some aspect of the processing.  Mostly during the pressing stages which is where many hands make light work.

Now the hard parts:
Due to the freeze last year, we had to shift some of grapes that we normally get from one grower, to our other grower.  This caused some stress thinking we would have not been able to get the varietals, but things came through.

With the cooler weather this year and gambling with threats of rain, it was stressful to make sure our grapes have ripe flavors.  I feel confident that we are very successful in this area.  Our flavors and aromas appear to be in check, with lighter bodies and firm acids.  And great color!

Of course my favorite game to play every year is Wine Cellar Tetris, and this year I am on the hard level.  With 2009 wine in cases, 2010 wine in barrels and 2011 must fermenting in bins, shuffling heavy-ass shit around sucks.  I guess it's a good workout...yeah..a workout on my back.

The biggest challenge this year was just recently.  We only had Cab Sauv left to press off.  It was right at the point where I like to press in terms of gravity, color, and flavor.  It really could not wait.  Three days earlier I was feeling the tickle in my throat and my girls were coughing in the house as well.  The next day it was worse and my nose was a bit congested, then the day after that...boom!  I was out all day stuffed up, aching, coughing, fever, sweating and freezing at the same time.  I HAD to press the next day...I just HAD to.  I rested, drank tea, and beat that sum-bitch.  The next day I was able to get all of the cab sauv wine separated from the must into the barrels, plus cleaning up the pommace and equipment, etc.  Guess, what...the next day I got congested and coughing again.  But for the one day that it counted, I got my winery work done.

I like this Junior year in that I finally have a good rotation of work to keep me going though out the year.  Just a quick look 2009 crush all we had to do was make wine and had plenty of space.  In 2010 crush we made wine and started on our 2009 bottling.  Now in 2011-2012, we have wine to sell, wine to make, wine to rack, wine to blend, wine to bottle, and more wine to sell.

I guess I can mention some fun parts:
I looove fermentation!  And harvest and crush is my favorite part about running this winery.  Keeping the fermentation tanks punched down is pain, but again..a good workout.  However, that is where you can use your nose to gauge how the fermentation is going and how the skins, seeds, pulp, and juice are melding together.  Tasting at this point gives a good idea of flavor and acid, but the sugar masks a lot.  During pressing is where you can really get a strong idea of the flavors extracted from the grapes.