Ten days ago the vineyard crew began picking Zinfandel from the home ranch. Home to our iconic Mother Clone Zinfandel, which has been growing here since the early 1900s, the vineyard contains first, second and third generation plantings. Head pruned, hillside location, hand harvested. Like we've been doing for 89 years.
What happens after the destemmed berries and juice go into a tank? In this case I am following the first tank filled, #102.
Stainless steel Tank #102 holds 5500 gallons and this amount comes from 31 tons of Zinfandel. It is temperature controlled which helps to slow down the process. If it ferments too quickly then you don’t get much color or flavor so the idea is to give it some time. Once the tank is filled the concoction, now called must, settles for 24 hours.
Next, yeast is added to begin the conversion of sugar to alcohol. And it isn’t just any yeast used across the board. Winemaker Montse Reece makes sure to use the right one, Red Pasteur and is based on the varietal and the amount of the fermenting must. The tank is checked daily as fermentation takes the original Brix measurement of 26.2 to completely dry. This typically takes about 10 days.
And while it is slowly fermenting there is one other part of the process: the cap. The cap, which is comprised of the skins and seeds floating to the top, has juice pumped up from the bottom of the tank and is sprayed over the top three times a day. This is done to gain more flavor and color in the developing wine.
Mitch Blakeley, fourth generation Pedroncelli, works on emptying tank 102.
Finally, once fermentation has finished 10 days later, the tank is emptied, leaving the skins and seeds behind as it is pressed. The young wine is then transferred to a storage tank until the end of the year when the 2016 Mother Clone Zinfandel is put into barrels for a year. A toast to an icon, our flagship wine!