Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday wine blending.

Another wonderful evening of wine blending trials has come and gone...and the 2007 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon continues to impress wine experts and novices alike.

Karl and I had the pleasure of hosting two guests tonight, my cousins Melanie and Sonya from Vernon Hills, Illinois.

After tasting the bright and brilliant fruit of the 2008 samples, we moved on to the 2007s. We have nearly perfected our final 2007 Vellum blend. The adjustment was slight but noticeable - and we now have the following percentages of each grape varietal in our 2007 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon 84%, Merlot 10% and Petit Verdot 6%.

In the photo above, you might also notice our prototype wine label - to be officially unveiled when the 2007 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon goes on sale this Saturday, November 1st.

For the first time, Vellum will be available for purchase as "wine futures". We have promised our friends and family that they would be able to purchase the wine in this fashion - to reserve their bottles pre-release!

- Jeff Mathy

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wine Hits the Barrel!

This week the first of this 2008 vintage was put into barrels! Two thirds of the wine has finished its primary fermentation and it has been pressed off and recombined with it's free run.

I was very pleased with the press wine! I decided to add it all back to the original free run to provide better structure and integration to the overall wine early on. It benefited greatly from this marriage with no trace of bitterness or overly extracted tannins and together it will pick up even more structure in its new oak.

Also, although the wine is still very unsettled as all new wine should be; I feel it displays the Vellum signature balance and it is approachable now.

Here too, I would like to make special mention for one lot in particular, our small blending lot of Merlot, which had undergone a very trying and exotic fermentation to become its resultant wine. The wine fermented perfectly to 100% dryness and I feel that in every regard it is the finest of my career. Everything in this wine is heightened but in a graceful manner. I expect it will mature beautifully and we will watch it closely as it becomes a very worthy addition to the 2008 Vellum vintage!

-Karl Lehmann

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pressing the grapes!

Yesterday Karl and I pressed two different tanks of wine - Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The pressing process involves a few steps:

1. First we drain the "free run" wine into clean, fresh tanks.

2. Then we take the remaining wine-soaked skins and load them into a press. (Photo of the press is above.)

3. The press has an inner bladder that inflates with air to push the skins against the inside of the press cylinder. The wine from this pressing is collected for selective blending into the free run.

4. At the end of the process, we have a highly concentrated pressed wine. The leftover skins and seeds are then used for fertilizer in the vineyards.

In the photos above you can see the brilliant purple and magenta hues of the finished wine. It is opaque because there are billions of yeast cells still in suspension in the wine. Over the next few months, they will sink to the bottom of the barrel and will be removed periodically in a process called "racking". Racking of the barrels is a process where the winemaker removes the wine from the barrel, cleans the barrel, and then puts the wine back into the barrel.

Slowly, the wine begins to clarify and become polished.

During the next month, the wine will also undergo its secondary fermentation (aka ML fermentation) where malic acid is converted by beneficial bacteria into lactic acid.

More to come on this topic later...

Oh yeah, the wine tastes as good as it looks! Bright fruit flavors with lots of intensity. I can't wait to taste the 2008s after some time in barrel!

Jeff Mathy

Monday, October 20, 2008

No two vintages are the same.

One of the things that makes wine exciting is the degree of uncertainty from year to year. Sometimes it is met with joy and mixed with a little apprehension but it is always with great anticipation that we first drink the new vintage and bear witness to our triumphs from the vineyard.

Yesterday, the first two of four primary fermentations were completed - a Cabernet Sauvignon lot and our Petit Verdot. Both were as I expected - bright and balanced on the palate and most of all - lively.

The colors are very deep, almost black and serious despite their well structured acidity which usually displays a vibrant crimson hue. Here too the wine fully expresses the fruit flavor which I discovered while walking all those hours among the vines.

I think this is when Vellum wine is in its purest form. It has not been exposed to oak yet and is newly born on the must (grape skins) eagerly awaiting to be pressed. However, It is also at his point that the the fermentation also has to be recognized for its underlying contribution to the wine.

The lifespan of a yeast cell is generally short-lived. Their purpose to winemakers is deceptively simple: consume sugar to make alcohol. Although in most red wines it is ideal for stability as well as style that the yeast which began the fermentation consume all of the sugar before their population dwindles and eventually passes on.

So in reality, a complete fermentation takes great planning, control and mindfulness. It is very important too that all of this takes place in lower threshold but persistent temperatures. In this environment the yeast may still thrive and produce its own heat but the wine greatly benefits by having its fruit and varietal character preserved. Here a successful fermentation is quantified in very small fractions of a percent of residual sugar.

So, the wine in front of me now is "dry"; which means that the sugar level is so low that it can no longer be considered a viable food source for the yeast.

While I am on the subject, I remember that someone once asked me, "Does it matter what type of yeast is used and if so what do YOU use?" To that I responded, "undeniably yes and...its a SECRET!!!".

So yes, I consider a yeast's specific strain and kinetics to be a large part of my augmentation of the wine and a continuation of the previous vintage. It's like choosing the right sports team to have success year after year...as well as establishing a signature style of play.

On the nose and palate both the Cabernet and Petit Verdot have notes reminiscent of the yeasts which were chosen for their aromas and flavors. They are what I feel the fruit needs to make its transition gracefully, safely and with interest into wine.

Tomorrow these lots will be pressed and the wine will be added back to its pure free run at my discretion. The yeast have done their job in presenting wonderfully elegant wine and now its time to let machinery and the further extract of the grapes to subtly fill it in.

Karl Lehmann

Friday, October 17, 2008

Great news from Uncle Sam!

We just heard word from our good friends at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Vellum's 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon label has been APPROVED and we can now go ahead with printing.

We are looking forward to unveiling the label very soon!

Also, watch for a new "ORDER WINE" section of the website starting on November 1st. You will be able to order wine online and it will be shipped after it is bottled in the New Year.

Karl will soon have a blog posting regarding the fermentation of the 2008 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A happy harvest finale.

Yet another harvest for Vellum Wine Craft has concluded - and a new crop of Cabernet Sauvignon is sitting in its fermentation tank awaiting the wonderful transformation from grape juice to wine.

It has been a year of many celebrated successes, but we are not at the end of the road. Rather, we are beginning another leg of our journey.

Karl and I wish to extend our warmest thanks to all of you who have followed along with us from afar. And a very special thank you to the Linstad family who made Saturday's harvest such a wonderful experience for our visiting friends and family.

We are grateful to have so many positive people behind us.

Cheers to you all! And please keep coming back to the Vellum Harvest Notes blog as we continue to convey the stories from the vines and the cellar.

The 2007 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon is poised for release. We hope to share our hard work with all of you!

Jeff Mathy

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Merlot is harvested!

Thank you to Sharon and Alex Ivanoff for a great day yesterday. The Merlot was harvested from their small but mighty vineyard in the western hills of Napa County. As usual, we started at sunrise and started filling bins.

This year was remarkably warmer than last year. I wore shorts and a light jacket - a stark contrast to last year's harvest (photos in our blog archive below).

The fun is not over yet!

The majority of our production, the Napa Valley Cabernet will be harvested on Saturday morning. It will conclude another stellar year for Vellum.



Jeff Mathy

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tomorrow is the big day!

Tomorrow morning we will harvest our prized Merlot vineyard. The berries are dark blue, almost black in some cases and the sugars are still relatively low - allowing us to maintain our desired lower alcohol levels. And the development of the seeds and skins is definitely there.

This vineyard was harvested in late September last vintage. This year's slower ripening will likely result in more concentration and depth - which we love!

Looks like it will be another beautiful harvest morning in Napa!

Jeff Mathy

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cabernet at 23.8 brix

The Cabernet Sauvignon is right on target to be harvested next Saturday. Karl and I walked the vines again this evening and took samples for analysis.

The sugars and acid are excellent, as is the overall grape maturity. So it looks like we will bring in about 9 tons of fruit early Saturday morning.

We couldn't be happier with the way this vineyard performs. Development is always slow and steady, making for an easy-going harvest. No surprises!

On another note, I will be happy to have a few special guests joining us for the crush this weekend. Karl and I are looking forward to capping off the 2008 harvest with a little celebration - perhaps at our favorite Sonoma hang-out - "A Taste of the Himalayas" Restaurant.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood that evening, please stop by and join the fun!

Looking forward to the busy week ahead,

Jeff Mathy

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A rainy Friday brings good news for the vines.

Last night's rain came at just the right time for our two remaining vineyards. The Cabernet in particular will benefit greatly from the sprinkle by soaking up some water and temporarily allowing the sugars to drop in concentration. This swelling of the grapes works to our benefit by extending the ripening period.

By letting the grapes hang longer on the vine we encourage hyper-development of the skins and seeds.

Like last year, the ripening Cabernet is perfectly timed with Mother Nature's showers. And with any luck, we may be ready to harvest the fruit next Saturday.

Jeff Mathy

Friday, October 3, 2008

Cabernet harvested!

Wow! - what another beautiful day for the 2008 harvest. Our first 4 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon were harvested on Wednesday. The fruit came in at about 23.5 brix, perfect for making a well-balanced wine.

The berries were evenly set and had a great combination of flavor and acidity. We began at sunrise, picking and sorting the grapes as they were collected in half-ton bins.

We enjoyed a few hours in the bright morning sun...and then we were off to the winery. At the winery we weighed the bins and started the crush. The grapes were once-again sorted before entering the destemmer. From vine to tank, all of Vellum's grapes go through four (4) hand sortings. This ensures that only the highest quality clusters are used. The rest of the fruit gets turned into fertilizer. (And in some cases - grape jelly!)

All in all, the day was wonderful. Thank you to everyone that helped...and to our friends and family who are following along with the harvest from afar.

Now the Cabernet will go through 48 hours of cold-soak before we start the fermentation.

Keep on checking back with us...we have 12 more tons of grapes to harvest in the coming weeks.

Jeff Mathy

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vellum's Petit Verdot Harvest

Yesterday we harvested the Gobbler Grove Petit Verdot. The day began with a beautiful bright morning and stayed moderate in temperature into the afternoon. Our crew picked 2.35 tons of grapes...and from the looks of the photos above...the color and flavor intensity will mirror the 2007 fruit.

More to come tomorrow...

I'm bushed from our day of work on the Cabernet. Pictures from today's harvest will be posted tomorrow.

Thanks again for everyone's hard work!

Jeff Mathy