Winemaking at Chankaska Creek
HARVEST AND SORTING
As the warmth and growing cycle of summer begins to ebb, and harvest approaches, our winemaker starts an almost daily ritual. He strolls throughout the vineyards to taste and track the ripening grapes. An experienced palate and some basic analysis in our lab can determine if the grapes have reached their ideal peak for harvesting.
We use a combination of traditional hand harvesting some blocks and newer mechanized equipment for others. The terrain, layout of the block, and destined final wine all play a part in making this decision. Hand harvesting is ideal for sparkling wines as the mechanical process will de juice the grapes to some degree. Nearly all of our red grapes will be mechanically picked since the extraction of color is tied to breaking skins down.
RED WINE VINIFICATION
When making red wine, our first step is to get the grapes into a tank. This can be done one of two ways: through our destemmer for hand or machine picked fruit, or gently pumped directly to the tank if mechanically harvested. Feeding grapes through the destemmer mostly leaves grapes uncrushed but free of the stems that make a cluster. After destemming, the grapes are continuously pumped into a temperature-controlled tank. Here, they are chilled for a number of days, after which, a specially selected strain of yeast may be added to initiate fermentation. Occasionally we decide the fruit is so pristine that we let the naturally occurring yeast on the grapes ferment the wine.
Throughout the fermentation process, the wine is monitored at least daily and various techniques are utilized to keep the grapes wet and the yeast happy and healthy. As the yeast converts sugar to alcohol and color and flavors are slowly extracted from the grape skins, our winemaker samples the wine and decides when the wine is ready for pressing and for putting into barrels.
All red wines at Chankaska are aged in French and American oak barrels. At any given time 20 to 30 percent of new barrels are in rotation. As the wine matures in barrel, softens and gains overall complexity. During this time we will additionally send red wines through Malolactic Fermentation. This helps further soften the wines and integrate the oak character more fully.
Barrel aging is complete after our winemaker conducts blending tests to determine if any further varietal blending is needed in order to produce a balanced wine. Sometimes the wines are perfect as they are in their pure state. At other times, our winemaker may decide that the wine can be improved through the art of blending. This art is a combination of experience, risk, and reward.
The last step is a filtration process prior to bottling to ensure the wine is stable for years to come. Qualities of filtered wines include further softening the mouthfeel, enhanced clarity, and clean aromas. Bottling ensues shortly afterward to package and preserve the final wine before it pours into your glass. Cheers!
WHITE WINE VINIFICATION
After harvesting our white grapes they are immediately fed into our bladder press. This piece of equipment can hold up to 1.5 tons of whole cluster grapes and is specifically tasked with separating the juice from the berries. The pressed juice is transferred to a temperature-controlled tank where it is chilled to clarify. After the clarified juice is separated from the solids, a specially selected strain of yeast is added to enhance the varietal character during primary fermentation.
Chankaska's white wine fermentations are kept either in a range of temperature-controlled tanks allowing fermentation to progress as designed with daily monitoring for flavor and aroma or go directly to oak barrels for fermentation and later aging. During fermentation, yeast consumes the sugar and converts it to alcohol. Once all of the sugars have been consumed, the wine is considered finished or “dry.” Occasionally we will arrest or stop the fermentation early to help enhance the final flavors and style of the wine
After the wine is determined finished, it is then racked and aged in either a tank or possibly in oak depending on the style of wine being produced. We may also send white wines through Malolactic Fermentation to promote the conversion of Malic Acid into a softer more flavorful Lactic Acid and possibly Diacetyl, the compound found in buttery chardonnay. In barrel-fermented whites, we may not rack the wines until much later and send those barrels through Sur lie aging stirring the lees or dead yeast back into suspension in the wine every two to three weeks.
Sometimes the wines are perfect as they are in their pure state. At other times, our winemaker may decide that the wine can be improved through the art of blending. This art is a combination of experience, risk, and reward. Following wine, the composition is a series of steps to ensure chemical and microbial stability.
The last step is a filtration process prior to bottling to ensure the wine is stable for years to come. Qualities of filtered wines include further softening the mouthfeel, enhanced clarity, and sharpened aromas. Bottling ensues shortly afterward to package and preserve the final wine before it pours into your glass. Cheers!
Making rosé is one of the more fun things winemakers get to do! There are a few different ways to make rosé. The most common method is to press red grapes with little or no skin contact and ferment very similarly to white wines. The second is to Saigneé juice from red grapes in a tank. This method is very fast (typically a couple of hours up to 2 days) and is a way to not only concentrate the source red wine but make a very tasty rosé! Thirdly is to take a white wine and add red and/or another rosé to make a more delicate pink-colored wine. Each method has its benefits and its challenges.
The fermentation of rosé is very much like white wine. Clarification of the juice is a must to promote clean fermentation. Mostly the wines are fermented in stainless steel and allowed to proceed slowly. Some rosés may be fermented in barrels to enhance their mouthfeel. More often than not, these wines will have no contact with new barrels so that their character is not masked by oak flavors. Very rarely will rosé go through Malolactic Fermentation. Almost always will the wines be kept fresh through the preservation of Malic Acid.
Most of the blending is done upfront with rosé. Some final tweaks may occur before finishing. Finishing rosé wines will see a series of steps to ensure chemical, microbial, and color stability. Lastly, the wines will filter and be bottled shortly thereafter. Enjoy rosé wines any time of the year. Cheers!