Caitlin – October 7th, 2012
For the events I am preparing to describe make sense to you, I have to take you back two months. Robert and I were eating dinner at Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge in Annapolis, which is a great restaurant. If you live in the area, you should stop by. Drink a Lucky Savage. Trust me. I spend a lot of time drinking cocktails of all types and am in a position to know about these things.
We were eating dinner before a Texas country concert at Rams Head Live, so, to me, it was a date night. Robert took my hand and looked deep into my eyes. I was pretty sure he was going to re-confirm his deep and undying love for me. How nice, I thought. He opened his mouth, I waited with bated breath, and in husky tones, he whispered, “I have to confess something. I ordered 400 pounds of grapes this year instead of 300.” My heart sank as I realized that this was not a date night at all. It was a horrible ruse.
Robert wanted me to be in a public place when he made this announcement, so I wouldn’t murder him. First of all, he underestimates my rage. I would totally murder him in the middle of a restaurant. Second of all, however, I value my freedom. So he was safe for the time being. But I did have some follow-up questions, such as [earmuffs for the children please], “what the fuck is wrong with you?” As I heard silverware clatter all around me, I realized I was yelling very loudly.
Robert sped through his explanation, as he is wont to do when he sees I have murder in eyes and my heart. Apparently Dr. Bob, whom we have been buying grapes from for three years now, was offerings us 100 pounds of Vidal Blanc in addition to our standard order of 150 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon and 150 pounds of Cabernet Franc. It would be great, Robert insisted. We had never made white before. It was going to be a new adventure!
Robert and I have been married long enough now that I have the good sense to be skeptical when he is very excited about something. He’s got a little used car salesman in him. So, I did my own investigating the week following our date/ambush, and here is what I discovered:
It is much more difficult to make white wine, from a process perspective.
“The clarity of a white wine is easy to judge – just look through the glass.” That’s exactly why making a white is so challenging. You shouldn’t be able to see any suspended material in the wine, which is what makes a wine appear cloudy. Now imagine how difficult it might be to extract millions of tiny particles of leaf, stem, seed, and bee guts (the role of bee guts in wine to be addressed in a future post, spoiler alert: they’re there) from the juice to achieve crystal clarity.
It is much more difficult to make white wine, from a storage perspective.
Yeast have a climate that they prefer. The type of wine you are producing will direct what temperature range is optimum. White wines are generally fermented under cool conditions, while red wines can be fermented a little warmer. Specifically, we need to keep the white above 50 degrees, or the yeast will die, but below 60 degrees. I know, right? Get over yourself, yeast. In other words, we can ferment our red without much difficulty. For the white, we’ll need to find a way to cool it. It will be a surprise for you and for us when we figure it out.
It is much more difficult to make white wine, from a me desiring to do it perspective.
It’s no secret that I prefer red wine over white, and I have my particulars when it comes to red too. I know, first world problems. The yeast and I should be in a support group together. A group that supports people…and eukaryotic microorganisms…with problems no one wants to hear about. We’ll meet every Monday at the bar. But I digress. My main point is, will this challenging experience help me develop a new appreciate for white wine? Or will I resent its existence even more?
You might be wondering what type of woman yells expletives at her husband in public. I will admit, I have an infamous temper. But in this case, Robert deserved it. You see, every year previous, he has purchased a tremendous amount of grapes (year 1: 150 pounds, year 2: 300 pounds, year 3: 400 pounds), and then taken a business trip for the hardest week of the entire winemaking year, leaving me alone to manhandle the fruit all by my lonesome. It is very trying. Not to mention, every year, he promises me an idyllic walk through the vineyard, hand-in-hand, basking in the warm sun. This dream has never materialized. It is usually cold, we hardly ever to get to go out into the field and help with the cutting, and we usually barely escape with our lives (as I mentioned, the role of large droves of terrifying bees in winemaking coming to a post near you very soon).
Now you have all of the context you need to understand the updates to come on the 2012 crush. I’ll be answering questions, including:
- Did Robert succeed in getting his 100 pounds of Vidal Blanc, despite many obvious (and some covert) attempts on my part to dissuade him?
- Did I finally get the romantic day Robert has always advertised?
- Did anyone die of bee stings?
I’ll close this post with some images of us getting ready this morning, featuring one wardrobe change. By Robert obviously. Prepping for the day took a big chunk of the early morning. Cleanliness is next to godliness.