Blanc de Barrel Monkey

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BarrelMonkey

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This year I wanted to make a white wine. I have over 26 cases of my 2021 Pinot Noir in hand, and while I’m happy with how it turned out there are times when only a glass of white will do. However, I delayed sourcing my grapes due to the uncertain arrival time of my new crusher/destemmer, which didn’t come in until early September. Harvest is here and white grapes were nowhere to be found, so I figured that I’d missed my opportunity for this year.

On Saturday I heard from a local winegrower – he had heard that I wanted grapes, and would I be interested in his pinot noir? I love white pinot noir. It’s not that common, but living in the heart of pinot country there are several local winemakers who produce it. Moreover this winegrower’s grapes were reportedly around 23 brix – right in the white wine sweet spot – and they were relatively inexpensive.

I called the pick for the following day. The only catch – it would be me and Mrs. Monkey doing the picking, since I only wanted to take ¼ ton. So at 6:15am, off we headed, buckets and pruning shears in hand. Mercifully, it was cool and overcast all day, in contrast to the 100+ degree days of the previous week.

Vineyard.jpg

We started picking just before 7am and ended around 10. For those who haven’t done it, it’s hard work, and I have an increased respect for the folks that go out doing this in the dark with only floodlights or headlamps to guide them – sometimes on steep and uneven terrain. But eventually our bin filled up. We were a little short of a quarter ton when I weighed the grapes, but given the time and the fact that we still needed to crush and press we elected to head home.

Bin.jpg

Here is the ‘crush pad’. The plan was to offload from the truck by bucketing grapes into the crusher, crush into the plastic bin, load into the press and then pump juice from the press bucket into carboys in my basement. We wanted to press as soon as possible after crushing in order to minimize skin contact, so alternated between 5 cycles of crush and press.

Crushpad.jpg

Lessons learned:
- We made a plastic ‘skirt’ to guide grapes from the crusher into the bin below. This worked well, but I think in future I’ll bite the bullet and buy a proper stand.
- Lubricate the press ratchet! The first load was a real chore to press, then I sprayed some food-safe lubricant into the mechanism. Night and day difference.
- The pump was OK, but the prefilter got clogged after each press load so I had to disassemble it to clean it off. It’s really hard to reassemble the screen though, and in the interests of time we bucketed the last couple of press loads into carboys with a funnel.

Our overall yield was fairly low, ~23 gallons so only a bit more than 100gal/ton. I got more like 150gal/ton from my red pinot last year. I think some of this is the inherent lower yield of non-fermented grapes (the pomace remains much more wet), plus I didn’t want to press too hard and extract dark colors/harsh flavors from the skins and seeds.

Now the moment of truth. I broke out the hydrometer, pH meter and burette and found…

Brix 21.0, pH 3.07, TA 9.15g/L

Oh.

Those numbers are likely to make a rather sharp tasting still wine. However, they’re pretty good numbers if you’re going to make sparkling wine, so plans have changed. Looks like 2022 will be the year of the Blanc de Noir at Barrel Monkey cellars!

Next day: I racked the juice off the sediment into 2x 15-gallon kegs. I made and pitched starters for the two kegs using 2 different yeast strains: BA11 and QA23. And so my unexpected but hopefully rewarding sparkling wine adventure begins!
 

VinesnBines

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The father of Virginia viticulture, Gabriele Rausse, makes a Vin Gris de Pinot Noir. He created the style when the Pinot Noir was suffering a skin rot. He pressed the grapes to make a favorite best selling "white". It is not a sparkling wine but a still wine.

Yours should be wonderful. Good luck.
 

BarrelMonkey

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My main fear in fermenting whites was that they would go off way too fast, with an associated detrimental effect on aromatics. My fermenters are in the coolest part of the house and we have thankfully had relatively cool weather so far this week. However, my fears appear to have been well founded. Here is my fermentation profile for the first few days:

ferm days 0-4.png

Hoping things will cool down as the % alcohol increases. I added a little ice (and tartaric to compensate) to help things along.
 
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BarrelMonkey

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I'm fried (but happy!) I got a call on Thursday from the winegrower who I bought from last year. She said that the crew that picked her vineyard this year didn't do a great job and there were lots of grapes still hanging. Mine for free if I wanted them.

When life gives you grapes, make wine, right?

I was excited about this opportunity because it gave me a chance to make something that could be blended with last week's pick into a nice still wine, while also leaving some of the high acidity wine for making sparkling. So off we set again, started picking at 7am and ended around 11:30.

This was hard, hard work. We walked miles I'm sure, and picked a lot of small clusters (though in fairness there were a lot of grapes and there were some nice big bunches too). I think we ended up with around 300lb. Most of it was pinot noir, with some chardonnay and viognier (we picked the whites separately). The chardonnay in particular was spectacular. I would have been mad if they were my grapes and the picking crew had left so many beautiful bunches on the vine.

Back at the crush pad, we crushed and pressed the white blend, then the PN. This time I added ~30ppm KMBS to the juice and some Lallzyme C-max: I was disappointed in the overnight settling of last week's juice so decided a little enzymatic help was in order. We ended up with about 13 gal PN and 6 gal 'field blend' - I think about 50% chardonnay, 40% pinot, 10% viognier. Crappy yield, but I think that's what you get with a little basket press. I did include some stems in the press this time in an attempt to improve juice flow.

The all important numbers:

Pinot Noir: Brix 23, pH 3.15, TA 6.8
Field Blend: Brix 23, pH 3.24, TA 6.7

Love it! :db

The 'sparkling pick' continues to ferment nicely, albeit rather too quickly. Brix 1.3, 0.0 today for my 2 different yeasts. Tomorrow I will rack off the juice form today and pitch yeast (I'm going with Cross Evolution this time).
 

BarrelMonkey

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Sparkling base wine safely racked to carboys:

Racked_to_carboy_web.jpg

I ended up with 7 gal fermented with BA11, 6 gal fermented with QA23 and another 6 gal which was a blend of the two. (They are the three carboys in the back and the little 1-gallon jug, though I'm not sure if those big carboys are 6 gallons or 6.5?) Seems like a lot of liquid to lose between press (~23 gal) and first racking after fermentation... 😕

Both taste very dry (as expected) and nicely fruity - BA11 with prominent peach/apricot flavors and QA23 with some stonefruit but also citrussy notes. I added 30ppm KMBS at this stage.

The other fermentations are coming along nicely. Pinot noir is in the keg and the 'field blend' in the two carboys in front. They are running a bit cooler and slower than the sparkling batches, though I'm not sure how much is due to the different yeast and how much due to the fact that we've had a week of quite cool weather.
 

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