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.


  1. "having to listen to the inanities of the tourists that traipsed through the region"

    funny how validating those inanities helps sell wine....

    (what's propagating a few myths and misconceptions when you can pay your bills and save a little, if you're lucky...)

  2. I've never counted on my luck--for anything ;)

  3. Luck, randomness of the universe. Same thing.

    Have a good turkey!

  4. While in the midst of nasty bout myself in the mid 90's I read this in a book by Marie-Louise von Franz : "sometimes you have make like a one-eyed pig running through a muddy ditch in the night"
    Now that I have cheered you up, Happy Thanksgiving and keep on, my friend.

  5. That's the ticket Thomas. Passion...you have lots of it still it seems!
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  6. This made me smile. Smile and want to give you a big hug. So happy for you kid.

  7. Thank you all.

    Back from a family day, and nice to find these messages.

    During the family turkey dinner, there was one fellow there who could have used some pepper--spray!

    He married into the family...

  8. Have you ever been to one of these? If so, what was your experience like?

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend! :)

  9. Michael,

    I did not attend, but did stop in on the first ever blogger conference...and have never returned.

    What's the word? Let me see.


    Yeah, that's it.

    Many years ago I worked as a behind-the-scenes person at conferences. It was then when I discovered their true nature, and it was then when I realized they are not in my nature.

  10. I'm on the edge of my seat awaiting how it all turns out. I trust you'll report on your Gewurz and Riesling results? Sounds exciting.

  11. Marcia,

    But of course. These things do take time, however!

  12. Wine Bloggers Conference = You pay your way (travel and board) to a press junket where you eagerly regurgitate whatever info they dish out because they give you free wines, free food and make you feel important while the keynote speaker delivers some absurd stuff like: "Ditch you 50K/year job, you can make so much more money with your blogger account!" or "Don't taste wines, feel them"....

  13. Thomas,

    Haha! Well expressed!

    Thanks for the advice.

    Are there any players left in the wine game who do it for the right reasons? If so, where can you find them?

  14. The right reasons are not lucrative, so those who were in the game for the right reason got other jobs and still enjoy wine privately.

  15. Michael,

    Send me an email and try to be specific. I'm not sure what you mean by the "right reasons."

    I have a big problem with wine criticism and a great deal of wine blogging. For instance, one of the top, recognized bloggers lost me as a reader after I corrected a mistake that was on the blog, but instead of posting my correction comment, the blogger corrected the blog entry and never acknowledged publicly what had transpired.

    One of the things wrong with blogging is it often presents itself behind a faux journalistic scrim.