News from the farm
Our feature photo this month is an eastern view of the farm the reader can compare to the last two posts which show what the farm looked like under drought conditions. The grass has revived to an vibrant emerald green with the rain, and will need mowing soon. The mixture of brilliant reds, oranges and golds that our native New England is famous for in autumn are muted in this area, except for places one might see non-native Acer saccharum (sugar maple,) or other ornamental maple planted. No leaf-peepers come here to view the foliage at this time of year! Our blueberry bushes turn a lovely scarlet and rows of grape vines turn to gold, but the trees slowly fade to shades of yellow and brown, and quietly slip away with the daylight hours, wind, and rain.
The harvest is over, and most its associated activities completed. The rains have settled in, and the sky is once again filled with armadas of storm cloud galleons on their way over the Cascade Range. The moon is hard to find these nights unless there are breaks in the clouds, spilling light through cracks of dark sky-river like molten gold. Another year is passing, and like the clouds driven by Wind, we are obliged to come along, another year older. If you listen carefully, Wind will not only tell you where you’ve been, but where you are going.
Our first “crush”
Pinot noir, what was left of it, was harvested in late afternoon on 10/11/14. 4 trays were obtained of mixed quality fruit, which was all the birds and bees left us out of the 120 vines in Rick’s vineyard and 16 in my test block! The best fruit was from my test block, which had no canopy management (and therefore slightly more cover from birds), compost feeding and a mycorrhizal fungi-fertilizer mix. I had netted way too late and was left with very little, but I decided to not pass up a learning experience! None of the conditions were ideal. No equipment to speak of, no experience, and only Google for help. What I had might make a few gallons, and I decided to see what the native yeasts might be capable of instead of inoculating with some strain of commercial wine yeast.
Much hand sorting of individual berries went into this process, due to bird and bee damage, some mold and insects. It took a good 4 hours to do all the pressing, literally by hand. On the positive side, the fresh juice did measure about 22 brix, a respectable starting value for what I was after, a rose´ pinot noir I would name “Eye of the Gopher”.
Notes from 10/19:
“The native yeastie boys have something going after all…the hydrometer reads roughly 7% now, so 12 -7 = %5 alcohol. It is tasting somewhere between muscat and brachetto. Not bad! I smell a touch of volatile acidity, but the flavor is good. Nothing bad there. So I will let it continue a while yet! The stockpot is gently crackling, with a good foam cap, and there is activity. Note: I had originally checked it after 2 days fermentation, and not much change in alcohol content, although we could see the cap forming.”
Notes from 10/27:
“Stopped the fermentation experiment this evening. About 6% of the sugar was digested, but mainly Acetobacter at work now instead of yeast, and we had some good red wine vinegar. Racked off the bulk to a clean glass carboy and transferred to the refrigerator in the pump house. Rick sent me a good link to a Wine Spectator article on prions initiated by bacteria and their effect on yeast, basically stalling fermentation. http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/50763″
Prions in yeast? One typically associates prions, disease inducing forms of normal proteins, with diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and some forms of dementia. Yeast have prions? Apparently some strains of bacteria appear to be able to chemically induce yeast to produce prions in their cell membranes, resulting in “glucose repression”, and a stuck fermentation.
It is hard to tell what all may have happened in this experiment, but I am quite pleased at diving in under less than ideal conditions and at least coming out with good vinegar! I have received one suggestion that it may not be available yeast nutrients, which was another possibility, but that the native yeasts themselves weren’t up to the job. Epernay-II was suggested, as it is known for imparting fruity aromatics, working well in long cool fermentation conditions and will reach a max of about 11-12%. I may try a dual run next year with the native yeast again vs the Epernay-II strain. At some point, with commercial yeast in the environment in the building, grape pomace going back into the vineyard/garden area, the “native” yeast will probably contain some percentage of the commercial strain, and no longer be reflective of what was originally here.
Music news (schedule posted on the Performance Schedule page)
Harvest, crush and my eye issues are out of the way now, and we have some extra help looking after Rick’s mother, giving me a breather to focus more on music for a while. Seabisquit the Subaru and I are back in McMinnville at the end of next January! Cornerstone Coffee does a lot to support music. If you are in the area, please drop by and support them with your patronage. I’ve just started booking for the coming year, so be sure to check the Performance Schedule page periodically.
And, if you don’t mind virtually traveling to North Dakota, do give a listen to Jessie Veeder’s music video “Boomtown” at veederranch.com. I came across this musician rancher some months ago. Great song, great performance and the video tells the story of her town in song and pictures. Well done, Jessie!
In your area, wherever you may be, please do all you can to help keep your own local music alive. Go out and see someone you don’t know, host a house concert, download songs or buy CDs. Or even just stop for a minute to hear someone at a Farmers’ Market. Live, local musicians provide a wealth of talent most people will never hear about in this age of iPods, Internet and TV.
Bookings and home-grown produce:
Lavinia and Rick Ross
Salmon Brook Records / Salmon Brook Farms