Winter in the Winery
This is generally a slow time of the year in the winery, which is a nice break after the hectic harvest season. One of the top priorities is preparation for bottling. Over the last few weeks, we’ve selected and ordered glass, corks, and labels and spent time tasting through the wines to anticipate the best bottling dates for each one.
At the end of November, we moved our six barrels of 2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir into a single tank. The 14 months in barrel gave the wine time to slowly mature, while the the final month in tank helped the different lots to harmonize and encouraged any sediment settle out. We're looking forward to bottling this 2016 Pinot Noir on Thursday.
Later this week, we’ll also be racking our 2017 Rosé of Counoise, which entails moving the wine from three smaller tanks into a single larger tank. We’ve tasted through the lots separately - here you can see that they each have a slightly nuanced shade of pink - but we think the blend of the three will be perfect. It will be ready for bottling some time next month.
Another winter priority is ensuring that malolactic fermentations successfully complete. Malolactic fermentation is the conversion of malic acid into lactic acid. Unlike primary (aka alcoholic) fermentation, which is when the sugars convert into alcohol, malolactic fermentation doesn’t happen with every wine. A winemaker can purposely inhibit this process or not to encourage a particular style or flavor. For example, with our Chardonnay, the malolactic fermentation softens the acid and brings a lovely, rich mouthfeel.
At Côte West, we allow malolactic fermentations, or "malos," to run to completion on all our wines except the Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé of Counoise. Paper chromatography, shown in the photo below, is a test we use to see if a wine has completed the fermentation process. This analysis helps us predict when the wines will be more stable and ready for bottling. According to this test, our Grenache and Pinot Noir are complete!