Interview with a Winemaker Pt. 4

Harvest is in full swing here at Burnt Bridge. Grapes are being picked from the vineyards that we work closely with throughout the year. From there they are driven the 3-5 hours back to Burnt Bridge where club members help sort and crush the fresh grapes. It can get a little tight in the back where rows of bins and stacks of barrels take up the majority of the cellar.

White wine grapes immediately move from the destemmer to the press where the skins are pressed off and the free run juice travels to our stainless steel tank to start fermentation. However, for red wine grapes that’s where the bins in the cellars come in. Once destemmed by the crusher, Ben begins the fermentation process. During this time the added yeast eats the sugar in the grapes. The grapes are carefully watched and punched down daily to ensure skin contact to enhance the deep red color we all know and love in our big bold reds. Once the sugar levels are down to 0 (7-10 days), the grapes are ready to be pressed off of the skins and transferred to the tank. From there Ben barrels down where fermentation continues to occur and carefully watches the barrels, sugar levels, acid levels, etc, in addition to many other monitoring tasks and additives throughout the aging process.

It’s a miracle we are able to accomplish all of this in the small cellar space. When asked what the hardest part about harvest was Ben answered: “It's really just a logistics problem at some point. Especially for those of us who are 3-4 hours away from the vineyards. The coordination to get the fruit at the right time is a bit of a matrix.” And it is a matrix! Ben is constantly moving bins and barrels to fit in the space and to maximize more space for the new bins that arrive. You never know what the cellar will look like in the back from day to day.

Wondering about the 2019 vintage? Curious about how previous years looked?

I asked Ben: How do you know when it’s a good vintage?: “You get a good idea during harvest, then a better idea during fermentation. Then a better idea after about a year in the barrel and then a better idea a year later. Then at bottling, that's a pretty good indicator. And then release and each year that follows, you learn a little more.” You learn it’s a good vintage after everything is said and done. The risk and curiosity is always there. Weather, of course, plays a part in the quality of the vintage, but the steps taken by the winemaker to make it and work with the sugar and acid levels is a major component to how the wine will taste.

There are many steps to making wine, but it’s amazing to see the final product. Ben loves making wine because he can create those “aha” moments when they fall in love with wine or drink a delicious wine paired with a beautiful meal. The reward is endless. If you’re thinking about getting into winemaking or want to make a batch in your basement, here’s what Ben says, “It's all about the palate. At the end of the day, the most important asset you have is your ability to taste. It's also all about the pallet jack. Learn how to lift heavy objects. And learn how to drive a forklift. And learn to love wet feet and clothes. And be good at math and science. Live and die with the details and also learn how to go with the flow. That's all there is to it!”

A Couple of Days in the Life of an Urban Winemaker

A Couple of Days in the Life of an Urban Winemaker

I recently started something at the winery that I call "Wine School." It's basically a monthly tasting class for our customers that's designed to be an educational exploration of wines. The first class, titled "How to drink like a winemaker" hoped to answer a question I get a lot in the tasting room...

What are you looking for when you taste wine?

In my view, as a winemaker, it's my job to make the best possible wine from any given fruit. And there are so many variables, that I don't think I could go through them in a class setting, or a blog for that matter. But this is what I told the class.

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Ask the Winemaker - What are you looking for when you taste wine?

Ask the Winemaker - What are you looking for when you taste wine?

I recently started something at the winery that I call "Wine School." It's basically a monthly tasting class for our customers that's designed to be an educational exploration of wines. The first class, titled "How to drink like a winemaker" hoped to answer a question I get a lot in the tasting room...

What are you looking for when you taste wine?

In my view, as a winemaker, it's my job to make the best possible wine from any given fruit. And there are so many variables, that I don't think I could go through them in a class setting, or a blog for that matter. But this is what I told the class.

Read More

Ask the Winemaker - What's new at the winery? White wines and black puppy edition.

Ask the Winemaker - What's new at the winery? White wines and black puppy edition.

It's been a busy few weeks around the winery as we put together and bottled the 2016 white wines and rose' with some help from our A TEAM crew. (Thanks!) We bottled about 80 cases of Semillon and 120 cases of Carte Blanche - this year it's a blend of Rousanne and Marsanne that I think we'll all enjoy. We also bottled about 35 cases of rose' - It's a light, dry rose' made from Mourvedre and Grenache. These wines will be released during the Spring Allocation, coming up in May.

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