Harvest 2010: Oppenlander Vineyard Crush and Pressing by valleyfog

Oppenlander Fruit Upon Arrival at Winery, Oct. 2010. Photo by Jennifer Waits.

For many vineyards in the cooler growing valleys and hillsides in Northern California this year, it was unclear when — and sometimes if — grapes would ripen. That was certainly the case at Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche, California. As we mentioned in our profile of this tucked-away vineyard, it is a little closer to the coast and experiences cooler growing conditions. And with the 2010 growing season as cool as it was, predicting a pick date was like throwing darts.

Luckily a warm beginning to autumn, with no rain in sight for most of October, prodded things along in Mendocino County. By the second week of October, the sugars had passed 23 Brix and pH was hovering around 3.3. Vineyard owners, the Shandels, picked the 114 clone of their pinot noir on October 14 and trucked it on down to us in San Francisco for our Waits-Mast Pinot Noir.

Punching down Oppenlander fruit, October, 2010. Photo by Brian Mast

We knew that the vineyard struggled to ripen this year and so the fruit looked slightly uneven. But as we set to work on sorting, we meticulously sifted through the clusters and berries, throwing away any questionable ones. Berries were small to medium sized and clusters ranged from small and tight to medium and loose.

After a five-day cold soak, the 1.18 tons of fruit went into fermentation mode and needed inoculation with RC212 to stoke the fermentation and get those yeasts converting sugar to alcohol at the right pace.  As we did punchdowns on the fruit, we could start to see that wonderful, vibrant color that we remembered from our 2009 Oppenlander crush and pressing.

At pressing, we transferred the free-run juice to neutral barrels and then moved the rest of the juice and berries through a few cycles. We pressed as high as 1.4 bars and stopped there – the pressed juice went into a new French Damy barrel from the Vosges forest in Burgundy. That vibrant color was still there and the Oppenlander tasted tart, juicy with some earth and tea notes.

Spooky Pre-Halloween Oppenlander Pressing on Oct. 26, 2010. Photo by Jennifer Waits.

After all the fuss about a cool growing year, this could turn out to be a pretty intense wine. The Damy barrel should impart some nice warm spices like cinnamon and clove. We’ll check back with you on its progress throughout the next year or so to see how it evolves and comes into its own.


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