Each year in , harvest brings a buzz of activity in the vineyard and wineries can be found working around the clock. Since harvest is our most intense time, where days bleed into nights and weekdays into weekends for months on end, we need extra help in the cellar to start the winemaking process. Coupled with the migrant farm workers manning the vines, you'll see a number of International interns stomping around the cellar and singing the praises of winemaking in many different languages. This year at Larkmead we have the help of two young winemaking-wannabes. One joins us from South Africa (right) where he is Assistant Cellarmaster for Jordan winery and the other from the East Coast who recently worked harvest 2007 at a winery in Virginia.
All grape juice is clear (or a translucent color of sort). Red wine gets its color from the juice's contact with its skin during the extended extraction of fermentation. White wine gets pressed off the skins immediately to allow the juice to ferment on its own. For our Sauvignon Blanc we used a two-hour press cycle that gradually builds pressure to squeeze flavor from the grape. When the grape juice drops into the press pan its immediate contact with air (i.e. oxygen) causes a browning effect. Not much different from leaving a cut up apple on a cheese plate for too long. This is where that demon sulfur comes into play. Sulfur binds with dissolved oxygen in grape (or fruit) juice and basically eliminates it. We'll sulfur the juice to kick-start the clarifying process and then let fermentation take over the rest.
Over the past couple of years, we've tried different vinification methods to gain complexity in our Sauvignon Blanc. Traditionally you'll ferment Sauvignon Blanc in Stainless Steel tanks. We've employed this method along with fermenting in barrel to allow the juice closer contact with its lees (the rich, textured, paint like substance that settles out of a wine during fermentation). This year with our Sauvignon Blanc we are using a small percentage of New French Oak (10%) and Stainless Steel barrels (15%) along with the remainder in older, ‘neutral,' French barrels. Each vessel will have an impact on the flavors and texture of the wine. When blended the wine will offer a more diverse set of characteristics than your standard, steely, racy Sauvignon Blanc. Our goal is to create a wine with aromatic intensity (fruit) on the front end while maintaining a similar preponderance in the mouth (oak) and freshness (steel) on the finish.
Larkmead Vineyards in Napa Valley. Dan has an MBA from New York University and worked as an Ad Exec in New York for several years, before switching it up and trading his suit for a move out west.