"The 'truck' is my office during harvest," days Wallace. "Normally, a real truck would be used, but we have vineyards so far away that it is not uncommon to drive more than 1800 miles in a week. The Prius makes way more sense for us."
What's in the back? "I need to be able to live out of the car during harvest," he says, so "In plastic boxes there are multiples of everything I need—2 extra pairs of boots, 6 pairs of socks, t-shirts, underwear, towels, jackets, hats. Baggies for grape samples, flashlights, head lamps, Sharpies, shears, pH meter, refractometer, batteries, water for hand washing / equipment washing, etc."
Picking Semillon at Gamble Ranch on August 26th
This vineyard in Yountville (Napa Valley) was planted in the late 90s. Hardy Wallace reports: "We harvested 4.5 tons, and we picked 25 days earlier than 2012. The fruit came in .5 brix higher than 2012 and with higher acidity. We are thrilled with it."
Semillon Fermenting on the Skins
"We ferment our Semillon on its skins just like a red wine," says Wallace. "We leave the skins in contact with the fermenting juice through dryness (when all the sugar has been converted to alcohol). It can take anywhere from 10-20 days depending on the year."
"Most whites are made without any skin contact," explains Wallace. "The grapes are pressed immediately and the juice ferments on its own (the skins are discarded). But in red wine the juice remains in contact with the skins, pulling out color, tannin, and flavor. I love skin-fermented whites and 'orange wines'. With the technique I use, I am not trying to change the flavors of the wine—I like to think of it as turning up the volume. It is the same music—but you can hear it a little better."
Why use concrete eggs for fermentation? "I love our eggs," says Wallace. "Fermenting wine moves differently in the egg vs. a tank or barrel. I feel like it can create wonderful texture and tone without the somewhat angular feel of a tank, or the sometimes overly round feeling of wine fermented in barrel."
Apple Hill Pinot Blanc
Pinot Blanc is a new project for Dirty and Rowdy this year—they'll use it to make their first sparkling wines in two different styles. "We are going to make both Pet-Nat and Methode Champenoise," says Wallace. "The Pet-Nat will come out next year and the traditional sparkling somewhere down the road."
Old Vine Mourvedre at Rosewood Vineyards
This vineyard, northeast of Ukiah in Mendocino county, is one of six different Mourvedre vineyards Dirty and Rowdy is working with this year. "The vines are 85 years old, head trained, and dry farmed," says Wallace. "The old vines produce very intense flavors. The skins are really thick and the acid stays very high." We asked Wallace to take some snapshots each time he visited the vines this summer, starting in July.
Nope, it's not a new grape variety: it's the Mourvedre from Rosewood Vineyards as of July 15. Wallace says he went to check on the vineyards to look for several things: "signs of verasion (we are not there yet), to see if the shoots are still growing (they are), signs of mold / mildew (none)."
Wallace continued: "Over the next weeks, I will be back and forth, checking on verasion, doing more weeding, doing some minor canopy management (pulling a few leaves, laterals) and more than anything, walking the rows and enjoying the time with these old vines. This is a special place. It was a vineyard that was in process of being torn up and we were able to jump in and keep it going."
July 22: Just Starting to Color
When Wallace sent me these photos of the Rosewood Vineyard on July 22nd, he said "I had to hunt through all the vines to find just a handful of clusters with any sort of color development. There is not much fruit out here. I'm thinking about .75 tons. Barely enough for 2 barrels."
July 29: Mourvedre at Rosewood Vineyards
As of 7/29, the grapes were still undergoing véraison.
August 21: Getting There
The Rosewood Mourvedre had a little more color by August 21. Wallace says harvest for these grapes is still a few weeks out.
How do they decide when to pick? "When I sample," says Wallace, "I am trying to get an accurate representation of the entire block (not just the pretty clusters). I walk up and down each row and take a calculated (but random) 90 to 120 berry sample. (When I get closer to picking dates, I also take cluster samples.) Once the berries are collected, they are squished up and the juice is measured for brix and pH. At the same time I taste the juice, look at the color of the seeds, the color of the juice, check the amount of pulp, feel the skins, etc. All in order to see where we are in the ripening process. We are also looking for physiological signs of ripeness—browning of the seeds, color bleeding off the skins, etc."
Mourvedre juice from Antle Vineyard on 8/31
If the juice is still green and the seeds are "lemongrass colored," Wallace says it's not ripe yet.
Picking the Chardonnay
Mourvedre might not be quite ready yet, but Dirty and Rowdy picked Chardonnay at Alder Springs at 2 a.m. on September 3rd. Why pick at night? "We maintain higher acidity at night, the fruit comes into the winery cool instead hot, and it is more comfortable for the crew to work in the cool of night instead of during the heat of the day," Wallace answers.
In the Bin
1.5 tons of Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay ready to go to the press. After pressing, says Wallace, "We will be fermenting the juice in one of our concrete eggs. (We put it in tank for one
day after pressing to get it off of heavy solids.) The juice tastes incredible. Deep flavors with insane acidity. This will be fun stuff."
This vineyard in Laytonville, CA (Mendocino County) is northeast of Anderson Valley. It's "very remote" says Wallace. "The vineyard is best known for its Rhone varieties, but Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are coming on strong."