Archive for the ‘2014 harvest’ Category

What is Wine Racking?

November 18th, 2014 by Rachel

The Pinot Making ProcessWinemaking is more than the process of harvesting grapes and squeezing out the juice. Once the grapes have been harvested, there is still plenty to do. One action is called “wine racking.”  Here’s a quick rundown of what this is, and why it’s so important during the process of winemaking.

The term racking means moving wine from one vessel to another. This can be from tank to barrel, barrel to barrel, and barrel to tank. Racking can be done to serve a number of different purposes. It all depends on where we are at in the winemaking process.

The first racking is generally done shortly after initial fermentation of sugar to alcohol is complete. This separates the wine from the skins, seeds, dead yeast cells, and other particles that settle to the bottom of the tank. Red wine typically goes into a barrel at this racking.

Red wines are commonly racked on other occasions during the wine aging process. It all depends on the preferences of the winemaker and the grape varietal.

After the wine has finished secondary fermentation (this is malolactic fermentation – which means converting malo acid to lactic acid), it may be racked again. The purpose of this racking is to further clarify the wine by taking the wine out of barrel, cleaning the barrel of the sediment, and then putting the wine back into barrel.

This is the point at which wine-making becomes both a science and an art – with a little magic thrown in. The winemaker must have an intimate knowledge of of the fruit from that particular vineyard. He must know the age of the vines and impacts of terrior. Experience and an almost sixth sense will help him tease out the specific nuances of that vintage and see how the wine is aging in the barrel. All of these factors play into the decision of whether to rack or not.

The final racking consists of moving the wine from barrel into the tank for settling before bottling. You can learn much more about racking and winemaking by setting up a tour here at Youngberg Hill.

What kind of winemaking details are the most interesting to you? Let us know in the comments below.

Farm-to-Fork Foods Paired with Harvest-to-Glass Wines

November 11th, 2014 by Rachel

Youngberg Hill Wine HarvestIt is often said what grows together, goes together.  This idea is at the heart of Oregon’s farm-to-fork movement.  The wine grown and harvested here in the Willamette Valley is perfect with fresh seasonal ingredients brought from farm to table. This time of year you will find Oregon wine country filled with seasonal foods like beets, cabbages, parsnips, carrots, celery root, chard, late-season corn and mushrooms, and winter squash.

As with the wine produced throughout the Willamette Valley, the good food found here is a direct result of the quality of each ingredient.  In Oregon, chefs and farmers work together, resulting in the modern day foodie paradise of Willamette Valley.  Choose to stay with us at Youngberg Hill Vineyards, and this rich abundance of farm fresh foods and handcrafted wines will be at your fingertips.

For a truly unique Oregon experience, dine at Thistle. There the chefs create seasonal menus based on what is available to them throughout their Willamette Valley network of farms. The chefs and owners of Thistle work closely with local farmers in an effort to develop sustainable agriculture and have been one of the innovative forces behind McMinnville’s farm to table movement. When you’re ready for something sweet, pick up some locally made chocolates at Honest Chocolates, located in downtown McMinnville.

You can also visit us at the Granary District Winery – along with a number of other local wineries – for a pre-Thanksgiving open house. You will have the opportunity to taste our 2012 Pinots as well as sample other wines made in the Willamette and Yamhill Valleys. This open house event will take place on November 22nd and 23rd from 11:00am through 4:00pm.

Oregonians produce all of this delicious food and wine in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.  Oregonians have a long legacy of preserving the state’s pristine ecology, first establishing their commitment to sustainable farming practices more than 100 years ago with the State’s first environmental law.  At Youngberg Hill Vineyards, we value the beautiful land we live and work on, and are proud of our green approach to wine country living.

What is most import to you about the environment in which your food and wine was grown?  Let us know in the comments below.

What Makes Some Wine Have Higher Alcohol Content Than Others?

November 4th, 2014 by Rachel

Wine grapesYou may have noticed that wine alcohol levels have slowly inched up over the years. While it was hard to find a wine that naturally reached 14% alcohol by volume 35 years ago, it’s pretty common now. This high alcohol content has been attributed to the changing palate of the modern drinker as well as to climate change.

The modern wine connoisseur (that’s you!) tends to want softer tannins and lower acidity. Translation: we want something immediately drinkable. While many people buy a bottle, take it home and drink it, very few have wine cellars where they can let the tannins in their delicious beverages mellow and age to perfection.

This means winemakers like Wayne can allow the grapes a little more hang time to collect some extra sunlight and sugar before harvest. Another advantage to allowing grapes to ripen more fully before the wine is created is there is a lower acidity to the wine. The intention of the harvest is to hit the sweet spot where the perfect amount of sugar intersects with the right amount of acid. In Oregon wine country, we also have to consider weather conditions. While we have had a bit of an Indian summer this year, there have been early cold spells in previous years, where the grapes had to be harvested just before the weather turned.

The ripeness of grapes when harvested, as well as any overripe grapes that sneak into a harvest can affect the overall alcohol content of the wine. As we have stated in previous articles, we hand harvest to ensure only the best grapes are used to create your wine. This means you don’t get grapes in your Youngberg Hill wine that we didn’t intend to use.

Once the fruit is harvested, the fermentation process eats up all those sugars and creates alcohol. Pinot Noir is naturally in the higher alcohol range – around 12-14% alcohol by volume on average. You can expect a much higher alcohol by volume in dessert wines like sherry or port.

Do you like the lower acidity and higher alcohol volume trend in wine? Let us know by commenting below.

How to Read a Wine Barrel

October 28th, 2014 by Rachel

Youngberg Hill Wine Barrel Reading a wine barrel sounds like a relatively simple process. You are looking at a label imprinted into the wood, right? There’s a little more to it than that. On the left you will see one of our new barrels for our estate Pinot Noir. On the top of the barrel is information about it. Some barrel manufacturers (called “cooperages” in the wine world) put more information on their barrels than others.

On this barrel we have:

  • Cadus is the name of the cooperage.
  • France is the source of the barrel.
  • Origine means the point of origin.
  • YH are the initials of Youngberg Hill. This barrel was made specially for us.
  • Troncais is the oak forest in France that the wood is from. There are six different forests this oak type comes from and each forest has specific characteristics.
  • French oak – 30 months air dried means the amount of time after harvesting the tree during which the wood is dried out in the open. After the wood is dried, the barrel is created.
  • M+ signifies that the inside of the barrel has been toasted a certain amount. In this case it was toasted to medium plus. The amount a barrel has been toasted contributes to the taste of your wine.
  • Slow extraction means that this barrel is best used when the wine will be in it for more than a year because the wood slowly interacts with the wine.

At Youngberg Hill we are very specific about our choice in barrels. We use white oak as it has been the standard in the winemaking industry for centuries. It brings out unique qualities in wine and allows wine to interact with it and through it. Youngberg Hill Pinot NoirOther wood has been experimented with, but winemakers around the world have come back to white oak.

The white oak we use for barrels is from France. French white oak barrels have been the barrel of choice for Pinot Noir producers the world over. The qualities we look for are:

  • The age of the oak trees.
  • The weather in which they are grown (cool so the growth is slower and the grain is more open.)
  • The drying conditions of the wood in an open air environment.
  • The manufacturing process of the barrel.

All of these qualities allow Pinot Noir to age beautifully. Every one of these qualities are found in French white oak barrels.

Big red wines like Cabernet, Borolo, Malbec and all those big reds in between can use a wider variation of oak barrels. They are thick skinned, big boned, heavy wines that can compete with other oaks more easily without losing the character of the wine. Pinot Noir is a delicate grape with thinner skins that can be easily overwhelmed by other oak options. French white oak has been found over the centuries to be subtle enough to interact with Pinot Noir.

What else would you like to learn about the Pinot-making process?  Let us know below.

Why Fall is the “On Season” for Oregon Wine Country

October 14th, 2014 by Rachel

Fall Oregon Wine Country - at Youngberg Hill Inn and Winery The end of the summer season is often when many vacation destinations close their doors. Not here in the Willamette Valley.  This is actually one of our busiest times of year.  Why is that?  Two words: Harvest Season.

Many wineries all around the Yamhill and Willamette Valleys are still filled with golden or purple grapes, getting a little more hang time or being enthusiastically harvested.

The grapes aren’t the only thing changing color. The leaves on the vines are turning too.  You haven’t seen Oregon wine country until you have seen row after row of gorgeous, fall color lighting up the vines. Our valley is a photographer’s dream. This is one of the reasons the Willamette Valley was listed in the top ten places to go leaf peeping in America.

The amazing fall foliage, the activity and excitement of harvesting grapes, and all that delicious wine make autumn the right time to visit wine country.  It’s truly gorgeous.Wildlife at Youngberg Hill

Additionally, because Youngberg Hill is a holistic vineyard which works with nature, this is a great time of year to see anything from elk to any number of birds.  Many animals can be seen on our grounds as well as at nearby locations like Cascadia State Park, Dexter State Recreation Site, and Jasper State Park.

Finally, for the those who want a break from the outdoors, Youngberg Hill is located by several cities with great shopping (local art, handmade chocolates, or artisan soaps, anyone?), delicious food, and – of course – plenty of wine.  There are also several microbrews available for those who want to add some variety to their palate.

Harvest season is the most exciting time of year to be on a vineyard in Oregon Wine Country. When’s your favorite time to visit?

Four Great Questions to Ask at a Winemaker Dinner

October 7th, 2014 by Rachel

Winemaker DinnerA winemaker dinner is a laid back, unpretentious food and wine pairing event which allows people to enjoy great food and wine along with excellent conversation.  It’s also a good time to pick a winemaker’s brain.  However, even at events designed for some question and answer, it can be hard to figure out what to ask. With our upcoming harvest winemaker dinner on October 25th, we thought we could give you some ideas for great questions you may want to ask the winemaker.

#1. Where in the world do your favorite wines originate?
The winemaker clearly chose his or her vineyard because of the ability of the terroir to grow specific grapes. However, the varietals grown come from a different location, like France or Italy.  The winemaker dinner is a great time to dig deep and learn more about the history of your wine.

#2. Can you explain why this wine pairs well with the food I’m eating?
Sometimes you’ll get a pairing that don’t make sense in your head – but is just right in your mouth. The winemaker and chef have gone over the food, down to the sauces, that pair just right with the wine served. Ask the winemaker why the pairings were made – you might be surprised to find that, without that particular sauce, your duck and Pinot Noir wouldn’t match well at all.

#3. What characteristics do you think we can expect in wine coming from the most recent/upcoming harvest?
It’s wine harvesting season!  This is the perfect time to pick the winemaker’s brain about what he expects to come out of this year’s bounty.

#4. What is the story of this particular wine?
The winemaker has the real in-depth knowledge behind that vintage and varietal of wine. Get the scoop.  Ask about the process of deciding your wine was ready for bottling and what the weather was like for that particular year. You’ll learn more about wine – and will likely hear a few fun stories along with way.

In the end, a winemaker dinner is time to sit back, relax, and enjoy. You can learn more about the wine you are drinking than you’d be able to at a restaurant – and catch up with friends. No matter why you attend, we hope to see you at the dinner this month!  Will you be able to come?  Click here to get the details.

What is the Best Harvesting Method?

September 16th, 2014 by Rachel

Sept Blog 3 - Pic 1When it comes to our land, we always go for the most organic, sustainable and holistic  method here at Youngberg Hill.  This is because we believe the method that works for Mother Nature is the method that will work best for our wine.  Our wine philosophy extends to using the best harvesting method for our grapes.

 

That said, there are two basic ways to harvest grapes.  One is by hand and one is by machine.  Of course, a winery may choose to include some machines into processes before or after the harvest – like a destemmer or a tractor.  But the harvest itself can be done either by hand or by machine.  We will consider these two methods:

Mechanical Harvesting

One of the greatest advantages of mechanical harvesting – and why many large winemakers choose this type of harvesting – is speed.  Just as is the case in making manufacturing pretty much anything, when you add machines, things go faster.  This means a large, corporate winemaker might be tempted by mechanical harvesting to save money.

Another reason why speed is important to these large grape growers is  they don’t want their grapes to become overripe.  This can create bad wine that needs a lot of extra additives to make it palatable.

Hand Harvesting  

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Harvesting grapes by hand has a major advantage over mechanical harvesting.  That is: quality of fruit.

Hand harvested grapes are more precisely what we want in our wine.  This is because the person harvesting the grapes can consider what  they are harvesting as they go.  There is another process later, during winemaking, during which people are able to go through the harvest again and pick out any unwanted grapes, stems, leaves, etc.  But the hand harvest is the first line of defense against bad bunches.

This extra sorting power may not seem like it makes a big difference in the quality of wine produced, but it actually does.  Not only are there more eyes on the grapes that do go in  to your wine, many substandard grapes (unripe grapes or raisins) can be removed before they get to the crusher.  When you consider that it takes about 30  vines of grapes to make one barrel of wine – you see where the difference comes in.   Say there were 5 raisins and 10 unripe grapes, plus one leaf per cluster.  That’s about 200 raisins and 400 unripe grapes – plus 40 leaves that hand harvesting removed from that barrel of wine.

Another reason behind our hand harvesting preference is that Pinot Noir is a delicate fruit.  The process of machine harvesting punctures the fruit slightly, so in order to maintain a full cluster of intact grapes, we have to hand harvest.

Hand harvesting is one of the many ways we stay true to our grapes and the land which produced them.  Come taste the difference!

 

All About the Crush

August 19th, 2014 by Rachel

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The harvest season is often referred to as “The Crush,” taking its name from a very important step in the winemaking process. Though foot-stomping instantly comes to mind, there is a lot more to the crush than that.

Harvesting begins once the grapes reach peak ripeness. Knowing when to harvest is not an exact science, but it usually occurs with summer turns to fall. Each grape cluster is then carefully sorted to ensure only the best fruit goes into the wine.

 

 

That’s when the crushing begins. The purpose of this stage is to break open the skins, exposing the juice and pulp. The grapes’ seeds and stems aren’t crushed because they contain the very important tannins. Not only do tannins contribute to the texture of the wine, but they are invaluable to the color and bitterness of it as well. The sooner the stems are removed in the crushing process, the less tannic a wine will be. Sometimes the stems aren’t removed until right before fermentation and pressing, which is why red wines tend to be more bitter than their white counterparts.

The crush is a very symbolic portion of the harvest season, and of winemaking in general. In fact, there are many festivals celebrating it, including the local Carlton Crush next month. These festivals are family-friendly and delight in one of our area’s greatest traditions. And, of course, there’s a lot of foot-stomping!