Thursday, July 22, 2010

Empire White has been a difficult project. With Empire Red behind us, a friend, Rich Olsen-Harbich, an esteemed winemaker on the North Fork, asked innocently when we were coming out with the white. I was astonished. We hadn’t really thought of that. But we immediately thought it was a good idea, and Steve (winemaker), Ralph (operations), and David (sales director) all sat down to start discussing what that blend might be.

The biggest question was really about the North Fork of Long Island. We knew we wanted Riesling from the Finger Lakes. It also had to be dry Riesling. We immediately knew who and what we wanted there, and contacted Derek at White Springs Estate. However, in Long Island, Chardonnay had always been the most popularly planted white for years. Recently though, many wineries are working with Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon Blanc from the region is exquisite. We all agreed that the flavors in the Sauvignon Blanc would much better match the flavor profiles of the other two. We talked to Rich for his thoughts, and he agreed.

Despite some pumping of the wine, that we could not avoid (we are not a gravity fed winery), we decided to try to be as natural about the blending process as possible. We decided not to freeze the wines or keep them in a dimple-jacketed tanks. Rather we would pack them in ice, to help enhance the fall out resulting from blending. White wines notoriously throw off solids when blended. We decided to pack the drums in ice, in order that we would keep as many flavors as possible and let the fall out happen more naturally. This softer treatment of the wine, we thought, would retain more flavors, and allow the wine to express itself more fully.

It was a lot of work keeping the wine cold. We were buying giant quantities of ice from the all the local gas stations, package stores, grocery stores. We were eating up ice by the yard. At one point we bought a giant block of clear ice. I had to go to this plant where they cut massive 3-foot cubes of clear ice for ice sculptures. Every day we loaded in 200 pounds of ice, for weeks on end.

We had run some sample batches. We froze some. Pack some wine in ice. We decided we liked the flavor profile of the wine packed in ice. Not sure this is a scientific answer for this. But we just thought we liked the non-frozen white blend better.

In the beginning, when it first blended, the wine clouded up, and I freaked. It was hilarious because we knew that might happen. The smaller control batches hadn’t really done that. After a week the wine cleared up, and we further iced it for almost a month. At one point we bought freezer packs, and put them in garbage bag, packing that around the wine, in order that we had a more reusable source for cooling.

In the end, we racked the wine off the top, and bottled. The wine was fresh and vibrant. A huge thrill.


Post a Comment

<< Home