Why do we punch-down grapes?
Our Vice President of Winemaking Melissa Burr explains: “During fermentation, yeast consumes the sugar in grapes and makes alcohol, but also makes a lot of CO2, which pushes all the grapes to the top of the tank of fermenting juice. We ‘punch-down’, or mix the grapes back into the juice to make sure to extract all the beautiful color and flavor from those grape skins, to get eventually into your glass!”
Cleverly described by Dr. Vinny of Wine Spectator, punching down is similar to the process of making tea. If the tea bag is floating at the top, it will not extract the flavor or color desired until it is dunked into the liquid to steep.
If you are looking for variety in your exercise routine, try punching-down! You are in for a workout!
In order to ensure the finest quality of our wine, harvested grapes are hand-sorted to eliminate imperfections. Unripe or rotten fruit is removed from a large conveyor belt called the sorting table, exemplified by Jason Toch, Vice President of Vineyard Operations. Debris from the vineyard such as leaves or dirt clods, often called MOG - or materials other than grapes - are also discarded. Only the best fruit continues to the next stage of the vinification process, crushing.
In the vineyard, much of our fate lies in the hands of the weatherman. No two years have the same weather pattern, therefore no two vintages yield the same expression of our vineyard. As revealed by Vice President of Vineyard Operations, Jason Tosch, characteristics of the 2018 vintage can only be predicted a week before harvest due to unpredictable weather conditions.
During a year that experienced colder than average conditions, fruit will be less ripe and more tart. The excess water from rain creates higher levels of acidity and lower levels of sugar. Lack of sugar results in a lower percentage of alcohol, creating a wine with a lighter body.
In contrast, a year that is warmer than average will yield a harvest of ripe fruit that is sweet and soft. Lowered acidity results in higher sugar and alcohol content, culminating a fuller body.
At Stoller, we take great care in harvesting our grapes at optimal maturity. In order to determine ripeness, a representative sample of each fruit is macerated - the process of soaking crushed grapes, seeds and stems into a must - to mimic the crushing process. The residual juice from maceration is then evaluated for its brix, which is the measurement of dissolved sugar within the liquid. Sugar ultimately indicates the potential alcohol content present within the fruit and serves as a sign for when to harvest.
Associate Winemaker Kate Payne-Brown leads the production team in the ceremonial art of sabrage to celebrate the beginning of harvest. This year’s vintage was kicked off with the harvest of Pinot grapes for the 2018 LaRue’s Brut Rosé, the sixth vintage of sparkling wine at Stoller Family Estate.
The vision of this elegant wine was brought to fruition by LaRue Stoller, proprietor of Stoller Family Estate. When persuading her husband Bill on why our estate should pursue sparkling wine, she stated, “It will make Stoller just a notch above any place else.”
And that it did.
We are proud to name our LaRue’s Brut Rosé after the woman who made it a possibility. Our 2014 LaRue’s Brut Rosé is bright and energetic, making it the perfect choice to christen harvest 2018.
As the birds welcome the day with their morning song and the sun reluctantly begins to assume its post in the clear September sky, a special feeling is in the air. In the vineyard, the sound of footsteps can be detected. The footsteps come to a halt and the “snip” of a pruner rings throughout the vineyard. This is no ordinary day at Stoller Family Estate. Today marks the first day of harvest.
After testing the fruit for physiological ripeness, a process that includes examining factors such as brix, pH, acidity, and flavor development, it was determined that the Pinot Noir for the 2018 LaRue’s Brut Rosé would be the first to leave the vineyard. Hand-picked in the early morning to beat the heat, the clusters are gathered in five-gallon buckets, loaded into bins, and transported to the winery to begin the process of becoming sparkling wine.
The 2018 vintage is officially underway.
If you haven’t heard it through the grapevine - Stoller Family Estate was named the “Best Tasting Room in the Nation” by USA Today 10Best. We are thrilled to gain national recognition and welcome fellow wine enthusiasts from around the world. A warm thank you to everyone who participated in the voting process!
Cheers to a great tasting room and an even better community of tasters!
Are drones the future of vineyard management? Not only are they able to capture epic shots of our vineyard, Dr. Greg Crustinger of Scholar Farms reveals how drones are instrumental in vineyard management through vegetation mapping. Using aerial footage that is transformed into digitized heat maps, the vineyard is divided and assigned into levels of necessary care. Through this technology, Crustinger is able to assess the health of our vineyard and pinpoint problem areas. If that wasn’t cool enough, a thumb drive of the digitized map can be inserted into smart tractors or sprayers where action can be taken in precise locations.
Welcome to modern farming!
This wine saw mostly whole berry, and primarily native yeast fermentation, before aging primarily in neutral French oak for almost a year. We are excited to bottle our 2017 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.
The 2017 vintage presented a challenge with a cold winter and a cooler than normal spring. However, ideal weather after flowering ensured a healthy fruit set. Although the summer was dry and hot, the vines did not undergo drought or stress. By September, everything was on track for a traditional, “normal” Oregon harvest in the Willamette Valley.
Stay tuned to experience the classic taste of the Dundee Hills when it’s released next spring.
Calling all wine enthusiasts, foodies, and adventurers! It’s time to add Oregon to your summer bucket list. Sit back and relax in one of our adirondack chairs as you enjoy superb wine, weather, and scenery. Oregon is not just a land flowing with wine. It also offers the perfect blend of excellent shopping, delicious food, and outdoor adventures waiting to be explored.
Treat yourself to a well-deserved trip to wine country and discover why everyone is falling in love with Oregon. After all, nothing beats summer in the Pacific Northwest.