Winemaking is often described as a delicate balance of art and science. Winemaker Theresa Heredia and Assistant Winemaker Brent McKoy share some of their “artistic” choices that result in wines of great elegance and balance in PART TWO of this discussion...
Q: After the fruit is picked, what is the next step in the process and what is unique about the Gary Farrell winemaking method?
At Gary Farrell, we prioritize the vineyards that we will process. If grapes aren’t harvested the same day, we have the luxury of being able to put them into a refrigerated vessel immediately to keep them fresh and cold so that they don’t start to break down in the bins before processing. All red varietals get sorted across the cluster and berry sorting tables. This allows for removal of debris, including leaves, raisins, and jacks. Then we determine if and how much whole-cluster to include in a fermentation, which is not a science, but rather a pure artistic decision that is based on a few factors.
Q: What are those factors?
Small- to medium sized clusters and stems usually work best. Stems that have at least begun to harden off are preferable, while completely brown, crunchy stems would be ideal. Green, juicy stems impart too much herbaceous character and contribute to flavors like green bell pepper and jalapeño. Also, the fruit must be the perfect ripeness because under-ripe grapes may already have herbaceous flavors and over-ripe grapes may produce a lot of alcohol, leading to over-extraction of herbaceous characteristics. Overall, it is very important to know the history of our wines from each vineyard, as it may already be naturally tannic and/or already exhibit herbaceous characteristics.
Q: What happens after de-stemming?
Another technique that we use is a three-to-five-day cold soak on all red varietals (sometimes we even do a seven day cold soak if the juice still smells fresh and if there is no rush to empty the tank quickly). A cold soak is the practice of chilling the "must" (freshly pressed fruit juice including skins, seeds,and stems) below 55°F to inhibit yeast fermentation so that extraction happens more slowly and you can have greater control over it. When the optimal extraction has been reached, the grape solids and stems are removed and the temperature is brought to begin fermentation.
Q: What are the benefits of doing a cold soak?
A lot of aromatics and flavor esters are extracted during this aqueous phase, in which no alcohol is present. Color also comes out during the process. We are also given the opportunity take samples to check Brix, pH, and TA and then make acid adjustments if necessary before adding the yeast and inducing fermentation.
Coming up in PART THREE, we will discuss yeast selections and post-fermentation techniques.