How to Prep for International Merlot Day {11-7-17} *Sponsored*

Why Merlot? Why NOT Merlot?!

Ever since the movie Sideways, Merlot has gotten a bad rep. Merlot is one of the most delicious and versatile wine varieties out there. Awesome berry flavors, super smooth with a “liquid” cashmere like quality, and pairing great with most foods. What is there not to love about Merlot?

Since International Merlot Day is coming up,  I’ve been looking for a Merlot to enjoy/celebrate with. I was recently introduced to a Merlot from Washington State called The Velvet Devil from Charles Smith Winery…. and I’m pretty obsessed with it. First off, the grapes are sourced from 7 different vineyards, in different growing regions, with different soils throughout Washington State. That means there are a lot of different flavors and terroirs being blended together. So cool!!! The “wine dirt nerd” in me is freaking out!

The wine is ruby-garnet in color with aromas of ripe black fruit, raspberries, blueberries, and a hint of violets. {Yay for a little earthiness and fruit!} The wine was medium bodied with soft, supple tannins at the finish. An easy drinking and delicious wine for a great price, at only $12.99.

I would suggest pairing this wine with red meats, heavy tomato based dishes, and roasted vegetables. Although, I will say I enjoyed this wine with truffle burrata and it was an out of this world combination. The fruitiness and earthy combo made for a delicious pairing.

So… “How to Prep for International Merlot Day”

  1. Pick up a bottle of delicious Merlot
  2. Grab your friends
  3. Open the bottle
  4. Pour that vino
  5. And Enjoy! 😉

International Merlot Day: 11-7-17

Wine: The Velvet Devil

Vintage: 2015

AVA: Washington State

Cost: $12.99

 

 

Washington Merlot Harvest

vineyard image with good sunlight

grapes on vine image

 

A lot of people hate on Merlot, but it’s really freaking good…. 

Specifically Own-Rooted Merlot from the Rattlesnakes Hills in Yakima Valley.

About the Soil:

The surface layers of vineyard soils are based primarily in loess, which is mostly wind-deposited silt and fine sand derived from the sediments of the ‘Missoula’ ice age floods. The content of the soils consists of a mixture of minerals derived from both the local basalt bedrock and the granite and limestone of northern Idaho and Montana.

Most of the soils are classified as silt loams (mostly Harwood-Burke, but also Weihl and Scoon), which are low in clay. The low clay content creates well-drained soils, encouraging the vines to root more deeply, a factor generally associated with high quality grapes and wines. It also creates an inhospitable environment for phylloxera, an aphid-like pest that feeds on the roots of grapevines. Due in large part to the clay-poor soils, the Yakima Valley is one of the few places on earth where European wine grapes (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir) can still be grown on their own roots, also a factor generally associated with high quality.

The shallow soil profile contains large chunks of calcium-caked gravel and calcium carbonate horizons called “Caliche”. In most areas, the caliche forms a conspicuous white layer under the topsoil that adds mineral complexity. The deep roots of the vines penetrate through the surface layer of loess, which averages 18 inches in thickness throughout most of the vineyard, and into the underlying calcium-rich substrate. This gravelly, high pH substrate forces the vines to struggle, an additional factor associated with high quality grapes and wine.

About Being Own-Rooted:

An Own-Rooted vine is a vine that has no rootstock. This is not common in most wine regions around the world. The rootstock & vine grafting was necessary at one point to protect from specific diseases such as Phylloxera. The Washington soil type is made up of a fine silt loam which Phylloxera hates – this is why they can plant Own-Rooted vines.

It is said that there are differences in the wines from Own-Rooted vs. Rootstock Grafted Vines. There is much debate around this issue. It looks like you will have to be the judge!

About the Merlot Grapes:

The Merlot Clone coming from this vineyard has clusters that are small to medium in size. The berries are small and round. This clone produces a high vigor vine that creates a dense canopy. Yield is usually around 3-5 ton acre depending on the growing season.

The clone produces a soft, full-bodied, fruity wine full of many different complexities. A great Merlot that can stand alone and age – or be added to a blend to give the wine that extra punch of structure.

Looking forward to enjoying some Own Rooted Merlot from Washington, specifically from Two Mountain Winery. Do you have any other suggestions of great Washington State Merlot?

Two Mountain Winery Merlot:

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Tasting Notes

Aromas of rich toasted barrel, bright vibrant Bing cherry, blackberry and coffee on the nose are followed by inviting flavors of ripe red fruits, hints of toffee and vanilla, with hints and soft integrated tannins. {86 Points — Wine Enthusiast}

Alcohol: 13.9% pH 3.82

Aging: 20 Months French, American, and Hungarian Oak (SUPER Interesting, I’ve never blended oak before. Will definitely have to try this in the future) 40% New Oak

Purchase: $22.00/bottle

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Bring on the Bordeaux! – A Home Wine Making Experience (5)

Malolactic Fermentation (MLF)

On 11/12 we introduced our wine to 54.4 grams of opti malo and 3.5 grams of vp41. We did this because we wanted our wine to go through malolactic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation is when the natural malic acid in wine is converted into lactic acid. Converting the malic acid into lactic acid helps the taste and overall mouth feel of the wine. The malic acid is one found in apples – think granny smith type of acidity. Lactic acid is the acid that is found in milk. When we convert that malic acid into lactic acid we have a smoother and creamier mouth feel. Another reason for MLF is to provide greater microbial stability.  By inducing MLF, then the bacteria can’t go off on you when you least expect it and have fizzy bottles and popping corks.

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The bacteria used to complete MLF can be tricky to work with. You need to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row before you go forward with malo. Your brix/sugar and acidity levels should line up to make a wine that is about 15% alcohol or under, the pH should be no lower than 3.1, and your SO2 should be less than 10 ppm. our must was at 70 degrees and 2 brix when we induced malo. Once your wine is up to the appropriate numbers you can pitch your opti malo, then mix in the vp41.

We chose opti malo because it is a natural nutrient and it helps to absorb any toxic compounds that may be present from the prior fermentation. The vp41 is a good fermenter because it can  handle higher alcohol wines and helps enhance mouth feel, structure, and the complexity of the wine.

opti maloThanks again for stopping by the blog! Next time we will be discussing how we pressed the wine.

Cheers ~ CM

Bring on the Bordeaux! – A Home Wine Making Experience (3)

It’s all in the yeast

We waited for our must to come up to a temperature of about 60 degrees and added our yeast starter, opti red, and tannin ft rouge. Below are our reasons for these additions.

Yeast occurs naturally on the skins of all wine grapes. If they are left alone, these yeasts will ferment the juice into wine. Some winemakers let the “wild” yeast ferment the juice. We however, use cultured yeasts. This is because we received grapes from multiple vineyards and the different strains of wild yeast will fight for the sugar or their “food”. This can cause the wine to not fully ferment and result in a stuck fermentation because of all the competition between yeasts.

The yeast we chose was FX10. We chose FX10 because it is a vigorous fermenter. It enhances the mouth feel to be big mid-palate with major fruit concentration. The wine will have notes of intense fruits while maintaing a soft, silky mouth feel.

To kick off pitching our cultured yeast we heated up a bowl of distilled water to 110 degrees. Dissolved a tablespoon of sugar in the water (the sugar helps the yeast go from a “freeze dried state” to a “living, wet state”). Added 72 grams of GoFerm. We let the GoFerm sit alone until the temperature was 104 degrees. Then we added the FX10 yeast. The whole process takes about 15 minutes. The bubbles in the photo below are proof that the yeast is awake and working.

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Before we mixed our yeast starter in with our must, we added our opti red and tannin ft rouge (pictured below). The opti red helps extract more color from the skins. The tannin helps create a better mouth feel and more complexity in the wine. All you need to do to add this is dilute them in distilled water and mix into the must.

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Below is a photo of us adding the yeast starter to the must. We took juice from the must and mixed into the yeast starter first. We did not just dump it in.  In our opinion, it is better to try to make it all “one organism” instead of dumping into the must right away. It makes for a smoother start to fermentation. Once the additives and yeast were added we punched down the cap.

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Now we monitor the must’s temperature, brix level, and smell. If there are any off odors we want to make sure to deal with them right away.

Thanks again for stopping by. Next time we will get into DAP and when to add oak additives.

Cheers ~ CM

Bring on the Bordeaux! – A Home Wine Making Experience (2)

So before I start going into how my wine is doing, I wanted to outline some winemaking terms. Here’s a mini wine vocabulary lesson.

Degrees Brix: Expresses the percentage of sugar by weight. This scale is on a Triple Scale Hydrometer. Measuring the Brix by using a hydrometer will help you determine the level of alcohol you wish to produce in your wine.

pH: This is the potential Hydrogen ion. The pH scale spans from 0, representing extreme acid, to 14, representing an extreme base or alkai. For winemaking purposes only the 0-7 scale is considered and wine should between 3-4. The more intense the wine acid is, (the lower the number) the less free sulfite is needed to afford proper protection and hence wine stability.

Total Acidity: This measurement refers to the amount of acid that is in your wine in grams/liter of percent of volume. Ideally, your TA should be between 0.65%-0.85% for white wine and 0.60%-0.80% for red wines. If the acid is too low your wine is susceptible to bacteria and spoilage. If it is too high your wine will taste too tart.

(sources: 1, 2)

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We took the must out of the cooler on 10/28 and waited for the must to heat up. Once the must started to heat up we took our measurements. The Brix were 25.5, TA was 5.985, and pH was 3.88. My pH is a little on the higher side. My TA is pretty good for a dry red and my Brix are at a great level to make a 12.5% alcohol per volume wine.

Some tips for taking your pH and TA measurements. I would suggest purchasing some type of all in one SO2, pH, and TA testing equipment. To test TA on your own can be very complicated and not very accurate. I would suggest looking into a Vinmetrica kit. They do all of the tests and it’s easy and accurate.

Also, try not to get distracted and mix up your solutions like I did. It took me 30 minutes to get the correct TA reading because I was mixing in the wrong solution. #airheadmove

Thanks again stopping by and checking out our winemaking process.  The next post will concentrate on yeast, yeast nutrient, and other additives that help the wine during fermentation.

Cheers ~ CM