"To blend, or not to blend..." and other questions

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"To blend, or not to blend..." and other questions

Postby Jim Cassidy » Sat Oct 21, 2006 2:12 pm

I'm curious how other home winemakers approach this question. This year, we harvested in three batches; a merlot-syrah combination, zinfindel, and cabernet sauvignon. We grow these in our front yard, and quantities are miniscule. We project the following quantities and optomistically anticipate the discussed qualities.

8-9 bottles of cabernet. Numbers were near-ideal; hydrometer said Brix approaching 25, refractometer said 23, TA .65 and pH 3.5. Must was delicious, and the few drops we've tasted suggest this may be decent wine, and certainly the best we have ever done.

10 bottles of merlot-syrah. Harvested together as they were ripe at the same time (or almost ripe, we should have left these another week.) Brix 22.2, TA .81 and pH 3.3. Again, must was delicious; incidental tasting since fermentation began suggests slightly acidic wine, but we hope it will be fairly good.

22 bottles of zinfindel. Brix 18 (chapitalized to 23), TA .76,, pH 3.3. Again, should have left them a little longer. We have to try to improve our sampling technique. Our pre-harvest sample hat TA at .60 and pH at 3.4, which suggested it was time... The zins suffered from too much fruit, we should have done a green harvest. Must not quite delicious before added sugar. Color is not as dense as the others, Tastes OK...

I would consider mixing all together, hoping for a drinkable wine to serve friends with dinner. Pam is the head winemaker, however, and she wants to produce absolutley the best wine she can, no matter how small the quantity. So, unless things change between now and bottling, we're going to have 8 bottles of pretty good cab, 10 fair bottles of merlot-syrah, and 22 bottles of zin that hopefully will pass as wine.

What would you do?

And other questions...

We have done malolactic fermentation on the merlot-syrah and zin batches - easy decision with the low pH. What about the cabs? pH 3.5 and TA .65.

We have been learning mostly from Jeff Cox's From Vines to Wines. Working from his pruning reccos, we left 10 or so buds per cane. We failed to do the reccoed greeen harvest; on our zins, this resulted in about 22 bottles from 5 plants. Looking to next year, how should we adjust? Leave only 5-6 buds and green harvest 10 - 20 % of clusters, or keep ten buds and green harvest 30-40 % of clusters? Any growers willing to share an opinion?

TIA
Jim Cassidy

Owner, Millcreek Vineyards

(The prettiest vineyard in the Salt Lake Valley)
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Re: "To blend, or not to blend..." and other questions

Postby Paul B. » Sat Oct 21, 2006 2:48 pm

Jim, this is a fascinating thread, and I am all the more fascinated by the fact that you grow all those vines right there in Salt Lake City. I don't have the answers to your fine questions because my experience is limited to labrusca, both at the vine-pruning and winemaking ends; however, I plan to follow this thread closely.

Congratulations on making wine from ground to glass, as I always say. I think it is the most beautiful way to really get to understand wine, and the knowledge you get this way gives you is something that can't be replaced.

Cheers & best of luck to you.
Hybrid Wines Online:
http://hybridwines.blogspot.ca
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Re: "To blend, or not to blend..." and other questions

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sat Oct 21, 2006 2:53 pm

Jim -

We've found that the best approach is to play it by ear. Keep the lots separate until you're getting ready to bottle and then experiment a bit. It might be that 10% merlot will actually improve your cabernet, or maybe not. It's also our experience that one should blend to improve a good wine, not to try to save a bad wine. If there's an off-flavor to a wine, we've found that blending in something better will generally only make it all taste bad rather than making it decent.

Mike (who's heading off momentarily to press 500 lbs of tempranillo and crush a half-ton of syrah!)

"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a very narrow field" - Niels Bohr
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Blend to improve a good wine, not save bad...

Postby Jim Cassidy » Sat Oct 21, 2006 6:28 pm

This is pretty much my wife's point of view. I don't detect any off flavors in the zin, just a lack of intensity. I don't see it as diluting the bad, more like strengthening the weak. But I'm not gonna win this argument anyway...

What about malolactic fermentation at TA .65 and pH 3.5?
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(The prettiest vineyard in the Salt Lake Valley)
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Re: Blend to improve a good wine, not save bad...

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sat Oct 21, 2006 7:05 pm

Y'know, we've never had to pay too much attention to ML. It just happens with our wines and it's always been very consistent. I don't have much to offer there.

If the zin tastes OK, it might help to throw a little something else in there. But I never win an argument with my wife, either. :wink:


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Re: Blend to improve a good wine, not save bad...

Postby Howie Hart » Sat Oct 21, 2006 8:27 pm

Mike gave you some very good advice about blending. I'd let them all go through M-L. I don't know what type of containers you are keeping the wines in, but one thing is essential, keep them full to avoud exposure to air. Here's what I've done to store small quantities. Say I've got 5 3/4 gallons of a given wine. I fill my 5 gallon glass carboy. The balance I put into 2 or 3 liter plastic soda pop bottles (thoroughly cleaned, of course) then loosely screw on the cap and squeeze out the air before tightening the cap.
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Re: "To blend, or not to blend..." and other questions

Postby Dan Smothergill » Sun Oct 22, 2006 12:23 pm

Jim,
Some of this territory was discussed here earlier. There's lots yet to be learned about it.

http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum/vil ... t=blending
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