We’ve been suspecting for the past week that the Fall weather may have arrived here on the Central Coast, bringing with it chilly mornings, crisp air, and the need for a few extra layers. We didn’t have any idea how cold it was until one of our cellar workers noticed some white crystals developing on his fingernails. Upon closer inspection the team realized that they were Tartrate Crystals!
What are Tartrate Crystals?
“Tartrates, affectionately known by industry professionals as “wine diamonds,” are tiny, crystalline deposits that occur in wines when potassium and tartaric acid, both naturally occurring products of grapes, bind together to form a crystal. Tartrates are scientifically known as potassium bitartrate, which is the same thing as cream of tartar used in cooking. They are completely harmless and natural. The formation of wine diamonds is less common in red wines, as their level of tartaric acid is lower, and crystals tend to fall out naturally during the longer barrel-aging process.” – Ronn Wiegand, Master of Wine/Master Sommelier
So why do Tartrates form and why were they on our crews fingers on the sorting line? Tartrates, by nature, are a normal byproduct of wine as it ages, but if the wine is exposed to temperatures below 40°F these crystalline structures will form as well. With the onset of the colder weather, more Tartrates have been forming on the machinery, fermentation tanks, hoses, as well as the crew’s fingers.
The next big questions are “how do you keep Tartrates from forming” and “do they have a negative effect on the wine?”
One technique that winemakers will use is a process called cold stabilization. What winemakers will do is cool the wine down anywhere from 28-40°F for a number of days just before bottling the wine. This process is purely for aesthetics in the hope that the wine diamonds won’t form later on down the road. Here at Foxen we cold stabilize our whites at 30-32°F for 2-3 weeks.
To answer the second question, no, Tartrates have no negative effect on the wine itself. Many would argue that the presence of Tartrates in older vintages is a sign of quality wine, indicating that the wine was not over processed. Another bonus is the crystals do not impose any flavor on the wine as well.
So everything on our end has been done to prevent the crystals from forming, what can you do at home? Store your wines in moderate temperatures ranging from 55-60°F and if serving a delicate white, chill it down to 45-48°F just before serving and avoid keeping them in a refrigerator that gets below 44°F.
Hope you enjoyed these fun facts, and now you can impress your friends and family the next time you come across these pretty, little wine diamonds.
It’s a cold morning out on the canyon. The Autumn weather has definitely arrived. A thick fog blankets the landscape. Oaks are shadowy figures and the vines become pathways leading into the unknown. The winery is quiet. The vineyard crew are picking this morning and Joe and Bingo are silently working on punch downs, while Billy & David make preparations for the coming day. The quiet is suddenly disturbed by forklifts starting up. There is an urgency in the movement of the machines loading bins onto the truck. Fruit is coming in today, the first of the Syrah from Williamson-Dore Vineyard and Pinot Noir from Riverbench Vineyard.
It’s quiet again now and the sun is just starting to break through the fog. The anticipation of a big day can be felt on the crush pad. We’re moving into the next phase of Harvest. So far our sorting tables, fermentation tanks, press and barrels have been overloaded with Pinot Noir. We have been busy so far, and it’s only going to get busier as the Rhones and soon the Bordeauxs begin to become ready for picking.
Bodies and minds are tired. Hands are chapped and stained with juice and dirt. Fleeces layered to fend off the chill of the Fall morning. These quiet moments will be the last of the day. Once the fruit arrives all that is forgotten and the fruit becomes all that matters. The fruit is all that matters this time of year, and it’s worth it.
Have you ever wondered where all the lees and sediments in the bottom of wine barrels go? No? Well, we bet you’re wondering now!
Here at Foxen we take the leftover yeast, grape skins, and other sediments that come out of our barrels after being cleaned and we spread them in our adjoining Rancho Tinaquaic field. The barrel sediments provide nutrients for the soil, plant life and even the local fauna!
Yesterday morning our field was invaded not only by an elderly Coyote, but three Doe, and a huge flock of wild Turkeys! They all came for one thing, the wine sediments that we spread in the field! It’s incredible to be surrounded by so much wildlife out here in the canyon and to be able to give back to the environment in more than one way!
Good morning Foxen family! We’re putting on our first sweepstakes! Time to get creative and get pinning! If you have any questions feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have fun and we can’t wait to see what you all come up with!
Food & Wine Magazine has compiled a list of 75 must visit wineries in California for their October 2013 issue, and we are proud to announce that Foxen has been selected as one of those wineries. We are incredibly humbled and excited by this recognition. It’s amazing to think that this all started with two, passionate friends in 1985 at a shack in Foxen Canyon. We could not have made it this far without the continued support of our fans, wine club members, and our fellow industry friends referring so many people to us. So thank you everyone for believing in us and allowing us to do what we love most!
We would also like to congratulate our fellow Santa Barbara County wineries that were named as well! Congratulations to Stolpman, Qupe, Brewer-Clifton, Beckman, Au Bon Climat, Kunin, Palmina, Margerum, Sanford, and Loring! We are proud of all of Santa Barbara County and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!
The issue is currently on newsstands, but if you can’t wait that long you can read the article here.
Thanks again everyone and cheers!
The theme for the week was definitely Pinot Noir. All week we had fruit coming in from Solomon Hills, Riverbench, La Encantada, Bien Nacido Blocks 8 & 43, Melville, and Julia’s Vineyard! And we’re not done yet! Billy is expecting us to get in over 40 tons of Pinot Noir in the coming two weeks.
With all the fruit that has been coming in we’ve been running out of room in our fermenters. On Wednesday and Thursday the crew emptied tanks by draining the free run juice by gravity, then the remaining fruit was gently pressed and put to barrels over the next few days. The barrels were then sent into the barrel room to continue secondary fermentation and aging. This opened up the needed fermenter space for the fruit that came in on Friday and Saturday from Julia’s, Melville, the first half of Bien Nacido Block 43, La Encantada, and Bien Nacido Block 8 (specifically Pinot Clone 2A).
Our hands are full of fermenting Pinot juice and we’re loving it!
Billy also reports that “Syrah is looming on the horizon as well as Bien Nacido Block UU Chardonnay!” So look forward to more Rhone reports in the future!
We received our allotments from Julia’s Vineyard, Melville Vineyard, as well as half of the fruit off of Block 43 at Bien Nacido Vineyard.
Billy said the fruit is all “great quality” and the “crew did a great job today!”
The Julia’s fruit came in from the B3 Block and is 100% Pommard clone. Off the truck the clusters weighed in at 6 tons! The crew de-stemmed by hand and the clean berries went into open top fermenters.
We received our 2 ton allotment from Melville Vineyard today from the Estate C Block and the berries are Clones 115 & 777. These clusters were also sorted by hand and went into the fermenters 100% whole berry de-stemmed to await pressing.
Last but not least is our Clone 667 Pinot Noir from Block 43 at Bien Nacido. The clusters weighed in at 6 tons and are looking great . We still have half of Block 43 left to pick, so hopes are high for this vineyard designate in the coming years. Just like the Julia’s and Melville Pinot, the Block 43 berries were de-stemmed by hand and went into our open top fermenters.
Billy is happy with how the Harvest is going so far and is pleased with how well and hard the crew is working. Looks like the 2013 Vintage is shaping up to be a beautiful one! Cheers!
Harvest is in full gear now and we’re only picking up more steam. Last week the crew had their hands busy with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc!
On September 5th half of our Block 8 Pinot Noir was picked, two thirds of our John Sebastiano allocation, one third of Solomon Hills was picked, and we received our 3 ton allocation from Fe Ciega Vineyard. All of the Pinot is looking gorgeous. Big, plump, and juicy berries are being brought in on a daily basis and we are quickly running out of room in our fermentation tanks!
Along with the plentiful Pinot harvest this year we got in an amazing haul of Sauvignon Blanc from Vogelzang Vineyard on the September 6th. In Billy’s words, “All of the fruit has been plentiful and in excellent health!” The berries were full of flavor and it was easy to see that we aren’t the only ones who love it. Our berries were being tended to by some local honey bees as well!
Even more good news, we have harvested Chardonnay from our estate Tinaquaic Vineyard. While the yields are down this year, due to lack of rainfall and a short spring, the quality of the fruit has not suffered one bit. The clusters are on the smaller side, but they are highly concentrated and flavorful. So far we have picked all of the Wente clone from Tinaquaic on September 5th as well as Clone 4 on the 7th.
Cheers to a solid 2013 Harvest so far!
Check in next week for more Harvest updates!
The Celebration of Harvest Weekend held over October 11-14, is our annual celebration of the year’s bounty. Vintners take a break from the vineyards and cellars to pour their wines and share harvest tales. Throughout the weekend select wineries host their own events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, ranging from winemaker dinners through library tastings and sales to new wine releases and barrel tastings.
The highlight of the Celebration of Harvest Weekend is the Festival. A grand tasting and silent auction on Saturday, October 12, on the beautiful grounds of the Rancho Sisquoc Winery. Taste wine from all the 100+ winery members, enjoy food sampling from the area’s finest restaurants, caterers, and food purveyors, and listen to live music.
The festival ticket price is $75 per person, and at the door (if still available) ticket price is $85 per person. Please visit the Celebration of Harvest website for more information about participating sponsors, wineries, vendors, restaurants, events, and to purchase your tickets.
Rancho Sisquoc Winery
6600 Foxen Canyon Road
Santa Maria, CA 93454