I definitely need to filter these white wines


As I have mentioned, we have our first bottling of the year scheduled for Monday and Tuesday where amongst other wines, we are bottling our Pinot Gris and Verdejo. The last major step before bottling is to make sure that they are sterile filtered.

What exactly is filtration? Simply it  is the passing of wine though a filter medium, capturing particles that are larger than the hole size of the particular medium. Case in point

pre and post filtered Verdejo

These are two glasses of the exact same wine. The glass on the left is un-filtered compared with the same wine after filtration.
As is true of most processes in winemaking, there are many types of filtration, but you can either distinguish between [1] Depth filtration and [2] Surface Filtration.
Depth filtration is a type of filtration where wine is pushed through a series of pads made of cellulose fibers while surface filtration means running the wine along a thin-film of polymer material filled with holes tinier than the particles filtered out.
At Keswick we use a plate and frame filter, where a series of filter pads are inserted into the filter machine and the wine is subsequently passed through it, hence depth filtration.  

plate and frame filter with sheets inserted

In the case of these white wines, filtration is used not only as a means of improving the wines visually, it is of critical importance in ensuring these wines are stable and remain stable long after they have been bottled. Both of these wines are regarded as dry [there is no residual sugar], however they do contain a fair amount of malic acid. Lactic Acid Bacteria [Oenococcus oeni] can consume malic acid to liberate energy [Carbon Dioxide] and as such these wines needed to be sterile filtered to remove any active yeast cells and bacteria. Sterile filtration, means running the wines though sheets that have a porosity of 0.45 micron [the smaller the number the tighter the porosity].
So today was basically spent running the wines though the plate and frame, each time inserting tighter sheets until I was able to push 1ooo Gallons of wines through the 0.45 sheets. 5 Filtration runs and mission accomplished. All that is left to do is adjust sulfur levels and get it into the bottle, thank goodness someone else does that for me though.

filtering the pinot gris from right tank into left


To Filter or Not to Filter, That is the question

Today I finished prepping the red wines for bottling on Tuesday, More specifically I filtered them. Big GASP, I filtered a red wine. Yes it is true, for the first time since 2006 a filter machine has been used on a red wine.

Not an easy decision, I can promise you. For the longest time I have been steadfast in my resolve to bottle wines with as little intervention as possible, amongst other things, this has meant bottling red wines with no filtration of any kind.

White wines are a completely different story. More to come on this subject after I filter them tomorrow. [And admittedly take some photographs]

Simply though, filtration is used as a means to stabilize; thus preventing the onset of future spoilage; or in the case of our reds for cosmetic reasons.  I  received a e-mail the other day from a customer asking about the “sand” in the wine, I kid you not, SAND. I’ll let you know though, they loved the wine, just thought sand was peculiar and thus wanted a refund. It was a bit of a wake up call that made me realize that other people see wines differently to the way that I see them

Customers are the life line of our business, without them good wine remains un-sold and although I drink a lot, I cannot consume all we produce so therefore I have to listen to what they are saying.

Although sediment in wine in my opinion is a sign of quality, it might be a bit too soon to push that envelope without the risk of alienating our customers. A wine that is slightly hazy or gritty might be perceived as faulty by some, although it is up to us to educate.  So for purely cosmetic reasons, I decided to run the wines though a 2 micron filter, thus removing all sediment in the wine. This is a double-edged sword though, because with extensive ageing of this wine, sediment may occur [through bindings of proteins and tannins]. Since the two wines in question are the Consensus and Chambourcin, the chances of them being laid down more than 5 years seems remote, I know our wine club members and they love their wine.

Do not fear sediment, a simple decanting of the wine should do the trick, but in the case of our 2009 Consensus and Chambourcin, NO SEDIMENT ALLOWED.


Stephen [The Sediment Slayer]

Spicy Shrimp

Greetings my fellow food & wine lovers!

Sorry its been a while since my last post.  I have been busy with the holidays and learning new tricks of the trade.  The festive season may be over but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun food at home!  I came across this recipe by chance as my mom and I were digging through our old cookbooks for something different to take to a party.  Those old recipe books you haven’t cracked open in years may still hold some treasures!

Ok, so now for the recipe.

Tom Jones Shrimp     (Tidewater on the Half shell cookbook)

1 pound shrimp (fresh and unpeeled – try not to use precooked, frozen shrimp)

1 Tbsp. freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 tsp. salt

Juice of 1 lemon (or if you have the bottled lemon juice I used about 3 Tbsp)

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Several shakes of hot pepper sauce (I use Texas Pete – I don’t recommend using more than 3 drops.  If you do it will be too spicy and overpower the wine).

1 clove garlic minced

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. butter

1 French bread baguette

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash shrimp, then spread in a single layer in a baking dish.  Mix all remaining ingredients (except butter) and pour over shrimp.  Dot shrimp with butter. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes , stir several times.  Serve shrimp in a baking dish and peel when cool enough to handle.  Slice bread into thin pieces for dipping into the sauce.

Wine: 2009 Touriga and/or 2009 Cabernet Franc; for me the Touriga became fruitier and Cabernet Franc’s peppery-ness was accentuated with this dish.

Again – don’t spice this up too much or you will not be able to taste your wine!  This dish is great for a cocktail or even over some basmati rice to go with your dinner.

Hope you enjoy!


Pruning for a healthy vineyard and wine for a snow day

In my previous post on pruning I dealt with the question of how we work out the specific tonnage for a block of grapes, based on vine density and the type of system we use.

I did mention that at Keswick Vineyards we use a uni-lateral or bi-lateral cordon system on which we leave 2-3 bud spurs. But why do we use this system and are there others we are thinking about using.

Great Question and YES, I am.

What other pruning could there be, surprisingly enough, quite a few but the one that I have been toying with for a while is cane pruning. But Why?

Well to answer that question we must distinguish between spur and cane pruning.

cutting last years canes down to 4 bud spurs

As is the case with spur pruning, you already have established cordons [those cordons can be 5-25 years old], the only cutting you do is leaving spurs of 2-4 buds, buds that will produce fruit bearing shoots. You can clearly see the established arms and the previous years shoot growth in the foreground, in the back ground you will notice the vines that have been pruned.
With cane pruning however, you establish a new cordon every year by laying down one shoot from the previous years growth. This shoot will be 2-3 feet in length and have approximately 6 buds out of which next years shoots will grow.
The big question is thus, why would we even consider changing an already established system, a proven system if you like judging on the wines? Well the answer is one of fungal disease, namely phomopsis and eutypa. I have started to see some of the cordons in our spur pruned vineyard, develop this disease and I am wondering how to control, manage and ultimately eradicate it from the vineyard. Of course we can spray fungicides, but that is counter intuitive to what we are trying to do, namely be as minimalistic as possible in the vineyard.
The clear advantage with cane pruning, is that you establish a new arm each and every year, and by choosing which shoot to retain as your arm for the year, you can choose a healthy cane. There will have to be some adjustments made to the trellis system as not all shoots will grow out vertically, but is aesthetics or the health of the vineyard the primary concern?
If there is any weight to the argument that great wines are made in the vineyard, then we better do whatever it takes to ensure the vineyard remains healthy and disease free for many years to come. At this point in time though, this type of pruning is being considered and will take a lot more consultation and evaluation of other vineyards, before we commit to changing our pruning practices.

great fruit makes great wine

It is sometimes easy to do things the way you are used to and comfortable with but it is up to us to ultimately produce the best wines, and only the best vineyards produce the wines.
By the way
The weather is crazy, snow is coming down so naturally you reach for the red wines, hell no, this is a Riesling night. This particular Riesling is made by Charles Smith and the Magnificent Wine Company, and at $16.99 retail, you cannot go wrong, I do not mind the little bit of residual sugar, just wish they put more wine in the bottle.

Double Norton Brownies

We’ve had a lot of requests for the recipe for Kris’ brownies that we had in the tasting room last weekend, so here it is!  It’s really simple!

Just take a regular box of brownie mix (chocolate or fudge) and substitute Norton wine for the water and 1/4 of the amount of vegetable oil that the mix calls for with Norton chocolate sauce.  Mix it together and bake as directed.
The chocolate sauce will make a more fudgy texture so you can use less or more depending on how fudgy you want them.

To make an extra special treat, we topped them with strawberries dipped in whipped topping (we used equal parts mascarpone cheese and whipped topping, sugared to taste) and rolled in coconut and then drizzled the whole thing with more Norton chocolate sauce!


Prepping for Bottling

Most people assume that harvest is the most stressful time of year for a winemaker, except for this winemaker. I really enjoy harvest, maybe because I drink a lot of beer, the most stressful part of making wine, getting the wine ready for bottling. Since we are bottling our first wines of the year, I have been in the cellar a lot and todays blog is dealing with the stability of wine, namely protein and cold stability.

The issue is, if the wine is not stable, chemical reactions might occur that will alter the wine, haze might develop or even tartrate crystals if the wine is subjected to very low temperatures. Ever forgotten your white wine in the freezer, only to discover crystals hanging onto the cork for dear life, well one of my responsibilities is to ensure that this does not happen.

To sound very smart then; clarification and stabilization of wine involves removing insoluble and suspended materials that cause a wine to become cloudy, gassy or form unwanted sediment in the bottle. Most of this is done after primary fermentation has occurred. This is not always the case though, timing of these processes are very much dependent on the grape variety and the quality of the fruit and juice as it enters the cellar.

Protein Stabilization

Proteins are precipitated by heat so one of the easiest methods to determine stability is through a simple heat test whereby a sample of wine is heated and held for a period of time, cooled and then observed to see if there is clouding or precipitation [protein instability]. There are other tests, including the TCA  and Bentotest but since I have never used them I will not discuss them [ I already tend to write novels for blog entries ] 

So how do we go about making a wine protein stable? Well, we do that by adding a reactive or absorptive substance to remove the concentration of undesirable constituents, namely BENTONITE, also known as “Wyoming clay” due to the fact that it is principally mined in Wyoming. Bentonite is a volcanic material and when added to water forms a colloidal suspension with a large surface area. Through adsorption between positively charged proteins and negatively charged plate surfaces, proteins are removed.

Racking Pinot Gris off bentonite to tank on right

Bentonite and dead yeast

Since protein removal is proportional to the amount of bentonite added, we need to make sure that we do not add to much to the wine, as this may reduce the wines aroma and flavor compounds, I probably do not need to point out why this might be a bad thing. We normally add, depending on testing, 24g/HL. We make a slurry mixing bentonite with warm water and add it to the wine. Due to the density of the bentonite, relative to that of the wine, it settles to the bottom of the tank and the wine is subsequently racked off the bentonite into another tank.

Cold Stabilization

Tartaric acid is the main acid present in wine, and in solution are available in three forms [1] undissociated tartaric acid [2] bitartrate ions and [3] tartrate ions. We as wine makers have to be aware of tartrate precipitation in the bottle, although harmless, the wine admittedly looks quite undesirable to the consumer. To prevent this from happening, we expose the wine to cold temperatures [28 degrees for a period of 2 weeks]. Precipitation occurs in 2 stages, concentration of potassium bitartrate nuclei increase due to chilling, which is followed by a crystallization stage, where crystal growth and development occur.

Wine with tartrates clearly visible on tank wall

By ensuring the wine is now cold stable, you should be able to pop it into the fridge and it should come out as clean as clear as it went in. All this in the name of appearances. And just to put your mind at ease, here is a view of the now clean wine as seen through the site glass on the rack valve. i promise you, it tastes quite good.

Clean wine being racked off, YUMMY

Almost ready for bottling, all that is left to do now is filter the wines, but I think I will wait to bore you with those details in another post.