Wine Anyone Can Enjoy

Small Batch Winemaking, Attention To Detail

grapepickingPicking:The grapes are picked by hand into buckets that are then dumped into collapsable wooden bins. Pickers are trained to discard damaged clusters or those that have any mold or mildew on them. The average grape plant will yield 10 to 20 pounds of grapes and a ton of grapes makes about 600 bottles of wine.

 

 

webgrapescrusherwebgrapescrusherwebgrapescrusher webgrapescrusherCrushing: We believe we’re the smallest winery in B.C. and that means our wines are made individually, with hand-made care and attention. Grapes from our vineyard and the select vineyards who supply us come in bins weighing about 400 pounds and are shoveled with plastic shovels into a crusher-destemmer. This wonderful machine augers the grapes into a chamber where paddles knock the grapes off the stems. The  grapes fall through a screen and go into a pump so the resulting must can be put into a fermentation tank. The stems get ejected out of the machine and are collected for composting.

webwinetubFermenting: Red wine is fermented “on the skins” meaning the whole grape, including seeds, is put into the fermentation tank. A pure strain of wine yeast is added to the grape slurry, which is called the must. After about a day or so, the fermentation becomes evident with bubbles of carbon dioxide rising to the surface and a cap of skins and solids forms on top of the liquid. This cap must be “punched down” three times a day to keep the skins, which have the colour and tannin necessary for good red wine, in contact with the liquid. Also, turning over the wine prevents bacteria that can cause wine to turn to vinegar or worse from forming on the surface. The fermentation gets vigorous and creates its own heat after a couple of days. The must gives an audible roar and the winery gets so full of carbon dioxide that it’s not safe to be in there until it’s ventilated. White wine is separated from the skins and seeds before fermentation but undergoes the same basic process.

Pressing: White wine grapes are crushed and then usually held overnight with the addition of pectinase, an enzyme that breaks down pectin in the grape cells. This allows the juice to be released more easily when the grapes go into the press. We use a horizontal basket press to extract the juice from the grapes. It’s a great old (about 50 years) machine that presses the grapes quite dry but does so gently and without crushing the seeds. Red wine is also put through the press but not until after it has fermented on the skins. The liquid goes into sterilized tanks.

Tanks and Racking: The basic process of transforming grape juice into wine is fermentation, in which yeast consume the sugar and create carbon dioxide and alcohol as byproducts. The amount of alcohol is dependent on the amount of sugar (brix) in the juice and the resulting alcohol level will be about 55 percent of the sugar percentage in the grape juice. So grape juice that is 20 percent  sugar will make wine that is about 11 percent alcohol. There are other processes the wine goes through while it is in the tank. Red wines, and some whites, are put through a secondary fermentation to transform malic acid, which has a sharp acidic flavour, into lactic acid, which has a smoother, softer impression in the mouth. The wine at this stage is a living breathing thing that is vulnerable to all kinds of infections and must be watched carefully. Also, the pH of the wine must be measured and adjusted to the ideal range of 3.2 to 3.6 as a higher pH encourages the growth of nasty bacteria. At the same time the yeast suspended in the liquid are dying and dropping to the bottom of the tank. When most of the yeast has settled to the bottom, it’s time to pump the clear wine into another tank in a process called racking.

Protecting The Bulk Wine:  After all the biological processes are complete, the wine needs to rest and complete its settling process. The wine is vulnerable to bacterial contamination at this stage. Bacteria can cause the wine to turn to vinegar and it can also make the wine smell and taste truly awful through various types of spoilage. Also, unprotected wine will oxidize, which is the same process observed when an apple turns brown. In wine that can add medicinal or musty flavours that make the wine smell and taste “off.”

The solution is a remarkable substance called potassium metabisulphite. KMS, as winemakers call it, is effective at preventing both oxidation and bacterial contamination at levels as low as 25 parts per million, depending on the pH of the wine (the higher the pH, the more KMS is required to provide protection). We adjust our pH levels to maintain a KMS level of about 40 parts per million in our wines. Canadian food standards allow up to 250 parts per million but few, if any, wineries use that much. The levels we and most other wineries use are far too low to trigger any sort of reaction in those who drink the wine unless they are among the .01 percent of people who are truly allergic to “sulphites.” Most allergic reactions to wine result from sensitivity to the amines that occur naturally in the fruit.

To further inhibit oxidation, we also bubble the inert gas argon through the wine to displace the oxygen and form a protective layer of gas over the surface. Argon is heavier than air but will not absorb into the liquid so it forms an effective and inert barrier between the wine and the air.

Cold Stabilization: The winemaking processes take about six weeks to two months but the wine is not ready for consumption. Wine made from northern grapes is high in potassium bitartrate, an unstable salt that, under the right circumstances, will crystallize and settle to the bottom of otherwise clear wine. The sediment is tasteless and harmless and is also known as creme of tartar, the same stuff used in baking. In Europe, it’s a mark of a quality wine, but North Americans prefer their wine sediment free. Fortunately, our cold winters provide the ideal environment for chilling the wine to provoke the crystal settlement. Some wineries also add a little of the crystal itself to promote settlement but we’ve always found a few weeks at below freezing temperatures does the trick. If you do get a bottle with a thin layer of white crystals on the bottom, there’s no need to throw it out. Just decant it carefully off the harmless sediment and enjoy.

Bottling: Finished wine is filtered before bottling. An initial filtration removes about 95 percent of any solids in the liquid and it’s followed by running it through filters so tight they actually remove bacteria and yeast cells. When complete, the wine is said to have been sterile filtered. The KMS level is adjusted to ensure long-term protection in the bottle and some wines are sweetened at this stage. We bottle using simple but reliable equipment allows us to carefully inspect each bottle we create.

Why Vegan Wine?

Over the centuries, winemakers have developed methods of fixing wines that are flawed or develop problems. We work really hard to prevent problems in the first place but sometimes we have to intervene. Many of the additives used to fix problems are animal based but to ensure our wine is accessible to everyone, we steer clear of them and use vegan alternatives.

To fine our wine, we use bentonite, a type of clay. Our vegan wine is made without treatment or addition of commonly used animal-based wine-making products that create ethical considerations to vegans and can cause serious allergic reactions in some people. Commonly used animal-based wine additives include:

  • gelatin extracted from bones, connective tissue and other slaughter waste used to precipitate protein in wine;
  • isinglass, the lining of the swimbladder of a sturgeon fish, often used as a fining agent to remove haze;
  • casein (milk protein) to remove oxidative flavours and other flaws from improperly stored wine;
  • albumin (egg white) to settle oxidized tannins (off flavours), an ingredient of particular importance to those with egg allergies.
  • chitosan, a derivative of shellfish, which can also be important to those with shellfish allergies

There are no artificial colours, flavours or body enhancers in our wine.

Good for the Earth

We use sustainable farming practices with minimal mechanization and without harsh chemical sprays. We fertilize with manure mixed with composted grape skins, and our grapes are carefully tended by hand.