With the warm weather upon us we cannot get enough of this Merlot! While the days are getting warmer we are still enjoying cooler nights and I for one have found myself repeatedly grabbing a glass of Merlot to enjoy in the backyard by the fire. Something about the rich fruit notes and soft finish makes it the perfect compliment to the warm days turned cool nights.
Our 2017 T'Jara Merlot is fruity and luscious and everything you want in a red wine this time of year! Made in the classic old-world style, the 2017 Merlot is medium to full bodied with ripe red fruit notes of raspberry and cranberry mixed with dark notes of blueberry, blackberry and plum. Lush and round with fine tannins this easy red sipper pairs beautifully with food and stands up nicely on its own!
Keep an eye on the Blog for a few fun "Cooking with Suhru" recipes coming out soon!
Why Is Merlot So Prolific on the North Fork?
Merlot is the most widely planted variety on the East End of Long Island. This varietal flourishes in our cool climate region and ripens mid harvest, usually in the second or third week of October. Being one of the earlier ripening reds planted out here means that the fruit ripens and is harvested prior to most of the major weather events that threaten the crop, think hurricanes and early frosts.
In a hotter region this variety loses its sweet fruit aromatics and mid palate fullness. Due to the hotter temperatures the fruit ripens more rapidly resulting in higher sugar content in the grapes which leads to higher alcohol in the wine which overwhelms the tannic structure of the varietal.
While you can grow Merlot in a variety of different regions (it is the second most widely planted grape variety on the globe), it is well established that the Bordeaux region in France is growing some of the best Merlot. If you take a closer look at the Bordeaux region, you may notice that we on Long Island are located on almost the same latitude meaning that we have a very similar climate, weather patterns, and growing conditions making us an excellent region to grow Merlot.
A Closer Look at the Vineyard
Our 2017 Merlot is made under our T'Jara label. T'Jara is the phonetic spelling of an Aboriginal word that means "place where I am from". For all of our T'Jara wines, they are grown at a dedicated vineyard in Mattituck which is located on an elevated, south facing parcel of land. This is an important feature as south facing land means that the vines get more direct sun exposure during the day leading to better grape development. In addition, the elevated nature of this piece of land in relation to the surrounding properties allows for good wind and air flow throughout the growing season.
When it comes to vineyard management air flow is key. Particularly on the North Fork where we tend to get humid and wet days during the growing season, the ample air flow ensures that the humidity does not collect around the vines which would lead to added disease pressure and rot.
In the 2017 vintage, we saw a warm growing season with a very dry Harvest period, which is what you want in the vineyard. Grape vines are one of the few crops that like a little drought pressure. Grape vines like well drained soil so for a grape grower, a dry spell is ideal because we can turn on our irrigation and control the amount of water the vines receive. In addition to the daytime weather, in 2017 the Fall evenings in the weeks leading up to harvesting in early October saw lower than normal temperatures which allowed for
longer 'hang time' on the vine before picking which resulted in the very expressive fruitiness of this wine.
Want to learn more about this vintage? Checkout our 2017 Merlot!
Ever wonder how rosé is made? If you are familiar with the winemaking process you likely know that when a grape reaches optimal ripeness (desired amount of sugar aka brix balancing the desired amount of acidity) the fruit is harvested and brought to the winery to begin its fermentation process.
Winemaking is both a science and an art so every winemaker will do things slightly different, however here at Suhru we are taking the Provence winemaking approach to our rosé focusing on light, fresh, fruit flavors and a light salmon hue.
To achieve this style, we purposely harvest our fruit a full 2-3 weeks earlier than we would for our red wines to ensure higher acidity in the grape. Once the fruit arrives at the winery, it is destemmed and crushed. During the crushing process the berries are split open allowing the juice to run free and be in contact with the exterior of the grape skins which is essential for color extraction. This crushed fruit is left to soak for 6 hours of skin contact which allows it to extract a nice fruitiness and light salmon hue without the body, weight, or tannin, that an extended extraction (what we typically do for red wines) would result in.
Once the 6 hour soak is complete, the fruit is loaded into the press where we gently extract the liquid juice from the grape skins and seeds before the juice is pumped into tank. At this point the juice is inoculated with yeast and begins its fermentation process.
During fermentation the yeast cells that we have introduced through inoculation begin to consume the naturally occurring sugars in the grape juice. As the yeast consumes the sugar it produces alcohol and releases carbon dioxide (CO2). Once all of the sugars have been consumed and converted into alcohol the yeast cells die and settle to the bottom of the tank. Once everything settles the clear wine is racked (aka transferred) off the solids into a new tank where it undergoes the final finishing touches (heat stabilization, cold stabilization, filtering, etc) before it is bottled, chilled and served!
Learn More About Our Rosé
A soft summer sipper with a flinty minerality, our 2019 Dry Rosé—a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot—has notes of white peach, pink grapefruit, and ever so slight hints of cherry berry giving way to a soft acidity and zingy finish. This refreshing wine will leave you dreaming of long weekend, warm weather, and time spent by the water!
The light flavors and crisp finish make this a versatile wine able to stand up nicely with a wide range of lighter fare including seafood, salads, chicken, chilled pasta, lobster, and pork. This wine is perfect for the beach, sitting by the pool, and a summer BBQ!
We are excited to be offering our Rosé in both a 750ml bottle and 375ml can to make it easy to take your favorite wine with you wherever you may go—on the boat, on a hike, to the beach, gardening, or simple lazing by the pool!
Shop Rosé Wines in Bottle & Cans!
We are thrilled to announce the release of our 2020 Pinot Grigio, which recently won Gold at the 2021 New York Wine Classic! Our signature white wine from the very beginning, we are proud to say that this particular vintage is one of our best. While 2020 was a rough year for a number of regions, it was a good year to grow white wines on the North Fork!
A Closer Look: Behind the Bottle
After the grapes are harvested, arrive at the winery, are de-stemmed and crushed, they undergo fermentation. Once the yeast have consumed all of the naturally occurring sugars in the grape juice turning it into alcohol the yeast cells die and precipitate out of the solution, settling to the bottom of the tank. The solids at the bottom of the tank are known as the lees and are most often referred to when making sparkling wine.
For the last two years we have been using a newer winemaking technique in our white wines. Once the wines finish fermentation they are racked off the fermentation lees and these lees are put aside. The fermented wine is then filtered, heat stabilized, cold stabilized, filtered again and then the fermentation lees are reintroduced to the finished wine. The wine ages sur lie (aka on the lees) post-fermentation for 4 months. This aging process adds an extra layer of richness and complexity to the wine which is evident in the long, rich finish on the wine.
What Made 2020 Special?
2020 was an excellent year for white wines. We had slightly cooler than normal nights as well as cooler days during the harvest period which retained acidity and fruit intensity in the grapes. Because of these cooler conditions the fruit ripened a little slower but held its acidity meaning that we harvested a little later than normal leading to extended fruit development. All of these factors led to wine in the bottle which is bright and crisp with robust and nicely developed fruit flavors.
Food & Wine Pairing Suggestions
Pinot Grigio is one of those white wine varieties that pairs with a huge range of foods including cheese, seafood, chicken, pasta, and more. While there are a plethora of great options to choose from when pairing this wine, one of our all time favorite pairings is Pinot Grigio and Lobster! Nothing says "Hello Spring" like a fresh lobster and a cold glass of Pinot Grigio! No matter what you choose, here's to good food, good wine, and good company!
Learn More About our New Release—2020 Pinot Grigio
We are VERY excited to announce the release of our 2019 Dry Riesling, a wine that is already creating waves in the wine world! Our 2019 Dry Riesling was recently awarded a Double Gold medal and a 96 point score from the 2021 International Eastern Wine Competition! Not a bad way to kick off a new vintage release!
A Closer Look: Behind the Bottle
As in years past, our 2019 Dry Riesling was made entirely in stainless steel tanks to accentuate the minerality of the wine which brings out the bright, crisp acidity on the finish. When it comes to acidity in a wine, what you taste is driven by the pH.
The More You Know: In chemistry, pH is a scale used to determine the acidity or basicity of a liquid. The higher the pH the more basic the liquid, the lower the pH the more acidic it is.
Over the last few years the pH of our Dry Riesling has sat around 3.2 with 8 g/L of residual sugar. However in the 2019 vintage we saw a more vigorous growing season with more sun days at the vineyard in the Finger Lakes where we grow our Riesling fruit. Because of this, the grapes ripened earlier than in years past resulting in riper fruit while the pH remained low—the ideal scenario when it comes to growing white wines. Therefore our 2019 Dry Riesling has a slightly higher residual sugar than years past at 9g/L to balance its lower pH of 2.8.
Why is Acidity So Important?
When it comes to taste there are five main flavor categories—salt, fat, umami, acid, and sweet. In the wine world we tend to focus on acid and sweet, pulling in the other three when we are talking about food pairings.
Acidity and sweetness fall on opposite ends of the flavor spectrum so when you have a wine with residual sugar, the lower the pH the less sweet it will taste, as the brightness of the acidity comes through as the primary flavor. This phenomena is on prime display in our 2019 Dry Riesling which jumps from the glass upon first sniff. With bold, bright aromatics this wine has rich notes of honey and apricot mingled with a slight hint of plum on the nose with crisp notes of clementine, white peach, and starfruit on the palate.
Food & Wine Pairing Suggestions
An extremely food-friendly wine, known as one of the favorite food pairing wines by sommeliers, our Dry Riesling pairs wonderfully with a variety of Asian cuisines and spicier foods such as sushi, curries, Thai foods, dry rub barbecue, and more! This wine's rich minerality, vibrant fruit notes and bright acidity will leave you craving a cheese plate and a platter of blackened fish tacos! We will be releasing more information on this wine and a number of fun food pairings over the coming weeks, so stay tuned! Can't wait for more? Checkout our recent "Cooking with Suhru: Vegetable Curry & Dry Riesling" post!
Learn More About our New Release—2019 Dry Riesling
If you're planing a trip to wine country or simply tasting wines at home there are a number of helpful hints, tips, and tricks to ensure you get the most out of your tasting experience however one of our favorite (and the easiest to remember) is the 5 S's—Sight, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Savor (or Spit, that's up to you).
When it comes to tasting we all assume that our tongue is the main muscle we're flexing and while it is the main one, there is more to tasting than just "taste". Your sense of sight can tell you a lot about the wine before it even reaches your lips. Once the wine has been poured into your glass take a look at it, what do you notice? Right off the bat you should be able to tell first and foremost is it a white, red, or rosé wine? Is it still or sparkling?
Place your glass over a white surface and examine the color. Is it pale and translucent or rich and opaque? If it is a red wine, is the color consistent or do you see some browning on the edges? All of these characteristics and more will allow you to start to assess the wine in the glass, make certain observations and conclusions, and get a better sense of what the wine will taste like.
The color of a wine can tell you a lot about the wine in the glass. If a white wine is lighter in color it is likely stainless steel fermented and on the drier side whereas a honey hue in a white wine is often the sign of barrel aging or the presence of more residual sugar. If you are looking at a red wine similar observations can be made, often lighter bodied wines will be paler in color leaning more towards the red side of the color spectrum whereas fuller bodied reds with more tannic structure will be deeper and often more opaque in color.
An often overlooked step in the tasting process, swirling a wine in your glass has several meaningful results (other than just making you look fancy!). Swirling a wine in the glass exposes it to oxygen. While we often talk about oxygen in relation to wine as a negative (think wine turning into vinegar) controlled oxidation allows the flavors and aromatics to open up. By swirling a wine in the glass you are increasing the surface area of the wine and exposing more of the wine to oxygen, similar to the process taking place when a wine is decanted. As you swirl you'll start to notice more aromatics being release.
Pro Tip: Hold your glass by the stem or bottom of the bulb (if using stemless) and slowly rotate your wrist to move the wine around the edges of the glass. The swirl is all in the wrist, people often incorporate the whole arm into this movement which can lead to wine sloshing over the rim of the glass, which no-one wants.
Your sense of smell and your sense of taste are very closely related, as your nose and throat connect to the same airway. Which for example, is why when you have a cold and a stuffy nose, your sense of taste is diminished. Smelling a wine in the glass is a good first step in assessing the flavor profile of the wine. Stick your nose as far into the glass as you can and take a deep inhale, what do you smell? Notice the fruit notes. In a white wine, do you notice tropical and stone fruits or more citrus? For a red wine, do you detect red (raspberry, red currant, strawberry, red cherry) fruit notes or more on the black (blueberry, plum, blackberry, dark cherry, dark currant) fruit side of things? What about oak?
Pro Tip: Whenever you are tasting you want to ensure that what you are smelling is coming from the glass, not from your surrounding environment. While perfume and scented lotions are all great, it is best to skip it on days you are tasting as the aromas from the perfume will influence what you and the people around you taste in the glass.
Now its time to taste! Give the glass one more nice swirl, take a deep inhale, and take a sip. Let the wine sit on the top of your tongue, move it around your mouth making sure it comes in contact with the roof of your mouth and the sides of your tongue. What do you notice? What flavors jump out to you? Do you find yourself salivating from the acidity? Are you experiencing any drying sensations in your mouth coming from the tannins? Take another sip, this time while holding the wine in your mouth pull a small amount of air across your tongue, swish the wine around, swallow, and with your mouth closed exhale through your nose? What additional flavors do you notice?
Pro Tip: When it comes to tasting your pallet is key. Avoid gum, coffee, or strongly flavored foods prior to tasting and never brush your teeth just before a tasting as the flavors will diminish your tasting abilities.
Savor (or Spit)
This last and final step is everyone's favorite! You have reached the main event and now can enjoy the wine in your glass without having to worry about identifying flavors or characteristics. However the fun doesn't stop here. While you have reached the end of the S's there are plenty more ways to explore the wines you have in front of your the main one being combine the tasting experience with food.
One of the things we often forget when tasting wine is how those flavors interact on the palate once additional flavors are introduced which is why it is always best to taste a wine on its own as well as with food to see how the flavors change and evolve. Taste the wine in your glass with a meal, with a cheese or charcuterie spread at the Tasting House, or simply with a cracker and see how the flavor profile changes and evolves, happy sipping!
Explore More Posts from our "Behind the Bottle" Series!
Join us at the Tasting House for a Wine Tasting, Reservations Recommended
Ever wondered about the differences between the traditional cork closure and the more modern screw caps? Today we are taking a deep dive into the two technologies and shedding light on the history and benefits of the two!
A Brief History of the Corks
Cork has been in use since 3000 BC and is used in a wide variety of products including shoes, flooring, bags, and of course as a closure for wine. Cork products are made by harvesting the bark of a Quercus Suber oak trees aka a Cork Oak, which takes 25 years of growth to reach maturity and to a point where the bark can be harvested. The process of harvesting is done by hand by specially trained cork harvesters who strip the bark from the trees using an axe.
As an organic material cork is a wonderful natural product, however as with any organic material it is subject to contamination. One of the reasons cork has been the material of choice for centuries is that its porous nature allows gradual oxidation for the wine as it bottle ages. However because it is a natural product there can be quite a lot of variation from cork to cork which can lead to something called sporadic oxidation.
Sporadic oxidation is the result of inconsistency in pore size of the cork, leading to the allowance of more or less oxygen to pass through the cork into the bottle. This can result in a browning in color, maderized (baked or stewed) character, loss of primary fruit and a general flattening of flavors and shortening of the finish of the wine. This comes from the varying elasticity of the corks, more or less lenticels (holes size and quantity), the internal bore of the glass neck, imperfections of the corking machinery can cause slices in the cork all of these can create variable issues with a perfect seal.
Cork Contamination aka "Corked" Wine
One of the other most commonly referred to downsides of cork closures is TCA (trichloroanisole), the primary form of wine contaminantion, also referred to as a “corked” or spoiled bottle of wine.
TCA is created when chlorine comes in contact with molds that form naturally in the bark of Quercus Suber oak trees. Chlorine is introduced during the washing of the bark when it is cut and from spray residue from pesticide sprays on the trees. Some of the tell-tale signs of a TCA contaminated or "corked" bottle of wine is a ‘wet-cardboard’ and ‘wet dog’ aromas, paired with suppressed fruit and a shortened finish. The flavor and aromas are distinct and are easy to pick-out once you know what to look for. The wine industry estimates that between 5-10% of all wine bottled under cork has some level of TCA.
Introduction of Screw Caps
In August of 1889 Dan Rylands of Barnsley in the UK patented the screw cap, however it would be another 70 years before screw caps were used in wine packaging.
If you look inside a screw cap you will see a coating on the interior which is its PVDC liners (polyVINylidene chloride) essentially the ‘wine-proofing layer.’ This is then coupled with either Tin or Saranex backing based on the winemaker's preference. Tin linings (which are 10% more expensive) prevent oxygen exchange and retain freshness in a wine. Tin linings are primarily used for white and rosé wines. On the other hand, saranex linings which are mainly used for red wines allow the wine to breathe.
In 1959 a French company, Le Bouchage Mecanique (now Pechiney) was the first to use screw caps on a wine bottle. In the 1960's a Bordeaux winery bottled multiple vintages in screw caps as a trial to test out the new technology. Unfortunately for them they used paper wad backing not saranex in the cap. Ten years later in the early 1970's the Swiss wine industry was the first to fully embrace the new screw cap closures and by 1980's it was the predominant closure being used.
In the 1970’s Australia confirmed the superiority of the closure for red and white wines using tin or Saranex depending on the wine, but the change was met with strong consumer resistance. However in the early 2000’s the industry once again embraced this closure (starting with Claire Valley high-end Riesling producers) and over the last two decades screw caps have gained industry and consumer popularity across the globe.
Corks vs Screw Caps, Which is Better?
A closure has a direct impact on the quality, stability, longevity and even proper storage of the wine. While cork has been the historic choice and for a great many years was the best option available, in the modern age screw caps have become superior due to the consistency they provide.
Screw caps offer a reliable seal that is consistent from bottle to bottle unlike cork which due to the fact that it is an organic material has slight variations from one cork to another that result in slight differences, and sometimes spoilage in the bottle.
One of the other main benefits and one that is often overlooked is that screw caps are inert, meaning they are flavorless and do not add any flavor (be it positive or negative) to the wine. On the other hand corks, introduce flavor both positive through slow oxygen exchange which allows wine to age in the bottle as well as negative (TCA) which results in spoilage. Screw caps, while inert, can be customized to allow for gradual slow oxygen exchange by adding a foam insert to the top of the screw caps interior thus mimicking the slow oxygen exchange of corks.
Temperature is often discussed as one of the main detriments to wine as it deteriorates the quality of the wine over time and causes spoilage. If you have ever opened a bottle of wine after it has sat baking in a car on a hot summers day you know what I'm talking about, the wine gets "cooked" and no longer tastes as it should. While a wine can get "cooked" no matter what closure you have, when a bottle with a traditional cork closure reaches 85 degrees Fahrenheit the cork will start pushing its way out of the top of the bottle exposing the wine to more oxygen and increasing the rate of spoilage/oxidation over time, whereas with screw caps you don’t run into this issue as the caps can hold more internal pressure and therefore are less effected by temperature swings.
Another main benefit of screw caps is their price, while pricier options do exist, there are affordable options when compared to many of their cork/capsule counterparts, meaning less packaging costs for the winery and therefore a better bottle price for the consumer, a win-win for everyone! For comparison, a natural cork costs $0.25 - $0.45 per cork plus the capsule is an additional $0.15 for polylamanents or roughly $0.02 for plastic. A stelvin screw caps costs $0.18 per cap and the higher end lux screw caps costs $0.50.
And if all of that wasn't enough to convince you that screw caps are the way of the future, one of our favorite features are how easily screw caps can be opened and resealed. No need to struggle with a corkscrew or ensure you have one on you, all you have to do is give the bottle a quick twist and your wine awaits! In addition to the ease of opening, screw caps are a green product, the are cost effective and easily recycled. Aluminum (what screw caps are made of) happens to be the most cost effective material to recycle and if that's not a plus I don’t know what is!
Suhru has been proudly packaging our wines under screw caps since we opened in 2008 and have seen great success in the age-ability of our wines under these closures. Many experiments have been done in regions across the world comparing screw caps to cork and the screw caps has come out equal if not better than the cork at aging in may cases. While it may be a "less romantic" way to open your wine, you can't beat the convenience!
Our 2020 Harvest has come to an end at Suhru. All of our grapes have been picked and are now busy fermenting into wine! While our fruit has all been picked, the work is far from done! Our white wines are completing the fermentation process while for the reds, the journey from grape juice into wine is just begining.
What's Happening in the Winery
Over the last week the focus in the winery has switched over to red wines, so we thought we'd take a quick moment to briefly review how red wine is made. Once our reds have been hand-harvested and delivered by tractor to the winery the grapes are destemmed and the grape must (aka berries, juice, skins, seeds and all) are pumped into open-top tanks where the magic of fermentation occurs.
All of the tanks at the winery are temperature controlled as temperature is key during fermentation. Yeast (the essential ingredient in turning juice into wine) like very specific conditions—too warm the yeast will over heat and die, too cold the yeast will fall dormant.
When the grape must reaches 60 degrees it is time to inoculate (aka add yeast)! Throughout fermentation the yeast cells will consume the natural occurring sugars in the grape juice, producing alcohol and releasing carbon dioxide. During the ferment as CO2 is released it rises, lifting the skins to the top of the tank forming a "cap".
We need to ensure that the juice stays in contact with the skins throughout the fermentation process as the skins are what give red wine its color. As a result, throughout fermentation we "punch-down" the grape skin cap that forms at the surface of the tank in order to reintroduce the skins to the juice. This process will be done multiple times a day at the beginning of fermentation, gradually slowing down as the rate of fermentation slows.
Once the fermentation process is complete and all of the sugars have been converted to alcohol, the the grape seeds will settle to the bottom of the tank while the grape skins float homogeneously with the wine. At this time the juice is drained off and pumped into another tank and in order to ensure we get every last drop of wine. The remaining skins are shoveled out of the tank and loaded into the press where we extract the remaining wine.
From here the wine is racked into oak barrels where it undergoes secondary fermentation or malolactic fermentation. During this second fermentation process the sharp, astringent malic acid is converted into lactic acid which gives the wine a softer, rounder mouth-feel and more pleasant drinking experience. Once this process is complete the wine is racked into clean barrels where is will stay in our temperature controlled barrel room for the coming months as it ages.
A Note from Winemaker Russell Hearn
Harvest 2020 started out nicely with the white and rosé fruit ripening in a dry pleasant weather pattern. All of our white and rosé varieties came into the winery looking very nice and are now fermenting along cleanly in tank. Our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio fruit came in looking especially nice with full fruit maturity. Our Cabernet Franc and Merlot which will be used to make our 2020 Rosé were picked during a cool spell so they both retained nice natural acidity.
However after a beautiful summer and nice September, October has given us a run for our money! The second half of October turned wet and humid with below average temperatures so we have seen some delays in the red fruit which means that some of the red varieties out here will not be picked at the high level of quality that they otherwise could have been. Therefore, we have chosen to only make Teroldego this Harvest as it is an early ripening variety and was not as impacted by the uncharacteristic weather as the other red varieties. Our Teroldego was picked on October 26th probably 7-10 days later than normal which is one of the benefitw of it being an early ripener, even in a cooler than normal year it still ripens. The Teroldego fruit looked beautiful coming into the winery and is now busy fermenting away in tank. We look forward to seeing how this wine continues to improve and evolve throughout the fermentation process!
Checkout Previous Harvest Updates.
What's Happening in the Vineyard
This time of year a winemaker spends a good portion of each day walking the vineyards, inspecting the fruit, and tasting the berries to determine their optimal ripeness and when they should be picked. Harvest is well underway on the North Fork and we are looking forward to picking several more tons of fruit in the coming weeks!
Our winemaker Russell has been walking the vineyards, inspecting the fruit, and testing the berries Brix (sugar) levels to determine their ripeness. Winemakers walk the vineyards for a number of reasons as there is a lot you can tell by looking at the vine and tasting the berry as to how the fruit is developing. Taste is a key indicator (as it is in every step of the winemaking process). By tasting the grapes you can assess the ripeness of the berry based on its sweetness as well as by the taste of the seeds.
If you have ever had the chance to taste a wine grape there are several seeds inside the berry. These seeds are a great indicator of a berries ripeness. Green seeds mean the grape is immature. As we walk the vineyard and taste the fruit we are looking for a desired sweetness level and a brown seed indicates that the berry has reached ripeness. An underripe seed can impart a "green" flavor to the wine and add an astringency to the tannins particularly in a red wine which will spend the first few weeks of its post-harvesting journey into wine, in contact with the skins and seeds.
What's Happening at the Winery
Harvest is well underway on the North Fork of Long Island! At this point in mid-September most of the fruit for sparkling, white wines, and rosés have been picked and have begun their fermentation process (which has been keeping our winery crew nice and busy these past few weeks). The red harvest will be starting shortly but we are enjoying the "calm before the storm" at the moment.
Once a grape has been harvested and brought into the winery there is a lot that needs to happen before that grape makes it into your glass—destemming, crushing, settling, fermentation, pressing, pumping, racking, barreling, and bottling—the journey from grape to wine is just beginning. We aren't going to dive into all of that just now (that would be a VERY long post) but let's talk briefly about the first few steps as they relate to what is happening at our winery at the moment.
Our white wines are "in tank" at the moment. When they first came into the winery they were destemmed and loaded into the press which gently squeezed the juice from the berries, leaving the skins and seeds behind. The discarded skins and seeds were then loaded into a truck and driven to the vineyard where they are being composted to be used to fertilize the vineyard for seasons to come. Back at the winery our white wine juice is pumped into tanks (as can be seen in the photo to the left). The juice is then left alone for a day or two to allow any solids to settle to the bottom.
Once the juice has settled, it is racked (the clear juice is pumped into another tank leaving the solids behind) at which point it is inoculated with yeast and the fermentation process begins. During fermentation, temperature control is essential. If the juice is too cold the yeast will go dormant and if too warm the yeast will die. All of our tanks are temperature controlled to create an ideal environment for the yeast to thrive as they consume the naturally occurring sugars in the grapes and convert them to alcohol. Once the yeast is finished consuming the sugars (all sugar is consumed when making a dry wine, fermentation is stopped while some sugar remains for a sweet wine) the fermentation process stops and the wine is again settled allowing the dead yeast cells to settle to the bottom of the tank. Once settled the remaining clear wine is racked into a new tank or barrel to begin its aging process.
Harvest has started on the North Fork! While we are yet to begin harvesting our vineyards, a number of wineries across Long Island are busy bringing in fruit for their sparkling wines!
This is one of our favorite times of the year as this is when all the action happens at the winery! Over the next few months we will be keeping you up-to-date on the Blog and on our Instagram account on everything going on in the winery and the vineyard during the 2020 Harvest!
What's Happening in the Winery
With the beginning of our harvest season quickly approaching, this week has been spent preparing for fruit receival and readying the winery for the first grapes to arrive (aka lots of cleaning!) As our winemaker Russell loves to say "Winemaking is 70% Sanitation, 20% Perspiration, 9% Inspiration, and 1% Degustation, but only at the end of the day!"
When grapes arrive at the winery their first stop in their journey into wine is the crush-pad which is where all the action happens. The crush-pad is home to the de-stemmer, presses, weight scale, and a number of other machines that ensure that the first stages of the grapes post-picking journey to become wine goes smoothly. We have been readying our crush-pad for the last few weeks and just had new membranes installed to ensure everything is ready to go for the 2020 harvest season! Over the next few days the winery crew will be busy cleaning and sanitizing all the harvest equipment: hoses, piping, hoppers, destemmer/crusher and the presses in preparation to receive fruit, which could potentially be coming as early as next week.
While all of this is going on outside on the crush-pad the cellar is being prepared for harvest as well, cleaning tanks, making sure everything is organized, and preparing several harvest devices such as the 'punch-down tool' for red wine fermentations 5-6 weeks away.
What's Happening in the Vineyard
In the vineyards, Russell is carefully watching the grapes and monitoring their sugar content (Brix) which is used to determine the grapes ripeness to determine when to pick our grapes. He is regularly walking the vineyards, inspecting the grapes, speaking to the vineyard managers, and testing the grapes. As we get closer to picking he will be carefully monitoring the weather. The goal is always to harvest grapes after several dry days. Whenever possible you want to avoid harvesting shortly after a rain as the grapes will be bloated with water they absorbed.
A Note from Winemaker Russell Hearn
I never make predictions on the quality of the Harvest until 'all the fruit is in the building' however, 2020 is setting up very nicely and we are anticipating a good harvest. The growing season started very slowly this Spring with May and early June being much cooler and wetter than normal, which seems to be becoming the norm on the East End the last few years. Since then we have enjoyed a beautiful run of warm weather with very little rain (what we hope for in an ideal grape growing season). We are below normal in rainfall since June and have needed to drip irrigate several times during the last three months, which is always a good sign for quality. When the potato and sod farmers are grumbling about the dryness, the vineyard managers and winemakers are smiling! Grapes vines like a little stress during the growing season, with long dry summers and minimal rain being their ideal growing season. This harvest is shaping up to be very similar to 2019, so with some continued dry conditions I am very hopeful.
People have been making wine for millennium, with the first evidence of winemaking dating back to sometime between 8000 B.C. and 4100 B.C. However since the beginning the challenge has always been how to store the wine once it was made.
Glass bottles were not used in wine on a large scale until the 17th century, although they were different shapes—squat, with large bases and short necks—than the wine bottles today. It wasn’t until the 1820s that glass wine bottles began to resemble the ones we use today.
The main reason for the delay in the adoption of glass bottles for wine storage was that for centuries it was illegal to sell wine in a bottle. There were so many different bottle types (and volume variations) that it was far too easy to cheat, so merchants measured out wine from their barrels into containers that customers supplied themselves to ensure accurance.
In the 17th century that all changed. Up until the 17th century glass bottles were considered a luxury item due to the fact that they were made to order and handcrafted in a wood or charcoal furnace. Bottles were a time consuming product to make and therefore very expensive. However in 1615, King James I decided that English forests were better used to make warships. Wood was in short supply so manufacturers turned to coal, which burned hotter and produced stronger glass.
Sir Kenelm Digby is cited as “the father of the modern bottle” for discovering a process that resulted in stronger bottles that were able to be made and distributed on a wider scale. A controversial adventurer, privateer and alchemist Sir Digby was known for turning sand into gold by adding some secret ingredients (metals and oxides) and using a blower system to get the fire even hotter. His new formula produced glass bottles that were stronger, thicker, darker—and cheaper thus bringing a stronger better suited glass bottle to market.
This discovery made glass more widely available, but it wasn’t until the 1900s that mass production began. In 1887, an English company created a semi-automatic machine that could produce up to 200 bottles an hour. Over the years this process has been pefected and refined to allow modern machines to produce more than 600 containers per minute.
Want to learn more? Checkout