Posted by Brian Loring
We totally destem all our fruit before fermenting. Why? It probably comes from my dislike of vegetables, so anything that looks like a vegetable has no business being in our wine. That’s not to say I don’t like wines that were fermented with stems; it’s just not what we do at Loring.
A destemmer is an amazingly simple device. It has an auger that feeds the clusters into the end of a rotating horizontal cylinder. Down the middle of the cylinder is a rotating set of paddles that bounce the clusters around, dislodging the berries from the stems. The paddles are arranged in a helix-type pattern, which forces the stems down the length of the cylinder and out the end. The berries exit through holes in the cylinder and are captured below. Very elegant. Very efficient. And almost perfect.
|The sinister jack stem.|
The problem is the “jack stem” (insert sinister music here). Jack stems are so named because they look like the jacks from that childhood game of our youth. They’re the little bits of stem that hold the berries to the main stalk. No matter how good your destemmer is, you’ll always get some jack stems in with the fruit. And sometimes, you may get a lot.
I’m not sure what it is about some clusters, but once in a while you’ll get fruit that generates a ton of jack stems. This year, we had one pick that topped them all: some Cabernet Sauvignon from Russell Family Vineyard in Paso Robles. I know, your first reaction is, “Cabernet? Loring?” You read correctly. I’ve become such a huge fan of the wines that Chris Ringland is making at Bodegas El Nido in Jumilla, Spain, that I wanted to play around with a Cabernet/Mourvèdre blend myself.
The Cabernet from Erich Russell had such tiny berries that our destemmer couldn’t handle it. As a result, we had thousands of jack stems come pouring out with the fruit. Normally a few jacks don’t matter, but this was more than I could live with. After the “what the hell do we do now” moment, our mom, Helen, came up with an idea for how to sort out the jacks. What we did was roll the collection pan from our press under the destemmer to catch the fruit and jacks. We then had a makeshift sorting table that allowed us to hand-sort out all the little bastards. Once sorted, we shoveled the fruit into a fermenter. It ended up taking us 12 hours to process 2 tons of fruit.
This better turn out to be some awesome wine … or my sister and our friends that helped us sort are going to kill me.
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — October 17, 2008 6:40pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — October 17, 2008 10:30pm ET
Jeffrey Nowak — scottsdale, arizona — October 18, 2008 12:16am ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — October 18, 2008 11:22am ET
Marissa Ocasio — Connecticut — October 20, 2008 1:58pm ET
Chris Colman — KC, MO — October 20, 2008 3:30pm ET
David Barksdale — Henderson, NV — October 22, 2008 3:07pm ET
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