Let the 2019 Wine Begin!

Did not end like that poor woman from the video

The 2019 batch is well underway! I picked up the Petite Sirah I ordered last Wednesday at Oak Barrel Winecraft. They were super helpful and hardworking there, so I’m grateful for their assistance. Since I have this job thing, I had to head into the office after dropping the grapes off at home. But, when I got back that night, Tressa volunteered her feet and stomping power and crushed the grapes while I provided some degree of balance.

Is This “Partial Carbonic”?

My thinking with the foot crushing: I’m giving whole cluster a try since the stems seemed reasonably mature (i.e. primarily not green) in the batch and I wouldn’t mind if a good number of the grapes stayed whole and got some carbonic fermentation action going down. Now, I could be completely wrong about whether any carbonic fermentation will occur (maybe the partial foot crushing sufficiently damages nearly all the grapes), but I do like the idea of the yin/yang of carbonic/whole-cluster. It sounds like it could produce something interesting.

Yeast Choices

Also on the experimental front was my yeast choice. I didn’t want to use native yeasts since I don’t really know much about the growing environment for these grapes, other than that they were grown somewhere in Lodi. So, I did some research on what yeast plays well with Petite Sirah. I came down to two candidates: RP-15 and D21.

D21 getting started

I liked that RP-15 was a California-derived strain, scratching my local itch. It also has a reasonably high alcohol tolerance, which means there won’t be too much residual sugar and increases my freedom to take a lower-intervention approach when it comes to SO2. In turn, I liked the D21 since it has a similar alcohol tolerance, but it also reportedly reduces herbaceous elements in the wine. Since I knew it was likely I’d do a whole cluster thing, this seemed like a useful trait.

So, which to choose? The local yeast or the one with the handy trick? I chose both. I’ve got 100 pounds in one Brute with the RP-15 working and another 100 pounds in a second Brute running with the D21. I’m still not sure if I’ll keep them separate or combine them after pressing. I’m tasting them every couple days and so far the RP-15 is developing in more of a fruity direction while the D21 is tasting kind of creamier. We’ll see what happens.

The dual-yeast approach does make punchdowns more difficult. Each time I go down there to do a punchdown, I’ve got to sanitize the potato masher between batches to avoid the yeasts from entering the other Brute.

Punching it down

The Numbers

As for the numbers, this started at 23.9 Brix, 3.71 pH, and 0.67 TA. I’ve had some trouble getting enough of the juice into a thief to take a specific gravity reading since fermentation kicked off, so I’m going to have to figure that out somehow.

Low(ish) Intervention

I can’t really claim to be taking a low intervention approach when I’ve pitched commercial yeast, but I would like to avoid any additional additives or corrections. So the acid levels I have are the ones I’m stuck with. And, on the SO2 front, I’m going to try to limit it to the same 20ppm at bottling approach I took with the Riesling.

As with all things, this could change, but that’s where I am not.

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