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Jim Ball Vineyards

January 6, 2015

Winemaker Greg LaFollette and Jim discuss the Pinots and Chard from the 2014 Vintage, and focus on the 4 different harvests taken from the DuNah Vineyard during the Fall of 2014 and how differently they show in the barrel.

Jim Ball: It Tuesday, January 6, 2015, and we’re at the winery talking with Winemaker Greg LaFolette about the Jim Ball Vineyards Pinot noirs and Chardonnays from the 2014 Vintage. What’s happening this week with the wines Greg?

Greg LaFolette: Well, at this point, both the Pinots and the Chards have finished primary and secondary fermentation and we're looking at putting the wines to bed. They’ve quieted down by now, they're drawing back into the barrels, meaning that they are no longer putting out carbon dioxide gas. As such we have also stopped stirring the wines to get the lees up into suspension.

Jim: Tell the folks about primary and secondary fermentation Greg.

Greg: Primary fermentation is what it sounds like - the first, initial fermentation of the grape sugars into alcohol. Yeast residing naturally on the grape skins, when allowed to attain a certain temperature, will begin to feed on the sugars and oxygen and enzymes in the grape and transform the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The yeast population grows rapidly al long as there is sufficient nutrients, and when the sugars are mostly consumed, the yeast population will begin to die off and drop to the bottom of the fermenter. Secondary fermentation ushers in malolactic fermentation, which is the transformation of malic acid into lactic acid. Picture a change of hard, green apple acids to buttery acids.

Jim: And when you say stirring the lees, tell our readers and listeners what you do and why.

Greg: Sur lie aging is the process where we allow a finished wine to continue to rest on the lees - the spent yeast cells - in order to extract flavors. The lees cells decompose into simpler compounds, releasing sugars, proteins and other flavor and aroma compounds. Now if the lees are left undisturbed in the bottom of the aging vessel for too long, they start to form some pretty nasty sulfur aromas and flavors. To prevent this from happening, we stir the lees regularly, which is a process called “battonage.” This keeps hydrogen sulfide from forming as quickly and ensures the the wine gets maximum exposure to the cells and compounds they are decomposing into.

Jim: What happens after battonage?

Greg: So now we're able to add a little bit of that ancient antioxidant, used since ancient Roman times, which is sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is essential to promote stability in the wine. Then the wines rest and take in flavor and aroma compounds from the barrels their resting in. It’s a long rest.

Jim: Tell the folks about what they can look forward to from the Pinot noir fruit that we are now sourcing from the Russian River.

Greg: The four primary Pinots of the DuNah Vineyard, now called the Mes Filles Vineyard, are uniquely different. The very first lot picked came out at only 12.7 alcohol having picked it at 21.3 brix, which is 21.3% residual sugar. It is very focused, it's very laser-like with lots of energy and beautiful, only as Andre Tchelistcheff would be able to describe as "pinocity." Our second lot picked shows some good mid-palate weight and beautiful black and white fresh cracked pepper characteristics, really exhibiting the cool climate tenure. The third pick is just a little bit further than this, having some richness and texture in the last half of the palate. But the last pick, which was done a whole month after the first pick, has alot of really rich dark fruit and texture. It's less like a DuNah because the later you pick, the less characteristics you have from the vineyard or from the region. But it's a pretty spectacular wine and would be a great blended component.

Jim: And have others tasted from these four lots yet?

Greg: Since we have done these fermentations, I've used all four of these picks at industry technical conferences to illustrate the difference of timing of picking, clonal differences and solar aspect. And they've been very well received by the winemaking community at large.

Jim: That’s great news! Good talking with you Greg! Let’s get back to work.

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