I have been compiling a list of questions that people ask me about wine in general and my farming and winemaking techniques and philosophies. In this winemaker’s corner I will discuss a few of the topics that interest many of our customers.
To water or not to water, that’s the question?
Recently I came across an article written in the New York Times of February 26, 1887 entitled “The Wines of California – Among the Vineyards of the Foothill District”. In this article there is a paragraph that deals with irrigation that I would like to quote since the subject is still relevant in our times. “Artificial irrigation is not practiced in these vineyards, which accounts to the dryness and exquisite aroma of some of the foothill wines. It is a beautiful site to see these vineyards perched up on a mountain side several thousand feet above the level of the Sacramento Valley, and which are never watered except from the windows of heaven………”
The same argument still exists 128 years later. In the Modern Farmer of December 21, 2015 Hanna Wallace wrote about dry-farming in Oregon in order to “create more complex and tasty wines that reflect the soil that they come from.” In old world wine regions such as France, Italy and Spain, dry farming has been the norm and irrigation is frowned upon while in some regions the practice is entirely forbidden.
While I was very familiar with this argument, in 2000 when I was planning the development of my vineyards, I decided to opt for irrigation. The factors that influenced my decision were: Limited rainfall in our region and frequent drought conditions. The availability of technology to determine the quantity and distribution of water needed for irrigation to prevent over-watering that effects the quality of the wine. The access on our land to well water that comes 600 feet deep down in the ground and not significantly affected by drought conditions. It seems like we made the right decision based on the many consecutive years of drought condition and the success that we have had in consistently producing high quality wines from our vineyards.
What is this ugly looking sediment at the bottom of the glass?
I would not have a sleepless night thinking about the sediment that I noticed last night in the bottle of a 20-year-old Cabernet that I opened. This sediment was not there when I bottled the wine. It was created during the bottle aging by a chemical reaction between the potassium and tartaric acid, both abundantly present in wine and resulting in potassium bi-tartrate, which precipitates out.
What should I do with the leftover wine if I don’t drink the entire bottle after opening?
The best advice I can give you is to place the cork back on and put the bottle in the frig. If it’s a youngish wine, 5 years or less I could keep it in the frig for 1 – 3 days. If it’s oldish, 10 years or more, don’t leave it in the frig for more than one day. If you can remember taking it out of the frig an hour or so before dinner, fine. Otherwise, microwave about 5 oz of wine in a glass for 10 seconds.
Cheers and more to come,