It’s been an entirely new experience to be in Ed’s winery and to have fruit of my own there. I remember the day I forklifted my Aglianico inside to be destemmed, the other interns and custom crush winemakers looked at and tasted the berries with curiosity given that it was an entirely new varietal.
I am fortunate to have such a wholehearted team of folks to be guided by. From tips on forklifting to winemaking approaches; it has brought a new sense of awareness of myself and prompted me to ask more questions. It also ignited a sense of community; it is through them that I feel more self-sufficient, visible and confident. I have learned to ask questions without fear and poignancy. And I have come to look to these folks for their insight, seeing them as family.
Although I was a little nervous to go native with the yeast on the fruit and not inoculate, I was very happy I did. I wanted to ultimately see how this fruit would react to its own yeast and what that might speak of the vineyard. Of course, the best way to really know that is to work with this fruit year after year, tracking how it varies and what is consistently there. This is definitely one way in which burgeoning winemakers get the “bug”. I also opted not to apply any SO2, mainly because the fruit was in excellent condition and I didn’t want to risk killing off the native yeast.
My fruit was the last bin to arrive at the winery and would be the last one to get pressed. When it came in, the cold room of the winery housed a sea of bins; it was literally pod-packed, but there was just enough room for my lone bin to fit at the back, nestled up right up against the roll-up door.
As I cleaned up the splash marks on the interior of the bin, I wished my little bit of fruit a good journey on its way to becoming wine. Again, I felt that combined sense of being a caretaker and a kid at Christmas waiting to open her gifts. I took my first in-house brix and temperature reading, put the lid on, and bid my little bin goodnight.
I was worried about how my fruit was adjusting during its first full day at the winery given that I was called to Sebastopol to help bottle at Freeman with the other interns the very next day after my fruit came in. Man, did I ever feel like a negligent parent.
But Tim Telli (Betwixt) cordially offered to punch down for me and add some dry ice. I really hoped my little bin of Aglianico was playing nice with the other bins given that it was the new kid on the block of well-known and accepted Pinot, Cabernet, and Petite Sirah grapes. I also hoped I hadn’t adopted some unruly kid from hell or fruit that didn’t know how to stand up for itself.
In truth, I needed to let go some and revel in my original underlying philosophy of letting the fruit become whatever wine it wanted to be. As a human, understanding and embracing this was actually liberating. In truth, my only real job here was to keep my fruit healthy and keep it from going AWOL by getting stuck in its fermentation or acquiring VA along the way. I imagine this is akin to keeping a kid from sticking a finger in a light socket (which they may do anyway).
The second day I took my readings, I noticed the Aglianico was still a bit too high in temperature – at around 20 F. I was doing foot stomps to release more juice/sugar, color and tannin from the berries that were locked into their whole clusters inevitably at the bottom of the bin. These stomps would also make it easier to do manual punchdowns as well. I opted to add a blast of CO2 to bring the temperature down, but it remained the same the next day. Apart from more extraction before fermentation kicks in, I wanted the fruit’s yeast to have time to stabilize as well.
Enter those moments where, as a winemaker, you wonder what is making the impact. Was the temperature holding steady because of where the bin was positioned, being uniquely next to a metal rollup door that absorbed the last of the late summer heat but also in a cold room that was in the 50 F range? Was this a sign of stabilization? Or was this a sign that my fruit might go through early fermentation, gain too much heat and get stuck?