Petit Verdot!

October 24, 2012

Just recently, we finished up the bulk of this years’ harvest by bringing in the Petit Verdot from the Bobcat Run block. The Petit Verdot will be a component in the Cabernet Sauvignon blend, it tends to have an aroma best described as ‘berry pie’, which elevates the red fruit characters of the Cabernet and helps bring them to the forefront.

Petit Verdot is a late-ripening variety, even with all of the ideal weather we had this year we still had to wait until the vines were starting to go dormant for the winter before the fruit was ready to pick.

As you can see, these vine have already started gaining a bit of their fall coloring. Earlier in the season, the grapes get sweeter because the vines are producing sugar via photosynthesis and translocating it into the fruit. This late in the season, the fruit gets sweeter because it is slowly dehydrating. This was especially true in the last few days before these grapes were harvested, as we had warm temperatures and a stiff breeze to help the dehydration along.

That little bit of warm weather was actually very fortunate, as it started to rain several days after the fruit was picked. We were most fortunate this year to get pretty much all of our fruit in without having to contend with any rain. This has been a truly exceptional vintage, both in terms of quantity and, more importantly, quality. We still have a lot of work to do taking care of the wines we’ve made, be sure to check back to see what we’re up to!

 

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Petite Sirah!

October 16, 2012

We know we’re almost done with grapes for the year when the Petite Sirah shows up from Monte Rosso Vineyards!

Every year we pick just a couple of bins of Petite Sirah to make a small amount of wine for our club members. This block from Monte Rosso makes a lovely, dense wine, rich with fruit characters and exhibiting a strong backbone of tannins.

Petite Sirah clusters have a very distinctive look.

While Cabernet tends to have loose clusters with lots of space between the berries, Petite Sirah is very tight, with almost no space between the grapes.

This tight formation can make Petite Sirah vulnerable to Fall rains, if water gets inside the cluster it can promote the growth of rot. This threat is compounded by the fact that Petite Sirah is relatively late-ripening, meaning that we have to chance leaving it out in the vineyard longer. Fortunately the weather has held back and allowed us to bring this fruit in in pristine condition.

We picked first thing in the morning, so the fruit was ice-cold when we processed it. As a result,  it took a few days for the yeast to take hold and start fermenting, but now we are finally seeing a solid cap form in the fermentors. The fruit tasted fantastic, and the fermentations smell divine. All of our wines this year are turning out delicious, but we have especially high hopes for this one.

Be sure to check back soon to see what we’re up to!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Catching up

October 11, 2012

Well, faithful readers, we have been busy indeed these last few days! Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happened over the last few days.

First, the Belli Chardonnay has gotten far enough through its’ fermentation that we’re comfortable putting it back down to barrels to age.

During the initial fermentation we left some headspace in the barrels to keep them from overflowing, but now we have them topped up, to keep out the air. We started with twenty-three barrels, which we have now consolidated down to nineteen.

The Chardonnay is still fermenting just a little, so we left in the fermentation bungs.

These will let the minute amount of carbon dioxide still being generated by the fermentation to escape, if we just put in regular hard bungs then the pressure would make them pop out every couple of days. We are expecting the fermentation to wind down completely early next week.

Another item of interest, we have just pressed out the components of the 2012 Cuvee Alis!

We are still keeping the Syrah and Grenache separate for now, here you can see the brilliant color of the Syrah as it comes out of the press. This wine is still high in solids, as the solids settle out, the color will deepen to a very dark purple.

And finally, this week we have brought in the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Estate.

Actually, technically speaking there is still a little second crop out there, but this is the last of the first crop. This last load came out of the heaviest areas of the China Bowl block, which took the longest to ripen.

This has been an extremely bountiful year for us, our tank space is all but filled to capacity with very high quality fruit. There is still plenty of work to do, be sure to check back and see what we’re up to!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

 

 

 

Cuvee Alis is here!

October 8, 2012

We’re deep in the heart of harvest, and so we’ve been very busy this week. One of the most exciting things to happen this week; we’ve picked the grapes for the 2012 Cuvee Alis!

The Cuvee Alis is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and, this year, Mourvedre! The Mourvedre from the recently grafted vines in China Bowl isn’t quite ready to go yet, but the Syrah and Grenache ripened up very rapidly in the last few days because of the warm weather we had towards the beginning of the week.

As soon as we had the fruit in from the field, we set about destemming it and getting it into fermentors. We don’t make a huge amount of this product, so we ended up splitting it into several small containers that we will blend back together after fermentation.

Small fermentors mean punchdowns! Here’s Richards’ daughter Kerry Arrowood helping out in the cellar.

All of the punchdowns mean a fair amount of manual labor, but they are necessary to fully extract all of the color and flavor that this delicious fruit has to offer.

As soon as we had the fruit in the bins, we inoculated with a yeast called Rhone 4600.

This is the same yeast we used on the Rose. It is a quick fermenting yeast isolated from wines in the Rhone Valley in France. It is especially well suited to aromatic Rhone varieties, as it produces a high concentration of fruity smelling compounds known as esters. The Grenache especially has a strong tropical aroma of bananas at the moment. After fermentation, the aroma of bananas will fade, and leave behind aromas of red fruit and berries.

There is still a lot going on here, and we expect to be able to post more frequently over the course of this week. Stay tuned to see what we’re up to!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Draining and Pressing

October 2, 2012

We’ve just completed our first red fermentation for the year, which means that it’s time to drain and press the Monte Rosso Zinfandel!

The purpose of draining and pressing the must is to separate the wine from the skins. During fermentation, carbon dioxide produced by the yeast floats the skins to the top of the tank, forming a mass of grape solids called a ‘cap’. Since most of the skins are in the top of the tank, the bottom of the tank is mostly wine.

Since the bottom of the tank is mostly wine, we begin by draining the wine out from under the cap. There are still some skins that come out with draining, so we pass the wine through a screen before we pump the wine to its receiving tank.

Once the tank is drained, we start digging out the skins and loading them into macro bins.

The bins we shovel the skins into are the same ones we use to pick grapes. We do this because these bins are easy to lift with the forklift, in turn making it easy to get the skins into the press. We got six bins of grape solids out of the Zinfandel this year, which was exactly enough for two press-loads.

As you can see, the skins are still pretty wet when they come out of the tank. Pressing gets the last bit of wine out of the skins.

It is possible to press the skins too hard, extracting harsh, bitter tannins into the wine. We use a very gentle pressing regime that extracts all of the best wine, while leaving the undesirable components behind.

We will be picking again soon, be sure to come back and see what we’re up to!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

 

We have a few days between the Cabernet Sauvignon we picked last week and the next grapes we’ll be bringing in, so we’ve been taking advantage of the time we have now to take care of the vines we’ve just harvested.

A few weeks prior to harvest, we cut off the irrigation to our vines. We did this because, when you irrigate a vine with maturing fruit on it, the water is translocated into the berries, causing them to swell up and lose some of their concentrated flavor. Cutting off irrigation prior to harvest increases the flavor of the fruit, but it leaves the vines in a somewhat weakened state (especially considering the warm weather we’ve been having lately).

We want the vines to start off the next growing season strong, so as soon as the fruit is off the vines, we give them a good soaking to help them recover before they go dormant for the winter.

We will give every vine just about eight gallons of water, enough to soak the root zone and strengthen the plant for its’ dormant period. As you can see, there is still a tiny bit of fruit left on the vines.

This remaining fruit is called ‘second crop’. It comes from a second round of flowering that happens late in the season. It is usually not quite as nice as the primary crop, but if it ripens on time we will probably pick it and make it into wine that we will then sell to another winery.

Watering now will also give the second crop a chance to ripen more before it is harvested, if the vines shut down too early because of water stress, we’ll never get to pick it. Waste not, want not!

We’ll be back to picking grapes again soon, be sure to check back to find out more!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.