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2007 Ken Brown Cargassachi Pinot NoirI got some news from Deb over at Ken Brown that some of my favorite wines are running really low in terms of inventory.  There are only 12 cases (out of only 140) of the 2007 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita AVA) left.  I’ll be the first one to admit that most Pinot Noirs leave me wishing I was drinking a wine with a bit more oomph.  I am always on the lookout for what I call a “velvet hammer” which is a balanced Pinot Noir with deep, multi-layered flavors that make a smooth progression over my entire palate, with a long finish.   I rarely find these types of  uber-satisfying Pinots, but  Ken Brown’s 2007 Cargasacchi is a lovely velvet hammer, indeed.    The flavor profile is distinctly black cherry with baking spices and some earthiness.   Here are the stats for the wine geeks out there (you know who you are):  Alcohol 14.6%, pH 3.65, 100% Pinot Noir -clone 115 on 3309 rootstock, harvested 10/10/2007, French oak for 17 months.  Get it while you can – and tell Ken or Deb that Anne at Wine Nation Underdog sent you.

2005 Ken Brown Syrah A CuveeKen Brown is also running low on the 2004 Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah and the 2005 A Cuvee Syrah.   There are only fifteen cases left of each.    Both are outstanding, but I am a huge fan of the 2005 A Cuvee; I will sheepishly admit that I am such a fan that I asked Ken to autograph one of my bottles. The A Cuvee is a blend of warm climate fruit from Watch Hill Vineyard and cooler climate fruit from Bien Nacido.   Flavors of black plum and blackberry from the cool climate fruit and spice and garrigue from the warm climate fruit combine to make a Syrah so deep and luscious you want to swim in it.   Just be sure to give this one some time to breathe so that you get to experience the full spectrum of flavors.    This wine is drinking soooo beautifully right now but if you are the patient type you can lay it down for a few years and be rewarded for your restraint.

What do you think about Ken Brown Wines?  Drop me a line and let me know.   Until then, remember life is too short, drink good wine.

The first Pinot Noir harvested from the student vineyard.  Many thanks to the viticultural students!

The first Pinot Noir harvested from the student vineyard. Many thanks to the viticultural students!

It is very strange to be attending college again after graduating so many years ago.   Recently, I showed up for my first day of wine making class at Allan Hancock College (go Bulldogs) and expected to sit in a lecture hall taking notes for 4.5 hours.  Boy, was I wrong!  Our professor, Norm Yost (winemaker of Flying Goat cellars) spoke for about an hour, assigned some homework and then let us know that we have 600 pounds of Pinot Noir to work with – TODAY!   He said the grapes won’t wait, so we just have to sink or swill, err swim. 😉   Our mission in class is to make a sparkling wine from Pinot Noir.  This is traditionally called a blanc de noirs, literally “white of blacks”, meaning a white wine that is made from black grapes.

After the brief lecture, we headed down to the tiny campus winery  (why, oh why didn’t my alma mater have a campus winery?) where 600 pounds of freshly picked Pinot Noir grapes were waiting in bins.  This is the first Pinot Noir harvested from the Allan Hancock student vineyard.  (Many thanks to all the viticulture students who made this happen!)  First, we put up canopies to keep the sun off of us (and the grapes) and then moved all the equipment we’d need: bladder basket press, pump, fermentation tank, various clamps, gaskets, hoses and buckets.   We took everything apart and thoroughly washed it.  Then we put it all back together and attached the pump’s hose to the fermentation tank.

Basket press

The bladder basket press gently presses the juice from the whole clusters.

Next we filled the press with whole clusters of grapes and pressed off the juice.    Then we pumped the juice into the fermentation tank.   Then we filled the press with grapes again and repeated the process (we did this quite a few times until all the grapes were pressed).   We took a sample of the juice and tested its brix with a hydrometer.  Our reading was 18.2 brix.   After all the grapes were pressed, it was time to inoculate the juice with yeast and get fermentation started.

winemaking math

Calculating the amount of yeast needed for fermentation.

This involved more math than I’ve done in many years.  Essentially we needed to make an educated guess of how much wine was in the fermentation tank (why aren’t tanks conveniently marked like measuring cups?).  This involved calculating the volume of a cylinder…something I am certain I learned in high school, though haven’t thought about it quite some time.    Here is how:
1. Measure the height of the cylinder (up to where the juice is)
2. Measure the radius of the cylinder (across the top of the tank at the widest point)
3. Multiply the radius by pi (3.14159)
4. Multiply the radius by itself
5. Multiply #3 by #4
In our case we wound up with 42.1 gallons.  In order to figure out how much yeast to use, we needed to translate our gallons to hectoliters.   To do this, we multiplied our gallons times 3.785.   42.1 gallons x 3.785 = 1.59 hectoliters.    Next we multiplied the hectoliters by the number of grams of yeast required in order to calculate the amount of yeast required for inoculation.  1.59 hectoliters x 25 grams = 40 grams of yeast.   We combined the yeast with 400 milliliters of 105F water in a measuring cup and let the yeast begin their work.  After a few minutes we combined about a 1/2 C of juice to the mixture.  After stirring the mixture up, we added to to the tank and stirred with a big, plastic oar-like implement.

fermentation tank

Fermentation tank: Home of our soon-to-be-wine for the next two weeks.

We then attached the lid of the fermentation tank.  Lastly, we created a schedule so that once daily a student would go check on the fermentation, take the brix and temperature reading with the hydrometer and log the results.  Jason and I are going later on in the week, so the initial fermentation will be nearly halfway done (it should take about 2 weeks to complete).   If all goes as planned, the fermentation will be well steadily progressing.   Even though the soon-to-be-wine is still in the fermentation tank, I am already looking forward to popping the cork.  My favorite sparkling wine is Schramberg Blanc de Noirs; hopefully someday I can craft a sparkling reminiscent of this.   My fingers are crossed!

Foxen Block N Pinot Noir

2008 Foxen Block N Pinot Noir

Just released:  2008 Foxen Pinot Noir Block N – Bien Nacido Vineyard – just four barrels (only 100 cases) of this gorgeous wine were made.  I was fortunate enough to taste it recently at an event at Foxen and fell in love.   Block N is the oldest Pinot Noir block planted at Bien Nacido, which is planted with the “California Heritage” Martini Clone. The fruit was picked early in the day on the 6th of October.  The whole berries were destemmed, and fermented in a small open top fermenter for 10 days. Twice daily punch-downs helped to extract color, tannins, and the classic red summer fruit qualities into the wine. It was bottled (unfined and unfiltered) in early March 2010 after 16 months in 50% new François Frères barrels.

2009 Foxen Rosé of Mourvedre

2009 Foxen Rosé of Mourvedre with Foxen vineyard in the background

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