October 21, 2011



When we have larger lots of grapes fermenting in a stainless steel tank, we manage the cap with a pumpover. When we have small lots fermenting in T-bins or porta-tanks, it is not really practical (or possible) to hook a pump up to the fermentor, so instead of pumpovers we perform punchdowns.

With a punchdown, you physically push the grapes down into the fermenting juice with a paddle.

This is a picture of the T-bin of Syrah getting a punchdown. In this picture you can get a good idea what the cap on a fermentation looks like.

Since this method is usually a little gentler on the skins, it is often used on very delicate skinned grapes like Pinot Noir that can easily over-extract (release an unpleasant bitterness into the wine). The varieties we are making do not over-extract quite as easily as Pinot Noir, so we can punch them down pretty vigorously, generally three times a day until the fermentation is over.

The base for the Cuvee Alis (the Syrah and Grenache that are fermenting together in the porta-tank), is fermenting very quickly. In a large fermentation, the yeast produce a lot of heat. The temperature can get so high that it may actually kill the yeast, or at least slow them down. This is why we use refrigeration on the larger stainless steel tanks, otherwise they would get too hot and possibly fail to complete fermenting. Since the Cuvee Alis is a small lot in a thin-walled stainless steel tank, it is basically losing heat through the walls of the fermentor as quickly as the yeast can produce it. This means that the yeast cannot overheat the fermentation, and so they move through it at a very high speed without becoming inhibited by heat stress. Right now this fermentation smells like black cherries and baking spices, with just a little bit of the smoky character the fruit from this block is known for.

The Syrah that may eventually become a part of the Cuvee Alis is also fermenting, though not quite as quickly. The Petite Sirah, which as you may recall has been split into two T-bins, is just barely starting to ferment. This fruit came in very early in the morning, and so was very cold when we crushed and inoculated it. However, we’re confident the fermentation will take hold and warm it up soon.

In other news, the two large Cabernet Sauvignon fermentations that we started at the beginning of this week are still going strong, they both smell nice and should be ready to press early next week. It also looks like we’re going to be bringing in the remainder of our fruit for this year early next week, so be sure to check back then to see what we’re up to!

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.


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