Here at Amapola Creek, we have historically focused our efforts on classic Bordeaux and Rhone red varieties. However, when we found we had a chance to get our hands on some Russian River Chardonnay from grower Joseph Belli in 2010, we knew we had an opportunity not to be missed.

This wine is stunning, and we only produced 210 cases of it. Be sure to check it out before it’s all gone!

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

Stirring the Chardonnay

December 1, 2011

 

 

We put the Belli Chardonnay down to barrel just about six weeks ago. Once the wine is in barrel, the last little bit of solids (almost entirely dead and dying yeast cells) have time to settle out. This makes the wine nice and clear, but in fact at this stage we actually want the wine to get a little bit of contact with the remaining yeast cells. This improves the mouthfeel of the wine, and tends to add subtle warm, nutty characters to the mid-palate. As the yeast cells break down (a process known as autolysis that usually starts around six months after the fermentation is over) they also tend to generate a rich, creamy character that is highly desirable in our style of Chardonnay.

To keep the yeast suspended in the wine, we stir the barrels, a process also known as batonage.

This is the baton that gives batonage its’ name. Colloquially, it is known as a stirring wand. The wand is inserted into each barrel, and then it is drawn vigorously from side to side so that the hinged plate at the end drags along the bottom, stirring the yeast up into the wine.
With our Chardonnay, we like to stir the barrels once every week, so that the yeast never completely settle out and we have plenty of contact between them and the wine.
 
This wine was fairly clear before we stirred it earlier today, but notice how much the yeast have been stirred up off of the bottom of the barrel. This is how we would like the wine to spend most of it’s time looking during this stage of the process.
 
To visit the Amapola Creek winery main site, please click here.
 

More Chardonnay

September 21, 2011

Today we picked the rest of the block 5 Chardonnay from the Belli ranch. As we mentioned yesterday, this block is planted to the Dijon clone. This clone does not have the distinctive muscat character of the Rued clone, instead it has a classic Chardonnay profile of minerality and pears.

Dijon clusters tend to be little bit larger and more compact than those of the Rued clone. As you can see in this picture, they also exhibit a trait known as ‘hens and chicks’, where there are small and large berries in the same cluster.

The vines in this block are a little older and more productive than the Rued vines in block 3, so we ended up getting about three tons of fruit today.

Of course, this means a fairly long work day because we need to do three pressloads instead of two, but during harvest that’s just the way it goes. At many facilities it’s not uncommon to work fourteen hour days during harvest, and occasionally they run much longer. We’re lucky here, because our small size means we can take our time and be careful with the product and still work somewhat reasonable hours.

On longer days with multiple pressloads, we keep the fruit inside our climate controlled warehouse / barrel room to keep it cool.

We’re still planning to get a little more Chardonnay from the Belli ranch, but the remaining blocks are not quite ripe yet, so we’re going to take a few days off from Chard and let the hot weather we’re having bring the sugars up.

Tune in tomorrow for some news about our 2011 Monte Rosso Zin!

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery Main website please click here.

Harvest 2011 has begun!

September 20, 2011

This is it, the crush is underway! The workers out at the Belli ranch started picking Chardonnay at daybreak, and the fruit rolled in at the winery just before 10 AM. It’s a good idea to get the fruit to the winery as early in the day as possible, so that it stays cool. The reason for keeping the fruit and juice cool all through the crushing process is that it helps to prevent damage from oxidative enzymes, which could cause browning and a host of other sensory problems.

The fruit came in four bins, each of which held about a thousand pounds of grapes.

As we mentioned last week, this fruit came from block 3, which was cropped very lightly with Rued clone. To fill out the last bin today, we picked a little bit of block 5, which is continuous with block 3 but is planted to Dijon clone instead.

This picture was taken from the top of the hill at Belli ranch, standing at the edge of block 3. Block 5 begins near the bottom of the hill, towards the edge of the picture.

As soon as we had the fruit off the truck, we loaded it into the hopper, which then gently slid it into the press. We chose to press this Chardonnay ‘whole-cluster’, meaning that we did not separate the berries from the stems before loading the press. This not only gives us a better yield of juice, it allows us to extract a higher quality of juice because the grapes do not have to get beaten up in a destemmer.

Crushing whole-cluster has one drawback - the fruit ends up taking a lot more space in the press because of the mass of the stems and all of the space between the berries and clusters. The result is that we really have to load the press to the top every time to make sure we can get it done in the fewest number of press cycles possible

 Once the press was loaded, we let it go to work. When you’re pressing, someone has to stand and watch the juice tray, periodically draining it into the receiving tank. Our little press can only handle about one ton of grapes at a time, and one pressload takes about two hours to complete, so we spent about four hours running the press today.

Chardonnay juice usually has a slightly brown color when it has just been pressed, this comes from the grape solids that make it through with the juice. It will disappear after settling and fermentation.

Once the juice was in tank, we turned on the glycol jackets and cooled it way down.

We also add a little bit of dry ice, this mixes the tank so we can get a good sample for analysis in our lab, and it forms a gas blanket over the surface of the juice to protect it from the air.

After that, all that was left was to clean up and head home. We’ll be crushing again tomorrow, so be sure to check back to see what we’re up to!

 

S'aright? S'aright. S'aright? S'aright.

To view the Amapola Creek Winery Main site, please click here.

After inspecting the Chardonnay out at the Belli ranch in the Russian River Valley, we’ve decided to schedule our first pick of 2011! The portion of the vineyard we’ve decided to start with is block 3, which starts at the top of the hill in the picture below, and continues down to the left.

Block 3 of the Belli Ranch Chardonnay

This block is planted to the Rued clone of Chardonnay, which is what is known as a ‘musque’ selection, meaning that it has a slight but distinctive muscat character to it. The fruit is tasting particularly nice, a little bit of minerality and pear flavor, with a pleasing note of tropical pineapple.

This is a good example of a Rued clone cluster, very small and the grapes are not too tightly packed together.

The crop in block 3 is extremely light this year (you can get a sense of that from the picture of the Rued cluster above), which is part of why it was the first to ripen. Since the earlier part of the season was so cool, the fruit has had a long hang time, and it is extremely physiologically mature. This means that the seeds and stems have lignified (turned brown and somewhat woody in texture). This is a sign that the grapes have reached a sort of maximum in flavor, which was also apparent from tasting the fruit during inspection.

Be sure to check back early next week as we bring in our first fruit of 2011, this is shaping up to be an exciting vintage!

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