Crush ’09: Amber Ridge pressing by valleyfog
Tasting the Amber Ridge juice in increments

Tasting the Amber Ridge juice in increments

The crush is on and Jennifer and I are busier than ever this harvest season. We’re expanding our Pinot Noir portfolio quite a bit this year (more news on that in future posts), so we’re going through waves of sorting and pressing. The Amber Ridge fruit from Russian River came in first and has gone through its cold soak (5 days) and fermentation process and we pressed it in two different sessions. We pressed the 115 clone first as that fruit came in about 4 days before the 667 and 777 came in.

With 115, we moved about 40 gallons, or about 2/3 of the barrel, from the bin to a neutral oak barrel. The remaining grapes and juice were pressed in increments of .2 bars, a measurement that roughly translates to pounds-per-square inch. The pressing happens in a large EuroPress, a machine that has a bladder that slowly expands with increasingly larger amounts of pressure on the skins. The more you press, the more color and flavor you extract from the grapes. You don’t want to press Pinot too much, as you don’t want to overpower the wine with too many tannins or too much bitterness from the seeds and skins.

Jennnifer does the taste test on a sunny Sunday

Jennnifer does the taste test on a sunny Sunday

After going through various increments, we stopped at 1.1 bars. Some of the increments generated the sweetness of the grape, while others revealed earthier flavors, like herbal tea, that come from the tannins. It all mixes together to provide structure, balance and hopefully, complexity.

After filling up the rest of the barrel of 115, a few days later we went back into the winery to press the 667 and 777 clones, which were co-fermenting. After about 45 gallons of free run juice were transferred to a new Francois Freres M+ oak barrel, we went through the same pressing process, this time going up to 1.2 bars. In tasting the fermented juice, we noticed lots of red and darker fruit flavors and a nice pucker of acidity. 667 and 777 carry more tannin and up-front fruit flavor, respectively, so they will complement the 115 base that we have in the other barrel.

Now the two barrels are cozy in the winery, awaiting the occasional topping (extra wine to ensure the barrel is filled all the way to the top and no oxidation takes place) and future barrel tastings. The 2009 Amber Ridge is off to a great start and portents to be a lush and complex Pinot Noir. We’ll keep you posted on its progress throughout the year.

Gorgeous Russian River Pinot Noir wine ready for barrel

Gorgeous Russian River Pinot Noir wine ready for barrel


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[…] Crush ‘09: Amber Ridge pressing […]

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