It started in late winter: We pruned and tied the grape vines to the trellis, we tended to them through the spring and summer, shoot thinning and leaf pulling, checked them for mildew and pests, and waited for the fall to harvest the fruit and make our wine! Well, we made it, a time for celebration and a little relaxation! Looking back, we can say this year’s harvest turned out well despite a cool, wet spring, and a summer without a whole lot of heat, but Mother Nature smiled on us with a nice, warm and dry fall that made all the difference. Maybe the sugar accumulation and the acid levels weren’t as good as last year, but the grapes were clean, with minimal rot or insect damage, and they tasted pretty good, too! This makes three years in a row — 2017, 2018 and 2019 — where we’ve had a good-sized healthy crop without much winter damage like we experienced in 2014, 2015 and 2016! Statistically, I wonder how that bodes for the future? We’ll have to wait and see!
Meanwhile, in the winery, most of our primary fermentation has been completed. With several of our wines we now do a secondary fermentation with malolactic bacteria, which changes the tart malic acid found naturally in grapes to lactic acid, which is softer and more pleasant on the palate. We use this primarily on our red wines, but also on some of the whites. We also rack the new wines (racking is moving the wines from one tank to another) to leave the heavy sediment from fermentation behind and allow the wines to clarify naturally. Our dry red wines from this harvest, such as cabernet franc, pinot noir and chambourcin, are now aging on oak barrels. The oak lets in some oxygen over time that helps to soften the tannins that come from the contact with the grape skins during the fermentation process. We use American, Hungarian and French barrels that hold 59 gallons each, which is about 24 cases of wine (12 standard 750 ml bottles). These red wines typically age in the barrels anywhere from 18 to 30 months before we bottle them! Our white and rosé wines are resting in stainless steel tanks in an anerobic (no oxygen) condition. These wines will age until sometime next spring and summer, when we bottle them.
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We have the holiday season coming up — where did 2019 go? Seems like the year flew by, and now we are often asked about wines to accompany a Thanksgiving feast. Since we all have unique palates and experience wine and food differently, pairing wine with turkey, sweet potatoes and vegetables can vary quite a bit. In the Finger Lakes, Rieslings are always a favorite at Thanksgiving, whether you choose a dry style or something with a little residual sugar. Pinot noir is a great Thanksgiving wine that can be used where you might normally choose a white wine, pairing well with roast turkey without overpowering its flavor. If you enjoy a heavier red wine with your feast, try a cabernet franc, complementing the turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. We might also recommend a dry rosé with your Thanksgiving meal, giving you just a bit of red wine flavor but without heavier tannins — really nice with cranberries, too! Rosé isn’t just for the warm summer months. Any way you go, the wine will add to the Thanksgiving meal. We at CJS Vineyards will be thankful for this year’s harvest and hope you all have a wonderful time with your family and friends during the Thanksgiving holiday, and enjoy a glass of wine with us.