Merlot Cap at Novelty Hill
During fermentation, the grape solids float to the top of the tank. To make sure the cap doesn't dry out or spoil, and to extract flavor, pigment, and tannin from the solids, winemakers punch down the cap or pump the fermenting juice over it.
This high-tech machine at Col Solare is used to punch down the cap.
Punch Down In Action
It's sort of fun to drive this thing.
Filling barrels with wine at Long Shadows
Sampling the barrels
Winemaker Brennan Leighton at Efeste pulls samples from the barrels of wine that haven't been bottled yet.
You may think of Washington State as a Cabernet region or a Syrah region, but it's such a new region for wine that many winemakers are experimenting to see what grows well here. This smooth, earthy Tempranillo from Gramercy Cellars is named Inigo Montoya after the character from The Princess Bride.
The sorting table
Buty's estate syrah grapes were picked the morning we showed up at the winery, so it was time to sort. They were left whole cluster and will ferment with the stems still on.
Examining the clusters
These were some of the earlier grapes to arrive—because of a cool summer and early fall, harvest was late in Washington this year, and some winemakers were hoping for a few more sunny days to ripen up the grapes.
5 tons of concrete help keep Buty's white wines cool as they ferment. There's semillon and sauvignon blanc in this one.
Going back in time
It's helpful to track the evolution of the wines as they age to make decisions about winemaking techniques and blending proportions. Here's a vertical tasting of Buty's Sémillon, Sauvignon, and Muscadelle blend going back to 2003. Winemaker Caleb Foster urges anyone who has a bottle to hide it somewhere cool where they won't find it for five years or so—as tasty as they are now, these white wines really do mellow out and get more delicious with age.
Red Mountain AVA
A view of the Red Mountain AVA from Col Solare. This is the smallest appellation in Washington state, with only about 600 acres under cultivation.
Many Washington winemakers buy their grapes from Dick Boushey in the Yakima Valley AVA. His land has an elevation around 1400 feet, on the slopes with good drainage, which is helpful in cool winters, when the cold settles at the valley floor.
Syrah on the vine
Not quite ripe yet as of October 13. But how many more sunny days can you hope for? Winemaking is a gamble, and you don't want your grapes to get caught in a frost.
Though Boushey is most well known for syrah, he also grows other grapes, including this Sangiovese.
Riding the elevator
These cabernet sauvignon grapes at Long Shadows are headed toward the destemmer.
Syrah berries at Col Solare
This machine separates the whole berries by weight.