Friday, October 27, 2017

On Farming and Winemaking

 On Farming and Winemaking:

It is said that farmers do not grow plants. They grow dirt. And that is correct. Yes, they tend plants and that is important, but the plants know what to do, and growing plants is secondary to growing good dirt. Our South African Peppadew peppers are still chugging away outside, turning a new set of peppers red every week or so (when I pick and pickle them), laughing at the ridiculous improbability that it is still sunny and warm and dry on October 27??? But it's the dirt--the mix of compost, manure tea, other organic material, and native soil, and sand, and gravel, that makes earthworms and microbes and the peppers' roots happy.  

In the same way, winemakers do not really make wine. Winemakers grow yeast. And if we create a good environment for yeast, they make wine for us. Yes, understanding the chemistry, and intervening in different ways when necessary, are important, but those are secondary to growing yeast. Some winemakers just cut open a yeast packet and dump the yeast on the pomace, thinking the yeast will find their way to the wine and do their job, and in trruth they probably will, but that is like unloading your high school soccer player ten miles away from the game, without having fed him lunch or dinner before the game, and telling him, "Good luck!" I've researched yeast-growing for many years, and have written a pamphlet for winemakers explaining how to treat yeast, and why. If your yeast grow throughout the grape juice rapidly, and start fermenting earlier, then you have just radically reduced the time during which bad things can happen to your wine. 'Nuff said.

​Look for the new wine offer coming soon, and in the meantime please enjoy this truly spectacular Fall!

And to anyone in the ether who may read this: I am a virtual wine retailer (no shop, so low overhead and low prices), and a small commercial winery (Epona brand). If you would like to be added to my email list, please email me at kenton.erwin@gmail.com . And there is never an obligation to buy anything. Thank you!

The photo is of the lovely Epona Vineyard this week, near Woodland WA.



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Cayuse Bombshell!

Lest you think that Epona Wines are the only ones that have to deal with quality problems from time to time, check out this bombshell from Cayuse, my favorite winery in the entire state of WA: They are pouring out most of their 2015 wines, including the flagship Bionic Frog, the Widowmaker, the Camaspelo and Impulsivo, and many others, due to bad corks. Customers will receive refunds, and Cayuse will make a claim against the cork company. 

This is awful news, a major hit to an industry--those wines have already scored in the high 90s, before bottling. Some cork manufacturer's reputation will take a major (perhaps fatal) hit from this. And Cayuse's reputation will also take a major hit, so I expect them to make a huge claim against the cork company, which could result in litigation.

Awful news. Over the years I've built up a position as a fairly large Cayuse buyer (in the scheme of things--Cayuse starts you out at only one three-pack of wines, and that can grow slowly over time if you stay in the club). 

​We winemakers do our best to maintain quality at every step. The list of times/places where a wine flaw can appear is very long--liiterally thousands of opportunities for a wine to "go wrong," between harvest and the time you pull the cork out. I feel for Christophe Baron and all winemakers today.

FWIW, I use Diem corks, which are processed with superheated steam to drive out the chemical precursors that can cause TCA, or cork taint. They are more expensive, but worth it. I believe in them. So far ;)