Harvest Time - Make Some REBOL Wine
Ah, there's no time like harvest time. That amazing rich sweet wine fermenting aroma fills the air around SassenRanch. What a fragrance! A pleasant perfume.
Ok, yes... I like to sip a bit too. It's so insanely complex in flavor at this stage. Like nothing you've ever experienced. And of course, I should mention, "sip" is the key word. Not a good idea to drink it down. The active yeast count is enormous during fermentation. Your liver would punish you for it.
Our Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes reached 24 brix (24% sugar) a couple days ago. That's slightly lower than we prefer, but with REBOL DevCon nearing, we decided to go ahead with the harvest. We coaxed a few friends to help us bring in the crop -- or, I should say really good friends because it's hard work.
It's been an unusual growing season. It began wet, but then became too hot, even for the Cabernet grapes - slowing them down. Living above the valley, our grapes normally ripen by the end of August. But, this year, we're quite late. I suspect that the surrounding vineyards will not harvest until mid-to-late October.
We do the crushing ourselves using an old but time-saving Italian made (from Florence) crusher-stemmer. The machine breaks the skins and removes the stems. What a wonderful invention. The resulting must (juice and grape skins combined) goes into open containers. A Bordeaux-style yeast is added, and it takes only about a day for the excitement to begin. Those yeast creatures like to party... so much so, that they kill themselves off after a few days. But, during that time the must comes alive, converting sugar to alcohol, with the color and much of the flavor coming from the purple skins.
After about ten days, the conversion process is nearly complete. We press the juice from skins and move the wine to quieter place. The yeast party is mostly over, and other, more subtle, processes begin. The wine is racked (separated from the lees - mostly spent yeast) to oak barrels, where it will age for two years before bottling.
Do we know how the 2005 wine will turn out? Not for at least a year and perhaps longer. That is the mystery of winemaking.