After Thursday night’s Grand Tasting at the Wine Experience, I went out for some bubbly with another Pinot producer, Adam Lee from Siduri. We grabbed a cab and headed over to the Bubble Lounge to meet David Mokha and my fellow blogger Kevin Vogt, who head up the wine programs at Emeril’s Miami Beach and Delmonico Steakhouse in Las Vegas, respectively. On the way there, Adam started asking me questions about one of my previous blog entries, where I discussed why adding water to the fermenters doesn’t dilute the wine.
As a bit of background, Adam usually bleeds off some of the juice from the fermenter before he adds any water. His idea is to keep the liquid-to-skin ratio the same as when the fruit came in. We don’t do any bleed-offs, for the reasons I detailed in my previous blog.
So Adam’s question was: Do I believe there is a “correct” berry size? I had made the point that, when we decided to pick, we often saw that some of the fruit had dehydrated a bit. My contention was that by adding water to the fermenter, we are just replacing the water lost to dehydration.
Adam’s response was that I'm saying the optimal size for a grape is its maximum size. I countered that I was saying no such thing - that it depends upon the sugar levels and the amount of dehydration. Adam pressed me a bit, saying that I was indeed making a determination of which size was best, since maybe the dimpled size was actually best. And as such, we should do whatever is necessary to maintain that juice-to-skin ratio – which means we should bleed off juice before adding water. Truthfully, I hadn’t considered Adam’s point of view.
While I acknowledged to Adam that he may indeed be right, I really needed to think about it a bit. So, I asked myself, what is the optimal berry size? Is there such a thing? I think Adam believes there is an answer – or that as a winemaker, you should take a definitive position on such issues. I’m a bit more relativistic than that, but I think Adam did hit upon a key point: Why do we believe that adding water without bleeding is OK?
Adam’s question doesn’t affect our ideas of picking the grapes for optimal flavor. I think it’s more about the desired concentration of flavor, which is probably the most stylistic issue a winemaker faces. So as not to disappoint Uncle Sid (Adam’s nickname), I will take a stand. Deep breath … here goes:
I think that the volume of the grape pre-dehydration is the optimal size. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it’s because I don’t like pruney, raisiny flavors. So anything that feels slightly raisined might create those flavors, and needs to be rehydrated. But that’s just a WAG (Wild Ass Guess).
Am I right? I have no idea. Am I wrong? Nope. I just think this falls under the umbrella of winemaking style. And I'm not saying I find Adam’s wines overripe – because I don’t. It's just another thing that falls under my winemaking worldview. And an interesting way to pass the time during a 10-minute cab ride.