Done with grapes for 2012

November 1, 2012

As suddenly as it began back in September, it’s over! We topped off this vintage by bringing in the ‘second crop’, which is a small second wave of fruit that ripens up a few weeks after the main crop comes in. We managed to finish picking just the day before the rains came, which is fortunate, because rain tends to reduce flavor and promote rot.

Clusters of second crop are usually small and found high in the canopy. They are usually not quite as high in quality as the main crop, so we are planning to sell the wine we make from them to another winery sometime next year. It actually tastes pretty good this year, but with such a fantastic yield of main crop to select from we will be able to cull out only the cream of the crop for ourselves.

This has been a really big harvest for us, huge yields and stellar quality. Now we begin the long process of prepping our wines to store and age, and we begin getting our vineyards ready for next year. Be sure to check back to see how it’s going!

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

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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.

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.

 

Cabernet Sauvignon is here!

September 28, 2012

We’ve finally started crushing our flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, and we are looking at a real bumper crop this year! Not only is there a lot of fruit coming in, but it is of a quality that doesn’t come around very often. The flavors present in this this fruit are simply outstanding, we are very, very proud to be able to make wine out of these beautiful grapes.

All of our Cabernet Sauvignon is grown organically here on the property, and it is planted to a variety of Entav clones. Entav clones are known for their tiny berries and deeply concentrated flavors and tannins. This cluster is typical, small berries that are loosely packed, which allows for the penetration of sunlight and air into the cluster to aid the ripening process.

We started off this week by bringing in the very ripest spots, which were on the steepest hillsides of the China Bowl vineyard.

The weather has been so perfect of late that all the steepest sections in China Bowl managed to ripen their fruit at the same time. The areas that we brought in first are the areas that showed the most promise earlier in the year in terms of developing quality, they tended to be more stressed, lower yielding vines and so they were the first to achieve maturity.

The maturity of the grapes we are bringing in is literally visible, if you look at the stems you can see that have begun to ‘lignify’, or turn into wood, giving them a brown color.

Lignification is a sign that the vine has cut off the flow of sap to the fruit. To us, it means that the fruit has developed to its’ peak and is ready to come in.

We crushed the China Bowl Cabernet into two tanks, each from a physically distinct part of the block. We will keep these two wines separate so that we can see what each part of the vineyard brings to the final blend.

Once we were done with the ripest sections of China Bowl, we moved on to Montana Vista at the top of the property. It’s rare for us, but this year we were actually able to harvest the entire block at one time and keep it separate from everything else in it’s own tank. Again, this will allow us to see directly what this block brings to the final product.

We always wait to start processing the fruit until all of it has arrived at the winery and we know that our tank choices are correct. Once it’s all in, however, we work as fast as we can to get it processed and into the tanks to keep it from getting too warm. 

These are very exciting times for us, this is clearly going to be an exceptional vintage and we cannot wait to see how the wines turn out. Please come back again soon and see how it’s going!

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

 

Introducing our first Rose!

September 24, 2012

As was promised last week, we have exciting news, we have just crushed the grapes for our first ever Rose! This crisp, fruity wine will be a blend of four Rhone varieties; Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Viognier!

The first grapes to pick were Mourvedre, which were just grafted over in the Spring in our China Bowl block. The fact that we were able to get crop off of vines that were grafted so recently is a tribute to this remarkably bountiful year. These grapes were low in sugar, but very intensely flavored and with a very deep color.

Harvesting grapes for Rose is a little tricky. We are making a low alcohol style, so we don’t want to bring in grapes that are fully ripened, but we do need them to have ripened enough that they taste fruity instead of green.

This is the Grenache we picked for the Rose, note how the berries are a little bit variable in their color. The darker berries will lend more fruit character to the wine, while the lighter colored berries will grant the wine a delicious crispness. Sorting out and picking the right clusters for this wine is a labor intensive process, but that is what it takes to make our special style!

We were also excited this year to see an increase in productivity from our Viognier vines.

We don’t have too many Viognier vines, and most of them are fairly young and haven’t produced much fruit in the past. We are quite pleased to see that this year we got a pretty good yield, which will help us make this wine in a more authentic Rhone style.

To process Rose, we destem the grapes directly into bins where we let them sit for awhile to soak up some color.

Destemming breaks up the berries just enough to let a little juice out, the goal at this stage is to extract just exactly the right amount of color from the fruit to give the finished product the hue that we want.

Once the berries are in bins, we punch them down a few times to help the extraction along.

Punching down is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, we take a stainless steel paddle and use it to punch the grapes down into the juice. This helps speed up color extraction, so you have to be careful not to overdo it or the wine will be too dark.

We left the grapes to soak overnight, and in the morning we decided that the juice had exactly the right amount of color, so we loaded it into the press to extract the ruby juice which we put down to tank to ferment. Richards’ daughter Kerry helped us out today, transferring the last bit of grapes into the press by hand after the pump had gotten all it could.

We can already tell that this is going to be a truly superb wine, please check back with us to see how it’s coming along!

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

Monitoring our fermentations

September 21, 2012

Since we had the Zinfandel chilled down to such a low temperature for cold-soaking (~50F), it took a couple of days for the must to warm up and for the fermentation to start in earnest. Now that it is starting to take off, we have started monitoring the sugar content of the must daily, so that we can track how healthy and active the fermentation is.

We monitor our fermentations using a device called a ‘hydrometer’. It is used to measure the density of a liquid, from which we can infer the liquids’ sugar content. If you look carefully, you can see that there are numbers printed on the stem of the device.

To use the hydrometer, we simply place it in a tube filled with juice from the fermentation.

The hydrometer has a very carefully calibrated mass, so when it is placed in a liquid the stem of the hydrometer sticks up a given distance which is determined by the liquids’ density. The denser the liquid (the sweeter the juice), the further the hydrometer pokes up. You read the hydrometer by looking at where the stem breaks the surface of the liquid, and the number printed there will give you the sugar content of the juice.

Be sure to check back in next week, we will have an exciting new project to share with you!

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

 

 

 

 

Fermentations!

September 20, 2012

Several exciting things are happening now in the cellar. For one, we have inoculated the 2012 Belli Chardonnay with yeast and put it down to barrel to ferment.

Fermenting Chardonnay in barrels gives the wine much greater body and depth, as well as adding nuances of butterscotch and toast, which are derived from contact with the oak itself.

The little devices sticking out of the tops of the barrels are ‘fermentation bungs’. These allow carbon dioxide, a by-product of the alcoholic fermentation, to leave the barrel while preventing air from getting in.

One of the little pleasures of making Chardonnay this way is getting to hear the little ‘blip blip blip’ of gas escaping out through the fermentation bungs. It’s always nice to hear them going in the mornings, it’s a sign that the fermentation is healthy and strong!

Additionally, we have ended the cold-soak on the Monte Rosso Zinfandel, and inoculated it with yeast as well.

To inoculate the crushed grapes, or ‘must’, we add a little bit of juice and a little bit of hot water to a bucket. We then add the freeze-dried yeast culture to the bucket and gently mix it until it has a smooth consistency. Almost immediately, the yeast wake up and begin to ferment, forming the cake of foam you can see in this picture. Once the yeast are rehydrated and happy, we pitch them over the top of the tank and let them go to work!

We estimate that this wine will have just around 15% alcohol when it’s done, so we chose a strong fermenting yeast that can handle alcohol in that range known as K1. This yeast is known for its’ clean character, and for its’ ability to suppress wild yeasts that can cause off-characters during fermentation.

Everything is looking great so far, and we’ve only just begun! Be sure to check back to see how we’re doing!

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