Wine Talk

Snooth User: UCD Enologist

Have enology-related questions?

Posted by UCD Enologist, Aug 15, 2016.

Hi, I'm Bruce.  I'm a UC Davis graduate of enology (26 years ago..alas) and have recently joined Snooth.  I was a former winemaker and enologist at two wineries on Long Island during the 1990s and am now semi-retired in Sarasota, FL.

I'm still working in the wine trade, part-time in retail, but otherwise retired.  I'm still active in wine and enology-related studies and have still managed to keep some of my connections in the industry, may of whom are very dear friends.

I have over 36 years of experience in the wine trade and industry and have taught several series of classes on the topic.  If you have enology-related questions I may be able to answer them. Enology is essentially wine chemistry and relates primarily to viticulture and winemaking practices as well as tasting/sensory evaluation of wine (there's even a fancier term used in the business called organoleptics) and its aging and chemistry.

(If you are also an enologist I'd love to hear from you!)

I'm excited to have recently moved to Sarasota and if you're in the area let's get together and enjoy some wine!

Cheers!

Bruce

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Replies

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Reply by rckr1951, Aug 15, 2016.

Welcome to snooth - I'm sure your inputs will be appreciated.

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Reply by UCD Enologist, Aug 15, 2016.

Thanks Rckr1951!  That's a beautiful wine cellar you have in your photo by the way!  I'm jealous.

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Reply by EMark, Aug 15, 2016.

Welcome to the Snooth Forum, Bruce.  We look forward to learning from you.

Other than a few restaurant people, not too many regulars here are in the business.  I know that at one time GregT was, but it is not clear to me that he is now.  Also, Gregory Dal Piaz pops up semi regularly.  Larry Shaffer of Tercero Winery did make an appearance here a couple months ago.  If I'm not mistaken, I think Larry is also a UCD grad.  Maybe he'll pop back in.

While most of the participants, here, are not in the business, there are some very knowledgeable regulars. I have no problem getting my questions answered here, but I certainly look forward to hearing your perspectives, Bruce.

For starters what can you tell us about Long Island wineries?  Regarding U.S. wines there is definitely a left coast bias around here.  I live in California and regularly describe myself as a California wine bigot.  However, one of the reasons I hang out here is to learn.  I find that I learn new things on Snooth just about every day.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 15, 2016.

Have had viti and viniculturalists in the States and Europe and South Africa and the Antipodes, wine importers and distributors, wine retailers, somms and bartenders and maitre d's, various wine writers of anything from reference books to blogs, and chemists of several sorts as regulars here in the past, but as Mark mentions now not as many in the business as before.

Would be good to have you join us with your perspective, experience and knowledge, so welcome!

What can you tell us about the current state of wine on Long Island? Some of us have visited there, some have even lived in NYC and had intermittent-to-regular contact, while most others have had none. Would love to hear what you can share.

And why Florida, if I may be so bold as to ask?

Cheers.

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Reply by UCD Enologist, Aug 15, 2016.

Wow, that picture came out just a little bigger than I was expecting! lol

Good to hear about some of the tradesfolk being on here.  (I think I may have met Larry Shaffer at one time, not sure.)  And while I may be able to answer some of the questions thrown out me there will be no doubt some that I won't. There are certainly a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to wine such as the role of sulfites, filtration, and organic vs sustainable vs biodynamic - just to name a few.

As far as long Island wines goes I have been out of the loop there for about 25 years and most of my focus now being California and European wines simply because there isn't much of a demand for LI wines here in retail.  I was initially the enologist at Hargrave Vineyards which was the original one on Long Island.  With about 130 acres then under its control and a production of around 12,000 cs annually it remained one of the larger ones for quite some time.  The Hargraves, alas have split up since then and sold their property to an Italian prince no less. (The prince, by the way, died several years ago I believe in a tragic car wreck.)

The focus on the Island back then was primarily Merlot followed by Chardonnay and Pinot noir.  Cabernet Sauvignon had difficulty ripening fully and presented most winemakers with the infamous Monterey "veggie" character.  Monterey has generally fixed their problem - not sure with Long Island wines.  So although I gained my actual winemaking experience there I cannot tell you much about their current wines.  I can tell you that Long Island has one of the longest growing seasons in the country and  I personally believe that it was the high percentage of clay in the soil that caused the unripeness issue for Cab, something that Merlot can relish in.

I remember that our grape yields there were also on the low side.  We averaged around 2 tons per acre when most California North Coast vineyards typically see about 3-4.  Of course, this varies considerably.  (I know a guy in Santa Cruz that brags about getting ½ton an acre!)

Why Florida?  Hmmm, I like to Scuba dive, play golf, and love the beach.  And it's a lot cheaper to live here than California.   I also still own a business -  an air quality testing laboratory -  in North Carolina so I like being reasonably close to it.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 15, 2016.

Thanks for the response. Good answers to both my questions!

Most people I've known would want to brag when they keep the production down to 2 tons/acre. Remember talking to Dick Graff way back when and him saying exactly that for Chalone in the Pinnacles in those days, though I believe they were still trucking water up the hill at that point. Anybody playing with other varietals in LI in your day? Aside from the easier marketability for those you mention it seems like there might be others that could work better in that soil and clime.

The Florida question was answered well, only thing missing is sailing (and I suppose fishing)! Where in N. Carolina? Have family in the Triangle. We have a couple people currently active on these boards who are reporting on wine from there up into Virginia.

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Reply by GregT, Aug 16, 2016.

D - you wouldn't necessarily know but New Yorkers are supposed to go to Florida when they retire. I think Ft Lauderdale was built to accommodate them.

Bruce - welcome! The LI wines have really been making strides -  decent Cab Franc and even Blaufrankish, and some of the whites are quite good - Paumonok's Chenin Blanc for example. But it will never be California.

Anyway, I don't know about anyone else, but I have a million questions on enology. I hope you stick around. It is slow at the moment, but sometimes things pick up.

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Reply by JonDerry, Aug 16, 2016.

Thanks for the intro Bruce, great to have you aboard. Glad you say that Greg, I've always considered myself a slow learner as far as enology goes, though I suppose I've never applied myself on that side of things as I have in reading about various producers, regions, and in the specific wines.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 16, 2016.

Greg, was aware of that about New York even before I was old enough to understand that retirement might some day be a reality for others than my great grandparents. Not that anybody out West would consider it an option and I suppose they felt sorry for those benighted Easterners. Hell, Florida didn't even have a Disney facility back then. But I thought it was really for people from Detroit who had the sense to be born and work and be ready to leave there when it was still a viable economy. I had a theory when I was in the 5th grade that all the baseball teams held Spring Training down there (long before Arizona had airconditioning and thus any population to speak of) so that the ball players could start getting ready for an earlier retirement than the normal working population. Ted Williams on a fishing boat and all that.

Any other varietals of interest out on LI, Greg? And yes I'm using that word on purpose...

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Reply by vin0vin0, Aug 16, 2016.

Bruce, let me add my welcome.  I'm one of the few East Coasters (we're just outside Charlotte) mentioned by DM so if you're travelling through the area let me know.

A few years back we dropped our daughter off at college and then went on to explore the Finger Lakes wineries. Highlights were Riesling, Viognier and Cab Franc. Remember a number of hybrids that tended toward the sweet and/or grapey side. Is there a significant difference between the Finger Lake wines and the LI wines?

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 16, 2016.

Certainly a pretty major difference in climate, if not soil as well, I would think. Have never been to the Finger Lakes, but would be interested in hearing what our new member might have to say on them. Don't think I've heard Greg talk on the subject, either, though I do remember other LI instances from him.

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Reply by outthere, Aug 16, 2016.

Another welcome Bruce! Although, I'm sure you are unaware, it is customary that when someone new comes to this forum they simply post a hello and never return. ;-) Glad to have you on board. Hopefully we don't bore you too much.

What is your position on preventing refermentation when you have a wine with say 3% RS at bottling? Small batch where filtration is not financially an option. How do you feel about Velcorin?

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Reply by UCD Enologist, Aug 16, 2016.

Yep, you're right DM - I left out fishing! Fishing was my favorite pastime throughout my teens and I'm just now picking it up again - after 30 years!  I can't believe how light the reels and rods have gotten!

But back to wine and yes California, particularly in the Central Coast, gets little precipitation.  Many vineyards out there remain dry-farmed though and brings those yields down quite a bit.  But the lack of drip irrigation also forces young vines to send roots way down deep which makes them a little hardier in the long run and also gives them access to a more complex soil system deeper down.

Long Island can at times also be dry, but it's other factors like poor flower set in the Spring and the birds in the Fall that bring their yields down.  As far as other varieties go, when I was there I also produced Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and a great little Pinot noir.  At another winery I produced a nice little pink bubbly from Chardonnay and Pinot noir fruit.

I know there are quite a few more wineries out there now and that they've come a long way.  I thought, in general, the wines there, albeit a little difficult to grow due to the colder extremes sometimes (and the birds) had great potential.  There were several initial problems in the winery, where I had first worked, that I helped solve from my Davis education but again I was surprised by the potential of the fruit.

The only thing I didn't like about Long Island wines was their annoying tendency to develop an off character after extended ageing in the cellar.  Structurally the wines could age but this certain aromatic trait would always pop up after several years in the bottle.  I've also noticed this problem with other East Coast wines as well - a certain veggie earthiness.

As far as NC goes I lived primarily in the Triangle area.  I attended UNC-CH prior to Davis and was the wine buyer for A Southern Season back the 1980's.  (If you had friends there back then they may have seen me at A Southern Season.)   I've recently lived in Cary before moving to Florida last year.  In fact, today is my one year anniversary for my move to Sarasota!

Greg, you mentioned that LI is making some Blaufrankish there. Have you tasted it? How is it?  It is interesting to me that the East Coast is experimenting a bit with these more obscure varietals.  Virginia is doing well with Viognier these days and has taking quite a liking to Petit Manseng - the grape of Jurancon!  That makes sense as the climate between Shenandoah and southwestern France are pretty similar.

And thanks for the welcome Jonderry and Vino!  To answer your question Vino, the main difference between the Finger Lakes district and LI, of course, is the obvious one - the cold!  The Finger Lakes minimilizes the continental climate there considerably from its deep water reserves.  As a result all wine grapes have got to be grown in near proximity to one of the "finger lakes" or the great lakes.  (The area around Niagara, for example, is doing quite well).  One of the main problems there is frost.  Early ripening varieties are therefore essential.  How the vines are pruned and managed during the cold winter months are also crucial.  Long Island has a longer and more European climate thanks to the Atlantic.  But it can also have too much rain close to harvest - not as often a problem upstate.  So the biggest differences really are the headaches that face the growers in these two areas and the varieties that suit the two very different climates.  I'm not familiar, unfortunately, with the soil type(s) in the Finger Lakes area so I can't really comment on it.

The ripening of certain other varieties in these colder climates can be modified to a great degree, however, through proper pruning and canopy management.  If it's cold it's also essential to be sunny and upper NYS, at least throughout much of the Summer, can provide plenty of sunshine.  This extra sunshine can provide enough photosynthesis to develop without the need for too much vegetation which can shade the fruit.  (We now know that certain chemical components in grapes require direct exposure to sunlight to develop properly.)

The experts on cold climate and extreme sunlight are the Kiwis down below.  This is the place, by the way, that falls immediately under that big hole in the ozone layer. (The schoolchildren there, I hear, are encouraged by their teachers to wear hats during the day!)  All this sunshine produces an abundance of pyrazines - the class of compounds responsible for that big grapefruit aroma their Sauvignon blancs all have.

And thanks Outthere for your welcome also! I'm not so worried about being bored as much as the other way around. As you can see it can be a challenge to answer all the questions without going into too much detail and end up writing small essays destroying the informal and concise nature of any forum.  So please to everyone reading this I apologize in advance if I do write a bit much. lol (I could have the same problem, at times, during some of the classes I taught.)  :)

To answer your enology question, leaving residual sugar in a wine is a big challenge for commercial winemakers as well so believe me you're not alone.  As you mentioned, however, they do generally have the economy of scale to allow for membrane (sterile) filtration which pretty much takes care of the issue.  But for home winemakers its a different matter.  I've personally never made wine where membrane filtration wasn't an option (or where I didn't ferment to dryness) so Velcorin is there for home winemakers for a reason.  This is why, by the way, that wineries in the old days, long before membrane filtration was available, generally made wines either completely dry or very sweet which also prevents microbial instability.  The in between (generally 2-7%) could only be maintained through the addition of extra alcohol - which is why fortified wines came about!

So, other than the use of added preservatives or alcohol, membrane filtration is the only other option.  I think you can purchase a kit for small batch production by by the way.  You could try using the same products that outdoorsmen use to filter water.  Just make sure it's a true membrane filter which will remove all microbes without damaging the wine.  It takes a little effort but they do make little pumps and filters for small volumes - i know because my lab uses them.  (Before you ask lol you could probably purchase a setup, including the pump and filters, for under $500 out of a lab supply catalog but I'd check with the local REI first.)

You could try using a UV sterilizer.  Not sure how it would affect the wine quality.

But there's a neat way to determine if it does...

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Reply by rckr1951, Aug 16, 2016.

Quite a bit of history and definition there, well done.  I like some of the cab franc's from the region, not an easy varietal to be the primary wine in a blend let alone a single varietal offering.  Another grtape that is starting to do better , IMO, is merlot - big strides being made there also.

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Reply by UCD Enologist, Aug 18, 2016.

Yeah, Merlot has alays done well on Long Island.  The climate and soil suit it very well.  If I'm not mistaken I think we also made a Can Franc at Hargrave as well.  Cab Franc seems to be less affected by the East Coast's propensity to produce this age-acquired veggieness in some of the other varietals.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 19, 2016.

One other difference for the Finger Lakes:

Current drought map for New York State. Orange is bad. Red is very bad. Supposedly worst since record taking began 16 years ago. Finger Lakes environs are starting to look like Paso Robles hillsides in August. Only green apparently is in watered planters and flower pots.

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Reply by UCD Enologist, Aug 19, 2016.

And all this in the past 16 years.  One can only imagine what the next 16 years will bring.  Global warming is definitely changing wine maps all over the world.  Many for the better, although it's a small benefit to gain for the huge tragedy we're handing over to future generations.

When it comes to winegrowing, grapes are pretty hardy relative to other crops when it comes to drought.  It does require some changes in the field, of course, such as the necessity for irrigation if it gets serious.

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Reply by rckr1951, Aug 19, 2016.

DCMEKER - Do you happen to know if the water levels in the lakes are down much?  I know they rely on the micro-climates they produce, so they are important.

BRUCE - Any thoughts on what the scene will look like in say...15 to 20 yrs?

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Reply by JonDerry, Aug 19, 2016.

Thanks for the map D, had no idea they were struggling over there.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 19, 2016.

Reports I saw didn't show photos of the lakes, just the very brown hillsides, RCKR. No mention of lake level in the text, either, though if CA experience is anything to go by you can expect those levels to be dropping. They're right where the map shows red.

Yeah, JD, the white portions of the maps are 'normal'. Not much that's normal across the entire state this year. Looks like even LI is pretty dry.

I've always wondered why reverse osmosis engineering hasn't advanced more than it has, particularly in ways to lower overall cost.

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