By Seth Truscott
Chelan Wine Tour Offers Continuing Education for Grape Growers and Winemakers
“You need a lifetime or more to learn everything about winemaking,” said Judy Phelps, standing among plastic tubs and oak casks containing grapes at various stages of becoming wine. Phelps, winemaker at Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards in Chelan, Washington, was sharing some of her life’s enological experience.
And Lana Getubig, a 2009 graduate of WSU’s online viticulture professional certificate program, was drinking it up. She and other students and alumni of the viticulture and enology certificate programs took a weekend in November to further their education, traversing the wine country around Lake Chelan in north-central Washington. The tour is one of many opportunities offered by WSU for grape growers and winemakers—veteran, novice, and aspirational alike—to network and share knowledge.
Participants were able to ask established professionals about seemingly mundane details that could have significant repercussions. One notable detail at Hard Row to Hoe was the floor of the wine cellar. A thin, shiny epoxy-and-sand mixture coated the slab on which the building sat. “Grape juice and wine eat concrete,” explained Phelps. The special coating provides both protection to the concrete floor and traction for workers.
Judy’s husband, Don, took the group to the vineyard for insights on his area of expertise. “The slopes of our vineyard help cold air pass through without settling,” he said. The leaves of his vines had lost most of their green pigmentation and, although faded to a muted yellow, remained undamaged by the November cold. He pointed, by way of contrast, to a neighbor’s vineyard on a flat spot at the bottom of a slope. That site allowed cold air to pool, and the leaves there were coated with a layer of frost. Poor site selection shortened the neighbor’s growing season and negatively impacted the quality of grapes.
Once a vineyard site is selected, young vines need proper care, Phelps told the students. “We often hear that grape vines need to struggle, but that doesn’t apply to young vines. They need water to become established.”
After visiting the tasting room, the group continued on to visit other wine producers, including Tildio Winery, with its sweeping view of Roses Lake and the North Cascades Wilderness. Katy and Milum Perry purchased the property in 2001. Katy already had considerable experience in winemaking, including stints at Robert Mondavi and Chateau Ste. Michelle.
Their fermentation room, with its stainless steel tanks, was heated to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for the benefit of malolactic fermentation. Tildio was bullish on using co-inoculation with yeast and malolactic bacteria. “I used to stay away from co-inoculation,” said Katy Perry, “but I’m starting to fall in love with it because of the finished product.” When one student asked about the labor-saving benefits of co-inoculation, Perry said that such labor savings weren’t a motivator for the owner/operator of a small winery such as herself. “Labor savings are inconsequential if the final product isn’t good.”
After a full day of touring and wine tasting, program participants gathered at Campbell’s Resort for a buffet dinner featuring wines produced by the students and alumni of the program. This offered an opportunity for group critiques, as well as a gratis evaluation by WSU’s viticulture and enology program director, Thomas Henick-Kling. Henick-Kling enjoyed the Syrah brought by Leala Cramer, winemaker at Marcus Sophia Winery and a 2008 graduate of the enology certificate program. Her winemaking style uses a gentle press of the grapes, creating a smooth, rich mouth feel. “Continue to make batches with the light press,” Henick-Kling advised her, “but also try a separate batch where you press harder for more tannin. This will produce wine with a different style. And don’t worry about too much tannin in Washington State. Washington tannins usually ripen enough to provide a good mouth feel.”
Henick-Kling said that wine tours for continuing education are vital not just for newcomers to the trade but for the entire industry. “The established wineries also benefit from hearing new ideas,” he noted. WSU has already hosted other tours within Washington as well as to Chile, Argentina, and New Zealand. An upcoming tour to Italy is sold out, and a summer trip to France is in the planning stages. Henick-Kling also hopes to bring winemakers from abroad to tour Washington, providing yet another opportunity for winemakers to network and trade tips and techniques. Henick-Kling said that these trips are designed for people interested in the inner workings of the wine industry, and are not casual wine-tasting sojourns. “We seek out wineries with staff who can articulate the specifics of their geographical region and the local winemaking techniques, and aren’t just trying to sell a few bottles in the tasting room. With our research, planning, and long-term relationships, we can provide an experience that would be difficult for an individual to arrange.”
Cramer eagerly agreed. “The organized tour gives access to the ‘back room’ of wineries that wouldn’t be available to someone just stopping by the tasting room.”
Michael Burns, who just started the enology certificate program, also valued the experience. “I love hearing the real-life stories. Everyone will have challenges with growing grapes and making wine, so it’s great to hear how others got started and what they did to get where they are.”
Learn more about WSU’s professional certificate programs in viticulture and enology by visiting http://bit.ly/vecert.
“Vine to Wine” Workshop Teaches Business, Production Techniques
WSU, in collaboration with wine-industry professionals, is offering a two-day intensive “Vine to Wine” workshop, 20-21 April in Prosser. The workshop is recommended for anyone thinking about starting a vineyard or winery, or for those who have recently entered the Washington wine industry. The goal of the workshop is to educate potential and new growers and winemakers in the essentials of economic and environmentally sustainable high-quality grape and wine production practices.
Starting a vineyard or winery is a big investment requiring extensive financial, marketing, and horticultural planning. On Day One of the workshop, participants learn the ins and outs of vineyard and business establishment and management. The economics of starting a vineyard along with the principles of site selection, establishment, and sustainable grape production will be addressed.
On the second day of the workshop, Washington winemakers and wine educators will address the basics of winery design and equipment, what to look for in grapes, fermentation science, the science of red and white winemaking, and the economics of establishing and running a winery.
The workshop will be held at the Best Western Inn at Horse Heaven Hills in Prosser. Seats are limited and pre-registration is required. The cost is $60 for one day, or $100 for both days. Registration includes snacks, beverage, and catered hot lunches, and a social on Saturday night. Registration also includes a digital copy of presented information.
For more information and to register, please visit http://bit.ly/Vhq6MT.
Updated Lab Manual for Winemakers Now Available
WSU professor of enology, Charles Edwards, and Bruce Watson, retired wine quality manager, have teamed up to rewrite “Basic Microbiological and Chemical Analyses for Wine.”
The newly revised and expanded wine lab manual is for people wishing to conduct general laboratory analyses of grape musts and wines. Determinations of sugar, sulfur dioxide, titratable and volatile acidities, pH, and alcohol content are integral measurements performed by both commercial and home winemakers. While these determinations allow chemical adjustments to musts and wines, they are also critical for compliance with state and federal laws regarding wine composition (that includes alcohol content, volatile acidity, and sulfur dioxide).
One area that the authors have tried to address throughout the manual is the question of quality assurance regarding laboratory results. Wine statistics are notoriously difficult to compare between wineries due to variability in methods and practices between laboratories. In fact, wineries occasionally encounter difficulty in obtaining reproducible results even within the same laboratory. In this manual, the authors have suggested some controls that may help wineries address these issues, while reminding readers that the opportunity exists for more work to be done in this area.
Order your downloadable copy of the new lab manual for winemakers by visiting http://bit.ly/wsu-wine-lab-manual.