' Pinot Winemaking - Kendric Vineyards

Pinot Winemaking

The main issues in fermenting pinot noir are to be selective in what you extract from the grapes, to keep the pace of fermentation under control and to treat these thin skinned grapes gently. You try to extract all the color and flavor you can without getting a lot of the accompanying tannins -- assuming you feel, as I do, that Pinot is meant to be a silky, feminine wine rather something more muscular. You must also contend with the fact that microbes love Pinot. This can be good, in that I don't feel any need to add nutrients for either primary or secondary fermentation. It can also be bad in that the yeast tend to race through the early stages of pinot fermentations. This can cause poor extraction and unhappy yeast at the end of fermentation which tend to produce unpleasant sulfide aromas and to fail to complete the process to dryness. Every bad bug in the world also seems to find pinot a pretty congenial host after fermentation. Finally, you have to handle pinot with kid gloves in order to prevent the skins from falling apart and coarsening the wine.
 
In 2006, I had my largest crop ever. This was mostly because the clusters were very full and the berries were larger than usual due to the wet Spring. The upside (apart from having extra tonnage to sell) was that the extra crop load caused slower ripening, and the grapes hung on the vine until late in September. I was afraid that the downside of a larger crop and, especially, of larger berries would be diminished concentration. With this in mind, I bled off about 7% of the juice immediately after destemming the larger berried lots in order to improve the juice to skin ratio. The juice that was removed went into a rose barrel that never saw the light of day.

I had a section of the vineyard that had more mature stems than the rest of the sections, and I fermented this section as whole clusters that were stomped rather than run through the destemmer. The inclusion of mature (brown and woody) stems in the fermenter can contribute spice notes that I like, perhaps at some cost to texture and color. In this case, I really didn't find a downside, and the main advantage was more in aromatic elegance than on the palate. The remaining clusters were destemmed but not crushed.

The various clones were all fermented separately. All of the fermeners were chilled with dry ice and cold soaked for four to five days prior to fermentation. Because the active fermentation tends to be quick with pinot, cold soaking is important to allow sufficient skin contact time for flavor and color extraction.  After letting the fermentors warm up, they were inoculated with Assmanshausen yeast. This is very slow fermenting yeast which tends to play up a wine's spicy characteristics. During both cold soak and active fermentation, the fermentors were punched down 1-2 times a day. I used dry ice to check the pace of fermentation during the first 10 brix drop. After that, I'll mostly let it go at its own pace as the alcohol level starts to become inhibitory.

I like the bulk of the pinot lots to run up to pretty high temperatures (~93° F) after keeping the initial phase cool. The higher temperatures seem to produce darker, earthier flavors and more bass notes in the wine. Hotter fermentations also promote extraction with less mechanical working of the cap with punchdowns. High temperatures also enable lots to be pressed early in an effort to improve mouth feel while still achieving good extraction. Finally, hotter fermentations will blow off more alcohol than cool ones. I expect this to be my main protocol going forward, but I'll also keep a bin or two to a cooler fermentation regime in an effort to pick up some livelier fruit aromatics, and I'll let a few lots undergo extended maceration in an attempt to build body and length.

After about 10 days on the skins, all the lots were lightly pressed, free run and press fractions were kept separate and settled for 4 hours before going into 17 French oak barrels, 7 of which were new. The duration of settling determines the volume of lees that go into barrel with the wine. Shorter settling times yield more lees with the potential for a more rounded mouth feel contributed by the products of dead yeast cells. More lees also increase the potential for reductive sulfide odors. I'm usually trying to skate along the edge of reduction during both fermentation and barrel aging in an effort to pick up some bacon, mocha or a host of other interesting sulfide derived aromas. Of course, you have to be careful because you can also get rotten egg, onion or armpit. I've been moving toward less settling and more lees, and in 2006 I found that 4 hours was perhaps too little settling, as I had a lot of reduction in barrel with which to contend. If the resulting sulfides start down a path I don't like, I deal with them with extra lees stirring, a little copper fining or cutting back the lees with a barrel to barrel racking.

In all, this vintage spent 16 months in barrel before being bottled in February 2008. This is toward the long end of barrel aging for pinot, and it reflects the fact that I am aiming to highlight the wine's spicier and earthier elements rather than preserve its primary fruit flavors. These fruit flavors tend to recede with time in barrel, and a style that emphasizes purity of fruit (or cash flow or rational barrel use) will normally be bottled before the next vintage's harvest. The press fraction was given a light egg white fining to smooth it out before adding it to the rest of the wine prior to bottling. I usually feel that the press wine rounds out the middle of the blend, sometimes adding a chocolate note.

The final numbers for the 2006 Pinot were 13.9% alcohol, less than 0.02% residual sugar, 6.2 grams per liter titratable acidity, 3.57 pH, and 0.72 grams per liter volatile acidity. Only 370 cases were produced.

TASTING NOTES

This is a Pinot on the spicy/earthy end of the spectrum and featuring tea, tobacco, mace, cardamom, dried rose, sandalwood, tamarind, plum and blueberry notes. A supple, harmonious palate, with restrained alcohol and balanced acidity make this a fine food partner.