In the Vineyard: The 2011 harvest has been unique in one very noticeable respect: volume. While last year was also cooler than normal, the quantity of grapes per acre was unaffected. This year we saw significant moisture during the flowering phase of growth and hail during fruit set, with predictable results. The number of clusters per vine was normal, but as the accompanying photo shows, the number of berries per cluster diminished.
Our harvest numbers are down considerably from last year. The Viognier is down 75%, the Verdelho 66%, and the Syrah 25%. However, the Primitivo is up 25%, as is the Zinfandel, which should make the Brayzin Hussy fans happy. The rains and cooler weather earlier this month slowed down an already delayed crush but despite the moisture, mildew has yet to become a problem. Fortunately, the warmer weather last week was helpful. Mid-October is already here, and we still have half our varietals hanging on the vines.
Around the Winery: Although the quantity of grapes is down, the quality is superb. The 2011 harvest is sure to produce some really amazing wines. The acidity levels in the grapes are somewhat higher for the same degree of ripeness, and this should allow for balanced, food friendly, age worthy wines.
What happens to the grapes after they are picked? The individual varietals are first placed in half-ton macro-bins. The grapes are then cycled through a de-stemmer crusher to remove vegetation and break open the skins. The goal is to expose the pulp and grape sugars to the fermentation yeast but not break open any seeds which would release harsh, unwanted tannins. The grapes (now referred to as must) are returned to the macro bins, and the varietals with larger volumes are transferred to stainless steel tanks. The must is then allowed to sit undisturbed between 24 and 48 hours, depending upon the varietal in question. This “cold soak” aids in the extraction of color pigments and also rehydrates any raisins that were on the clusters.
Finally, the yeast is pitched (fancy way of saying “added”) and the fermentation process begins. The production of CO2 by the yeast during the fermentation process causes the grape skins to form a cap over the fermenting wine. This cap is physically punched down 3 to 4 times a day to re-submerge the skins which allows for greater phenolic extraction. The wine in tanks is pumped over the skins twice a day for the same reason. Once fermentation is complete, the wine is pressed off the skins and stored in barrels. Each macro bin will produce about 55-60 gallons of wine, which is just the right amount for one barrel.
Wine Trivia: I was surprised to learn that the “Millennials” have surpassed the “Aging Boomers” as the largest consumer group in the United States. The initial cohort of the “Millennials,” (ages 9-30), are now just beginning their wine consumption careers. Influencing their preferences is of more than passing interest to the wine industry. I recently came across a study focused on the ability of a wine label to influence a consumer’s purchase choice. The conclusions were informative.
A blind tasting of four wines (two reds and two whites) was first conducted to establish a base profile. Then the tasting was repeated but this time with the bottle labels available for viewing. Unknown to the tasters, the only difference between the wines was the information printed on the label. One label was generic in content, and the other discussed flavors and food pairings. The same white wine and the same red wine were in each of the two bottles. Not surprisingly, participants had some significant changes in perception of the fruit attributes of the wines the second time around. Being able to read the label and being told what to expect in the spectrum of flavor profiles influenced the result. Social scientists call this process priming, and it can bias experienced tasters as well as novices.
Our taste and olfactory senses (relating to smell) process the initial chemical inputs received and pass them along to the brain as electrical signals. At first, all that is registered is the identity and intensity of the stimulus. Next, a section of our brains called the orbitofrontal cortex combines these separate stimuli to form the sensation of flavor. The brain then combines the inputs of sight and touch to form a complex sensation localized to the mouth. This function of higher-order processing is a slowly acquired learning process. Past experience plays a critical role, and if one lacks a solid foundation of experience, then the subconscious brain can substitute the information supplied on the bottle label. Advertisers know how to use this priming for their marketing advantage. Moral of the story: taste the wine and form your own opinion first, then compare your tasting notes with those on the label or with friends.
If you have a question that is looking for an answer, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next month we’ll report on more exciting developments at the winery and vineyard.
Tasting Room: Our Tasting Room is open Wednesday through Monday from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. In October, we will be pouring the ’10 Brayzin Hussy Blonde, ’09 Barbera Rosato, ’08 Brayzin Hussy Red, ’07 Sangiovese, ’08 Barbera, ’07 Vinho Tinto, ’09 Primitivo, and the ’07 Petit Sirah/Zinfandel Port. We also have a new addition, a red table wine, available in a refillable one liter bottle emblazoned with Bray’s tractor logo. October is a great time for a visit, and we look forward to seeing you soon!
Specials: The “Big Crush” was a great event with perfect weather. If you missed it, then make plans to join us on the first weekend in March for the “Behind the Cellar Door” celebration. We still have small quantities of our crush specials available. The ’09 Barbera Rosato, the ’06 Alicante Bouschet and the ’07 Petit Sirah can be purchased for $50 a half case and $99 for a full case. Mixing and matching is allowed! Visit our website for details.
Website: Brayvineyards.com is the place to go for additional information on the winery, upcoming events, and past issues of this newsletter. It is also the online store for our current inventory of “direct shipment” wines, the available library wines, Bray logo clothing, and other winery paraphernalia. If you can’t visit us in beautiful
10590 Shenandoah Road
PO Box 87
Plymouth, CA 95669