My Best Wine....and I Hate It!

It started in 2018 when my foreman and I decided to make wine from a 1995 planting of Pinot Noir Martini clone. 2018 might turn out to be the best year in the past 10 and the fruit was ultra clean. We destemed and added about 5 buckets of whole fruit. Never had made a native yeast wine so this was the year. I added no water, no acid, no yeast and furthermore no malolactic culture either.

By memory sugars were around 24.5 and acid and ph were optimal. It was a smooth 7-8 day fermentation with hand punchdowns twice daily. It smelled wonderful the whole time it ticked away.

Then came Malo. When you inoculate with a store bought culture it usually marches through in a few weeks. When you go natural it can go long. This wine took 5 months. That drove me crazy. Thanks to my neighbors at Toulouse, Roederer and Goldeneye for running my tests.

The wine never tasted complete until about May when malo completed and we added sulfur. With the late completion of malo and with the help of neighbors, we decided to keep the wine through harvest and bottle in the spring. The wine had a texture and tannin structure I haven’t experienced in making Pinot.

Against my better judgement we bottled the third week of March without any fining. Fining with egg whites or gelatin would have softened the tannins but with a single barrel it’s a pain in the ass.

So it’s in bottle now and I’m trying not to hate it. There’s 25 cases of which half are mine. The wine wasn’t filtered at bottling which should help with bottle shock. I’ve opened a couple of bottles and heavily splash decanted for an hour or so. I’m not happy. If I can exercise the patience, I hope this child will come around.

When were the sulphites added? They’re always way funky after additions.

Bumped the free SO2 to 30 ppm before bottling, but sulfured initially in May post malo.

Casey, I’m a home winemaker whose made 2-3 barrels of wine annually since 2002, Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petite Syrah. Each has turned out remarkably well. In 2012 I had the chance to buy St. Rita Hills Pinot and like yours the fruit was beautiful. Numbers were ideal and no additions of any kind needed. I used commercial yeast and malo, and barreled it in clean one year oak. No fining required and bottled it 18 months later. Unlike my other varieties at 18-24 months I also HATED this Pinot. It didn’t take long to realize it tasted flat/dull due to high pH. From harvest pH at 3.5 it moved to 4.0+. My error was not checking and adjusting pH during elevage, which I’d never had to do with the others. By 2016 it had improved overall, but it just doesn’t have the balance that earlier periodic acid additions would have made.

I just labeled my 12 cases this weekend and they are going to storage for at least 6 months before tasting again. My guess it’s a ‘Pinot thing’ and just at a dumb phase now. Drank a bottle from my last case of '16 last night and it rocked. 11 bottles left [oops.gif]

I always thought bottle shock was more of the recent SO2 additions (that tend to be made just before it bottles), but there’s something to the actual upset as well. One of my wines behaved similarly after bottling this year and is only kind of finding its way now. It had been SO2’d months before bottling. Other wines didn’t get affected much. Just no knowing.

We didn’t fine or filter, but had to filter one year. Most of the wines were just fine, but the Pinot Noir and the Pinot Noir/Corvina blend were shocked. The blend came around within a couple months, but the Pinot took six months. Extended air brought out pretty aromatics over the light body. The real wine beneath was intense and terroir driven.

One extreme that stands out was a friend’s Syrah on a commercial line at a shared facility. Simply the before and after going through the bottling line, so sample from the tank as the line was running against a bottle from off the line. Not filtered, no oxygen exposure, just the trauma of going through the line. “Bruised colloids”, as Clark Smith puts it. And yes, back to normal by time of release.

I’ve certainly had before and afters of SO2 adds, as well as side-by-sides of the otherwise same wine bottled with and without SO2. Never any shock, but certainly different.

we bottle Pinot in August and every November-December, I think to myself this is the year that we messed something up and these wines are not commercially viable. By January-release, they are back to where they should be. You will be fine, just need time.

Yeah hoping you’re right. I made quite a bit of Zin, Syr and Gre over the years but this has been a new experience! Cheers!

Ok so broke my rule and tried another bottle. Upon opening had a sulfur blast and pour a bottle or so. Left or for two days. Opened the bottle to a slight pop of CO2. It’s pretty big and pounderous right now. Gonna eat some ribs and throw it into the fire who the f_ck knows right?