Tuesday, December 03, 2013

First ice wine grape harvest at Sampson Valley Vineyard

Ice wine grapes Thanksgiving 2013
Early Thanksgiving morning (11/28), while the temperatures hovered in the upper teens and low 20s, I harvest about 125 lbs of ice wine grapes.   This is the first ice wine grape harvest in the ten year history of the vineyard.    It was an experiment, (somewhat forced).   The grapes looked beautiful.    In this round of harvest, I picked primarily st pepin which I still had netted.   They were about 20 brix at the end of the growing season, but came in at about 29.5 after crush and press when I picked them for the ice wine.   There is about another 400 lbs of lacrosse, but unnetted.   But even though they are not under nets, they look good.
Cold calm day at Sampson Valley Vineyard

Lacrosse grapes

Since I was harvesting for myself, and not a commercial winery, I processed them too.    I was not entirely sure of the whole process, but was somewhat limited by the equipment that I had.   Since the temperatures were not in the single digits, the grapes were more of a snow cone/milk shake consistency, not hard marbles, like many ice wine makers deal with.   This was probably a good thing, since my crusher-destemmer and wood basket press would probably not have worked.

 I easily picked 125 lbs in about an hour (3 lugs full).   I probably could have picked a lot more, but had to get back for Thanksgiving dinner at 3:00.
St Pepin grapes

A very friendly black and white cat came out to help.... it hung out the entire time I was picking.   It even climbed a trellis pole to get a better view.   Maybe he was guarding the grapes for the last couple of months?   I probably didn't need the net!
St Pepin grapes with their guardian cat

Ready to pounce?
Crushing went slowly, and the destemmer sieve got pretty caked with the frozen must.   Unfortunately, the picture is slightly blurry and doesn't do the golden must justice.   Very little juice was visible as I crushed.
Thick ice wine slurry/must

Must before pressing.   Just a bit of juice after crushing.
At the end of pressing, I had a total of 3 gallons of very sweet juice.  The taste was wonderful!   Juice yield was probably a bit higher than it should have been.   I attribute that to the temperatures warming to the low 20s as I crushed and pressed.

I added a bit of potassium metabisulfite, and let the juice sit until Saturday morning.   I inoculated the juice with KV-1116 yeast.   Fermentation started slowly, but is now humming along well.   I plan to pull about 1/2 gallon of wine out early before fermentation is complete, and bottle it in small sparkling wine bottles, and try to make a sparkling ice wine.   The rest will be a more traditional ice wine.

There are another 400-500 lbs still in the field, and if I don't sell them, hopefully I will be able to pick them while they are still prime.

This will definitely become an annual tradition!