2022 Carménère late harvest

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grape juice artisan
Supporting Member
Jul 1, 2018
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PNW - South Sound
Tomorrow morning I'll be driving to Benton City, WA to pick up a macro bin of Carménère. The AVA is Red Mountain, one of most prestigious growing areas in the Columbia Valley in Washington State.

These grapes are a replacement for a bin of Mourvedre that I missed out on a few months ago. The 'Ved was going to round out the GSM barrel I've been planning this year. I have the Grenache and the Syrah done and waiting in bulk. I was looking for some replacement Mourvedre and couldn't find any. The initial Mourvedre came available at a time I could not go get it 10 hours drive away. Thus, the Carménère. So I guess I'll have a GSC blend, lol...

The initial estimated harvest date was first week of October. A cold snap stunted the vines and everything s l o w e d down, but here we are. They will be harvested Friday morning while I'm driving.

My plan:

After I get home from the 4 hour drive (late afternoon), I'll immediately crush.
I'm planning on fermenting in two 55 gallon drums and pull 3 gallons each for a Rose' (6 gallons total)
Yeast will be Chr. Hansen Harmony and I will introduce Ch16 after first solid cap.
I'm going to keep the ambient temp at 65 and hope for a 20-25 day ferment. We will see...
I should net 65 gallons of free run and pressed wine.

Here's a few pics of me grabbing some equipment from the basement of my office.

I'll be documenting this whole ferment, so I hope you'll join in.

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Update: Retrieval

I left this morning at 5:00am as I needed to get ahead of the traffic. I could have avoided traffic altogether by heading south from my house on Interstate 5 and then east on state highway 12 and over to Interstate 82. This route goes over White Pass, a windy two lane road that is 4500 feet above sea level. At this time of morning, I didn't want to go that way because of the number deer on the road and potential for ice and not much of a side rail system over the pass.

Instead, I chose to head north from my house, taking Interstate 5/State Highway 18/Interstate 90/Interstate 82 to Benton City with a 90 minute stop in Yakima where I have a client who was offering me a cup (or three) of coffee and breakfast. This route goes over Snoqualmie Pass but it is only 3000 feet above sea level and is 4 lanes wide both directions. The vineyard owner requested I arrive no sooner than 11:30am to give him time to pick the grapes single handedly. Everything worked well and I arrived to the clients house on time and to the vineyard on time.

The vineyard owner, Del (and wife Terry) is retired and grows Carmenere, Mourvedre and Tempranillo. His total production is 20 tons, on average, across the three varieties. After I loaded up, swapped some wine and paid the invoice, I was back on the road within 75 minutes.

For the drive home, I decided to take White Pass choosing to avoid the afternoon/evening extreme traffic on Interstate 90, Highway 18 and Interstate 5 that starts building 40 miles from Seattle. White Pass has zero traffic but adds about 30 more minutes of drive time - clearly worth it...

By the time I got home, approximately 5:30pm, there was less than an hour of daylight so I decided to crush the following morning.

More then...
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Update: The Crush

This morning, Mrs. Crushday and I crushed. I must have brought home a hornet from Eastern Washington as I got stung helping keep the hungry crusher/destemmer busy. I put on gloves after that...

Here are the initial numbers:

Brix: 24.2 bx
pH: 3.68
Volume of must: 100 gallons (after pulling six gallons Saignee for a Carmenere Rose')


Here are a few more pics...

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Update: Good color and too much color!

I stirred up the must this morning. For this ferment, I have two 55 gallon drums, each holding about 50 gallons. My experience with these drums is they are actually closer to 60 gallons so the cap should rise close to the top, but not spill over. And, I'm going to keep the fermentation on the low end with a room ambient temperature of 50 degrees.

The color is great already on the must. The color on the Rose' is too much. Dang it! Something @NorCal said to me a couple months ago is reverberating in the back of my mind. He said, "You can't take color away, but you can always add it" (speaking of a rose' wine). I set a timer for two hours. When 1 hour and 45 minutes had elapsed, I started taking juice out of each drum in an alternating fashion putting the "dry" skins aside. After I had six gallons, I added the skins back, in an alternating fashion, into the drums. That took about 15 minutes, so I reached my goal of two hours on the skins. You can see from the pics, the color of this Rose' will be dark... The other picture is the must from one fermentor after I stirred it up this morning.

Saignee underway:


What the Rose looked like immediately following the Saignee:


What the Rose' looked like several hours later:


What the must looked like this morning after stir: Aroma is very Cab Franc-esque

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Update: First Punch

I just punched down. Although it's a very loose cap, there are a significant number of worm holes telling me fermentation has begun. I pitched the yeast on Saturday evening when the must was 56 degrees. BTW - the low temp spec for Harmony is 50 degrees fahrenheit. This morning, the temp is 57.2 degrees.

It won't take much longer for the population, whom right now are still exploring the space, getting to know each other and generally overwhelmed by the amount of food, to generate enough inertia to add a few more clicks on the thermometer. They'll start partying it up, propagating, hitting the buffet line and soon it will be a mosh pit. They have no idea they're slowing killing themselves...
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Update: Bacteria experiment

Tonight when I pitch MLB, for fermenter #1 I'm going to pitch Chr Hansen Viniflora Oenos. In fermenter #2, I'll be adding Viniflora CH16. I'd like to get a sense of the differences, if any, these produce as it relates to aroma, mouthfeel and anything else. I'll keep copious notes on this one...
Will you warm it up a bit for MLF?

Good Experiment.
Such a great question. I'm assuming the temp will climb in the next couple of days to the level needed for the bacteria. And, I wouldn't be surprised if the bacteria can survive a bit lower than the listed 63 degrees...

Time will tell.
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Update: It's COLD

I just punched for the second time today. I have a solid cap and the colony is building quickly. I measure the temperature at every punch and the highest it's registered is 57.2. Average has been 56 but I'm not graphing it, just noticing the mean average. My daytime ambient temp has been 56 degrees. Overnight temp is 50.

I can turn on the heat but have decided against it up to this point with my resolve being strengthened in direct proportion to the strengthening yeast colony evidenced by the increasing cap organization. Am I risking a future stuck fermentation? What else am I risking?

I'm flying to Montana (Missoula) on Friday morning and then to Texas (San Antonio) on Sunday. I'll be home Wednesday night and Mrs. Crushday will take over punching in my stead, twice daily.

Other than @Rice_Guy, who has experience with cold red wine fermentations? I don't want to sacrifice excellent color extraction or heavy mouthfeel. But, from what I've read a cooler ferment can maintain more "fruit" than a warmer ferment, which is tempting.
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I haven’t been able to get my fermentation temps down that low, but your question reminded me of this thread from a couple years ago when @NorCal met with local commercial winemakers and they suggested temperature control as one of the things that can have the biggest impact on quality, specifically keeping it in the 50s early on but then raising it:
Homemade vs. Commercial and what I am doing to close the gap
Update: Mrs. Crushday reporting

I’m in airports all day flying from Montana to Texas with a stops in Seattle and Salt Lake. Dang…

Although the ambient temperature is 48 degrees, the must temp is 69 and 70 - there are two active ferments. I instructed Mrs. Crushday to add the MLB to the each fermentor. Oenos in #1 and CH16 in #2. She did it…

It’s supposed to get down in the 20s back home so I’ve asked the heat be applied to keep ambient at 50.
Update: Pressed Wine

I was able to press the Carmenere today. Brix was -1. If you recall, I added Oenos bacteria to one batch and CH16 to the other. I kept the free run of those batches separate and mixed the press wine, which was pressed at 1 bar.

Oenos batch: a full 120L Speidel
CH16 batch: a full 120L Speidel
Mix: 3/4 full 60L Speidel

Having never fermented Carmenere before, I wasn't sure what to expect. I found that the Carmenere is very much like Zinfandel in terms of juice to skin ratio. Also similar to Zinfandel is the way the skins broke down during the fermentation. There was an inordinate amount of lees. When I rack in a few days, I'm expecting to find 2 or 3 inches of gross lees at the bottom of the Speidel.

A few pics...

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