Thursday, January 17, 2008

Filled The Pod Today

I am helping Provina, Inc. prototype their exciting home winemaking unit, the WinePod. I have been working with the Pod team for about a year, and this blog starts with my second ferment.

The first ferment, a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Windsor Oaks Vineyard in Sonoma County, turned out well. I was working with an early alpha WinePod unit, and while it worked acceptably I was able to find its limitations fairly quickly.

This year I am starting with another Cabernet, this time from the Rancho Sarco in the Coombsville region of Napa Valley. The vineyard is Clone 337 Cabernet on gently-sloped and well-drained soil with a permanent cover crop. Yields looked to be a high-quality 3 tons/acre and the berries were really tiny.

Part of the Rancho Sarco vineyard was harvested for Provina and delivered to Brehm Vineyards in Petaluma, where it was destemmed and crushed, packed into 6-gallon food-grade pails, and flash-frozen. Frozen fruit was delivered to my doorstep at 10:30 am on Friday 1/11/08. I left the pails in the winery to thaw over the weekend.

Greg Snell, president of Provina, delivered a new WinePod to me on Tuesday 1/15/08. This beta unit showed really significant re-engineering compared to the alpha prototype from last year! Greg also brought along the WinePod starter kit, which includes basic labware and a set of wine additives sized for the Pod, including: sulfur dioxide granules, tartaric acid, yeast nutrients, yeast, oak cubes, and malolactic bacteria. Excellent!

Today I took the stretch wrap off the thawed pails of fruit and opened them with the handy pail key included in the starter kit. The first thing I noted was that the pails were much cleaner on the outside than last year – a very good thing in terms of keeping the fruit from growing spoilage organisms.

I sanitized the WinePod before filling it – I cheated a little and used my ozone generator insead of the "Star-San" included in the starter kit. When I transferred the crushed fruit from the pails to the unit I added about 10 grams of Efferbaktol - the safe and clean sulfur dioxide preparation provided.

The three pails netted about 138 pounds of fruit. I estimate this should yield about 11.7 gallons of juice. The 10 grams of Efferbaktol was a bit of deliberate overkill as it should be equal to about a 90 ppm addition of SO2 – conservative, but as the fruit had been thawed for several days I really wanted to make sure that any undesirable microbes are killed or inhibited.

Not that I had any strong suspicions that any "native" flora had already started growing - there were no "off" aromas and no evidence that CO2 was pushing up a cap in the pails. In fact, the aromas were wonderful – strongly varietal with hints of tobacco. The juice was already a lovely deep purple. Temperature was 52° F and the integrated sensor was reading 25° Brix.

While I have the unit plugged in I have not yet invoked any temperature control. I'm going to let the must equilibrate overnight and mix it tomorrow before sampling for lab anlysis of the jucie and before making the pre-fermentation additions I have planned.

In the meantime I am going to install the updated WineCoach software on my laptop, which will allow the WinePod to upload fermentation data to the computer wirelessly. Cool, huh.

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