High tech, low tech
By Sara Schneider, Sunset wine editor
The numbers are in. Our immensely helpful consultant, Michael Martella, took our wine samples up to Thomas Fogarty Winery to analyze for pH (which is in indirect proportion to acidity) and TA (total acidity). Here’s what he reported.
pH: 3.8 (a little high; Martella thinks it will still come down)
pH: 3.2 (low, which means our acidity is high, which is an excellent thing)
TA: .68 (great)
His evaluation: “I think you’re still on track. It’s going to be very good wine.” Phew!
And advice: Let the Syrah go another couple of weeks, then send him more samples. But the Chardonnay is “done,” meaning that both fermentations are complete. Douse it with meta bisulfite (in, as he does, a ratio of 1 pound per 1,000 gallons of wine! For us, that translates to about 2 teaspoons per carboy and would give us about 60 parts per million in the end—a good goal for sulfites). And start stirring the lees, to soften up the wine and add some complexity. We have two choices: Buy a ridiculously expensive machine that stirs the lees magnetically from the outside, or turn the carboys on their sides and roll them once a week or so.
The choice might have been a no-brainer, but nothing’s as easy as it sounds. We couldn’t roll the carboys with the ferm locks still in place; we had to put in some solid corks and secure them with duct tape, to avoid spilling wine all over Sunset’s courtyard. The rolling itself went without incident, even if the layers of lees were so compact that we had to manhandle the carboys vigorously. But untaping the corks was a little bit of an adventure—Erika Ehmsen (copy chief) almost lost an eye when one came shooting out. We learned to finesse it, though, and now have a weekly regimen.