The Rhone Report and the appeal of wine criticism by varietal
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Note from the Cellar: "We're finished!" (...bringing in the 2009 fruit...)

Considering what a huge deal it is to complete a harvest, the end is shockingly anticlimactic.  It's not as though we all watch as the last bin of fruit is unloaded from the truck, smiling proudly as it is poured onto the sorting table.  Rather, we meant to take some photos of the end of harvest this year, and only after everything was clean and put away did we realize that we had forgotten to bring out the camera.  On the plus side, the last of the fruit came in at a steady pace (we didn't get bombarded by bins) and we were able to play around with some of the smaller lots we produce here.

One of those small lots is our Pinot Noir, of which we have produced one barrel of each year since 2007.  Because it is such a minute amount, it's more of a "passion project" than anything.  This year, like the previous two years, we brought a small amount into the cellar (0.31 tons, to be exact).  With such a tiny amount of fruit, it was difficult to decide what to do with it - even a macro-bin was too large for a proper fermentation to take place.  Many of the small artisanal wineries in the area pull the heads out of their barrels to ferment small lots, so we decided to give it a try.  We prowled through the cellar until we found a puncheon (a large format barrel that hold 132 gallons) that had a leaky head, steamed it, rinsed it, and set to work making a fermentation vessel.  None of us have ever attempted this, but Ryan set to work like he'd done it a hundred times before.  The photo here is the least blurry photo I was able to capture - apparently, the auto focus doesn't work quite as fast as Ryan does.


The fermentation went smoothly after the wine was transferred to the barrel, and before we knew it, it was time to press.  With lots as small as this one, it's both senseless and a little dangerous to press the wine using our bladder press.  Considering how long it takes to clean out the red press, it just doesn't make a lot of sense to press such a small amount of wine.  It's also a bit risky - the bladder would have to inflate far more than it would with a normal press load and we would run the risk af tearing a hole in the bladder due to over-inflation.  So instead, we borrowed a mini basket press from Steve Goldman, a fellow winemaker and friend of Neil's. 


After pressing the Pinot, we ended up with about 45-50 gallons of wine that was transferred to barrel and topped up with some leftover Tannat we had on hand.  Given the fact that we only have enough fruit to produce one barrel of this wine, most of the wine is distributed to the partners of Tablas Creek, but it's a fun project in any case.

Now that harvest is officially over (all the fruit is in and all the reds have been pressed off), it's time to get the cellar cleaned up and organized to continue topping and begin pulling samples to monitor the progress of our secondary (malolactic) fermentations.  There is still much work to be done before we can put this vintage to rest, but it is a truly exciting thing to watch as each and every barrel begins to show its own unique personality.

The following are a few shots that were taken both during harvest and after harvest had been completed:


Above: A refractometer reading of Roussanne


National Sales Manager (and cellar veteran) Tommy Oldre rolls up his sleeves to help process Mourvedre


I may have missed the photo-op for the final bin of fruit, but third to last isn't so bad!  Mourvedre waiting to be processed


A parting shot of the destemmer after it had been cleaned for the last time of the vintage