Vintage 2021 began with an encouraging mild start and lower than average rainfall. Bud break and bloom were a couple weeks later than average, setting the growing season back slightly. Temperatures rose significantly in August, shortening the seasonal delay. Heat waves plagued the season from August to October, with temperatures over 110°F for extended periods of time. Harvest began on August 17th, with white wines showing great quality despite the heat. At the end of one of the warmest vintages in Paso, we have found wine flavors and quality to be very good with excellent concentration.
Carbonic maceration is a winemaking technique that is applied primarily to light- to medium-bodied red wines to make them fruitier and to soften their tannins. Most wine transforms from grape juice into alcohol via a yeast fermentation. Bunches of grapes are picked, destemmed, and crushed. The yeast, whether naturally present on the grape skins or added by winemakers, “eat” the natural sugars in the grape juice and converts them into alcohol. In carbonic maceration, however, the initial fermentation is not caused by yeast, but instead occurs intracellularly, or from the inside out. This method involves filling a sealed vessel with carbon dioxide and then adding whole, intact bunches of grapes. In this oxygen-free environment, the berries begin to ferment from the inside. They use the available CO2 to break down sugars and malic acid (one of the main acids in grapes) and produces alcohol along with a range of compounds that affect the wine’s final flavor. At the same time, polyphenols, known to most as tannins and anthocyanins, make their way from the grapes’ skin to the pulp, which turn the white flesh to a pink color. Once the alcohol reaches 2%, the berries burst, releasing their juice naturally. A normal yeast fermentation will then take the wine to dryness.
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