Tuesday, November 22, 2011

For the love of it

About two weeks ago, I racked the Gewürztraminer (took it off its fermentation lees and moved it into another storage vessel). 
Three tests convinced me that the fermentation was going no where at that point, even though the tests showed that between ¼ and ½ percent residual sugar remained—that is the risk of a cool fermentation. I know that fermentations generally do not truly end with zero sugar, but I did want no higher than ¼ percent.

Perhaps, I could have avoided the problem by using some other yeast or maybe by warming the fermentation, but I wanted all the aromatics and fruit forwardness that a cool fermentation promises. In winemaking, as in life, having it all is not an option, but in winemaking, if we know what we are doing, we get a fantastic chance at taking what we are handed and balancing it, and so...

The Riesling percolates toward the end of its fermentation. This wine will be my balancing material. Its pH is so low, and its total acidity so high compared to the Gewürztraminer that before me is the opportunity to see if I know what I am doing. By managing a blend between the two wines, I will attempt to correct Gewürztraminer’s mouth feel while subduing the Riesling’s acidic nature.

This is fun. It’s also been enlightening, as I never evaluated how much I missed making wine since that last batch at my winery in 1993.

Sadly, had I been able to hold out financially a little longer I might have been able to ride the wave that swelled in the late 90s and into this century, producing an effervescence of new wineries in the Finger Lakes, like a hot fermentation foaming over the top of the tank.

Knowing that I had struggled with bouts of depression throughout my life, my wife worried greatly that closing the winery would send me into a downward spiral. She had seen some of my worst spirals (something to do with childhood trauma, although I always thought that growing up poor on the mean streets of Brooklyn was the next best thing to Nirvana!). But the depression did not come. In fact, I was relieved after closing the winery.

I worked so hard and so much through the eight years that I operated the winery, doing things that I loved, and for that I was grateful to have had the chance. I also, however, worked hard doing things that I hated, like having to listen to the inanities of the tourists that traipsed through the region, having to deal with retailers that demanded free wine in order for me to “sell” them a case of my wine, having to fill out myriad federal and state forms, and having to make so many decisions—every day, decisions.

It was a relief to get the business side of winemaking off my back. Nope, there was no depression.

More important, there was no regret either. I had done what I set out to do. The fact that it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to work out was merely the consequence of bad planning and bad timing, and timing really is everything.

So, as low key and small as the effort is, I am back to making wine—and loving it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
November 2011. All rights reserved.