Spring in the wineries and cideries!

With the snow a distant memory, the daffodils blooming and the trees and vines budding, it is time to catch up with the Olympic Peninsula wine and cider makers to learn more about what is happening behind the scenes.  After the rush of harvest, stemming and crushing and pressing the grapes and apples, the wine and cider takes a more leisurely path forward through fermentation, barreling, aging and bottling.

After crush, red wine begins its fermentation process with the skins still part of the mix to give it the red color.   In red wine, fermentation causes the fruit to rise to the top  of the tank.  The wine maker has to be punch the fruit down or pump the wine over the skins during the fermentation to ensure a complete process.  White wines and ciders are pressed during crush and the sediment settles to the bottom and removed before the liquid is tanked for fermentation.  The wines and ciders are transferred to clean barrels or stainless steel vats to age after fermentation.  White wines and ciders might be bottled within a few months, whereas red wines may age in barrels or vats for 18 to 24 months.

In the wineries|cideries

Six months from the 2018 harvest and crush, fermentation of the Olympic Peninsula wines and ciders has been completed and the crafters are watching and tasting how the 2018 vintage has developed to date.  At Finnriver Farms, Head cider maker Andrew Byers gives the following rundown:

We have recently moved our bittersweet blend (estate fruit only) from fermentation tanks into whiskey barrels for final maturation to create Finnriver Fire Barrel Cider.  Multiple blends of high acid (sharps) fermentations are being combined after filtration, to begin a final stride towards Finnriver Golden Russet Cider. The 2016 Pommeau is also out of barrels and spending a few weeks with itself in a single vessel before bottling.

In the wineries, the winemakers were busy over the past month racking – moving the wine from barrels to other barrels or vats in order remove sediment.  This process happens up to three times before bottling and allows the winemaker to assess how the wine is developing, and if changes need to be made.  The wine might be moved from a new barrel to an aged barrel to help soften the tannins.  In some cases, the wine is moved from large casks to smaller barrels to allow the wine to have more contact with the oak.  The process is hard work and messy, but the results are wines that are well balanced and clear.

In the vineyards|orchards

While the Northern Olympic Peninsula isn’t home to too many vineyards, Ben Thomas, the wine maker for Port Townsend Vineyards had this to say about their 11 acres of grapes and their first vintage of wine:

We’ve had the distinct pleasure this past vintage of playing with our very own grapes that we grew right here in town. We had a nice little harvest of Siegerrebe, Madeleine Angevine, Garanoir and Golubok in 2018. The first two have made light and pretty whites, the latter two an interesting rosé and a port, respectively. None of them taste anything like any wines I’ve tried before. It’s been fun seeing how the grapes respond to neutral barrel fermenting, lees stirring and the native yeast gathered from our own vineyard. They will all be on the lower range of alcohol level, which should give them a nice role at the table, either as an aperitif or with lighter foods that many wines wouldn’t play well with. And overall they should complement our lineup well.”

In the vineyards and orchards, buds and blossoms abound.  Much of the heavy pruning work is done after the leaves are gone from the branches and buds, but the more intricate work starts as the weather begins warming.  In the vineyards, workers will thin the suckers sprouting out of the vines to provide a stronger foundation for growth as well as shaping the vines.  As the buds begin to break open, decisions will be made as to which shoots will be allowed to grow and which will be added to the compost pile.  In the orchard workers are also pruning trees to allow for the best fruit growth and harvest.  Grafting is also taking place in both vineyard and orchard to prepare replacement plants for those that age out of production or are damaged during the year.

The 2019 Wine, Cider and Cheese Tour is great time to catch up with your favorite winery or cidery and those that produce the beverages you love.  This tour is laid back with plenty of time to chat with your fellow “tourists.”  It is the perfect time to meet up with old friends as well as meet new wine lovers and discover all you have in common.  Of course ~ it is the perfect time to taste all sorts of interesting wine and cheese pairings!