The process of turning grapes into wine is one that has been occurring for thousands of years. As a winemaker and instructor, I tend to take the whole process for granted and forget what an exciting endeavor fermentation can be. That is until I have a group of enthusiastic and engaged students remind me, as happened this past Saturday, the 29th of September. Starting with a walk through the crushpad, we evaluated Tempranillo grapes being crushed for Cinder Winery (full of flavor!) and discussed all of the heavy equipment and decisions that winemakers consider during the first step of the fermentation process. From destemming and crushing to additions and style considerations, we evaluated red and white fermentation processes before moving inside to get more of a “hands on” approach. For the home winemakers in the group, it was a great chance to delve into the geeky science of production. Thankfully, the rest of the group tolerated our science jargon and even asked some great questions to keep the discussion rolling.
On the winery floor eight tanks of Syrah greeted us as we performed a mixture of maceration techniques meant to extract color and flavor from the skins. We experimented with pumpovers and punchdowns as well as basic analysis techniques utilized to monitor fermentations. With purple hands and heads full of knowledge, we had a delicious lunch followed by a comparative tasting several white and red wines. From bubbles to bold reds, we further discussed the techniques that each producer utilized to create these wines. This was definitely one of those times when I was thankful to know several of the selected wines winemakers so that I could harass them for all of that ‘insider information’ that’s not listed on the tasting notes. In the end, the group favorite was a Tempranillo produced by Pomum of Woodinville, Washington. Perhaps it was the whole experience of crushing the Tempranillo as a group that made it shine but regardless, it was a wonderful way to engage in the joys of harvest.