Posted by Santiago Achával
That’s the only way to put it: What a week! When I last wrote, Finca Mirador was just bubbling. Finca Bella Vista was almost dry, but still wasn’t telling us how far it would go. And Finca Altamira was hanging on the vines, with a forecast for rain on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
All our wines are our great passions. But some are more equal than others … and those are the Fincas. Nothing gets more trapping than trying to coach a vineyard to express its terroir! So when the Fincas are not in the winery, or are still undefined in the tank, we frankly don’t sleep that well.
Well, the forecast was wrong! It didn’t rain—it was never even cloudy. Perfect sunny days, cool nights, breezy throughout!
We picked Finca Altamira on Monday. The third baby to arrive home. Great grapes—12 tons of them! How slowly we selected them, only a neurotic can understand. We looked at those bunches and grapes with a magnifying glass. Nothing got into that tank except perfect grapes. Our team really excelled that day. No need to goad them on. No need to instruct them. A well-oiled machine, a highly motivated machine, but one that knows how to have fun. The music is always on at the sorting tables!
On Tuesday we started pressing some of the blocks of Finca Bella Vista (picked March 6; dry March 13), and we finished that yesterday. Some of the blocks went to our Quimera blend. But the central block (10 acres) and a couple more had delivered what they promised as grapes: the Bella Vista character. The personality that we find year after year—the fascination of terroir.
Today we pressed Finca Mirador, picked March 9 and dry by this past Monday.
So now you may be asking: Ten days after harvest and you press? Well, yes. And these are long macerations for us. Let me explain: We farm for low yields. These result in early tannin ripeness. This leads to an early harvest of low-sugar, high-natural acidity, highly concentrated and balanced grapes. This allows us to do what we call lazy winemaking: We don’t sulfite the incoming grapes; we don’t acidify; we don’t bleed the tanks; we don’t ameliorate; we don’t do cold soaks; we don’t use enzymes; we don’t cool down the fermenting musts unless they go above 93 degrees (which they normally don’t in our concrete tanks). We just pump over to keep the cap wet.
And we don’t do extended macerations. Great grapes fermenting at that temperature extract all a wine needs from their skins in 7 to 10 days. So we press when we taste the skins and feel they have no more good stuff to deliver. We press light (one atmosphere for those of you that are number prone), and we add the press fraction back to the free-run wine.
As I told you, tongue in cheek, lazy winemaking!
So this is all for now. Good bye until next week! Tomorrow we’ll pick our first Cabernet Sauvignon for Quimera. It’s a great 60-year-old vineyard in Medrano, and all my kids will be there working!
Abrazo to all,
Bruce Sanderson — New York — March 20, 2009 7:32pm ET
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel — March 21, 2009 11:42am ET
Santiago Achaval — March 24, 2009 4:49pm ET
Maximiliano Morales — Santiago, Chile — April 3, 2009 12:07am ET
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