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Here comes the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc!!!

A video posted by Markham Vineyards (@markham_vineyards) on

The bottling line here at Markham Vineyards has gotten off to an early start in 2016. It makes me smile that people love our tropical Sauvignon Blanc so much, but it has been crazy to get it ready this early. Since the 2015 vintage arrived slightly earlier than normal with below average yields, it allowed us to fast track our SB bottling. After a slow, steady fermentation at ~48-50°F lasting about 30-40 days, our Sauvignon Blanc was moved to upright oak tanks. We put together our final blend and began the stability process around Thanksgiving. To get our Sauvignon Blanc from blend to bottle takes us a full five weeks!

Cold stability preparations, cold stability process, cold stability test sample.

We heat and cold stabilize all our white wines here at Markham Vineyards. There are a couple of reasons that we take the time to go through the effort. If you have ever accidentally left a bottle of wine in the trunk of your car on a hot day, you probably witnessed a bit of the liquid escape as it expanded and pushed past the cork, perhaps even pushing the cork slightly. This can not only make the wine taste ‘cooked’ but the heat might make a white wine go from clear to cloudy. This phenomenon is the instability of the proteins naturally found in wine. A wine labeled as ‘unfiltered and unfined’ would not have been heat or cold stabilized. The addition of bentonite clay while finishing our blends not only removes these unstable proteins but makes our wines brilliant in clarity.

Cold stability testing back in the lab.

Similarly if you have ever left a bottle of wine chilling longer than you intended crystals might develop in your bottle of wine. These can almost appear to look like glass in white wines and is the very reason we additionally choose to cold stabilize. Grapes are composed of several different types of acids within their genetic make-up and tartaric acid composes the largest percentage. After chilling our blend to 30°F, we use potassium bitartrate (or cream of tartar) to seed our wine. This provides the unstable tartaric acid a substrate on which to attach, becoming so heavy that it falls (precipitates) out of the solution. In older red wines, you might have noticed this precipitate on the end of the cork or the shoulder of the bottle as they age. What you’re seeing is tartaric acid which has taken on a bit of color and perhaps some tannin. I see it in our red wines cellared more than 5-7 years, but sometimes it is not always predictable.

Post cold stabilization avalanche!

With the Sauvignon Blanc clanging away on the bottling wine, our 2015 Muscato and 2015 Rosé are quietly queuing up behind. While 2015 was stingy with some of our varietals, I’m super excited that our estate Pinot Noir had a normal crop which allowed me to make a little Rosé of Pinot Noir again this year. And after two full years of aging, our 2013 vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Peiti Verdot are finally ready to be bottled.

Kim's new boyfriend, El Nino. Will it last?

There’s SO much good news to share as we begin 2016! I’m trying not to jinx my new relationship, but I want everyone to know that I have a new boyfriend. His name is El Niño and we’ve been together since November last year. We don’t get to see each other every day, but he’s already made a huge impression and I was able to introduce him to my parents over the Christmas holidays when they came for a visit. My dogs aren’t a big fan, but hoping they don’t chase him off until spring, when the reservoirs are full in the vineyards. Even on the darkest days, the knowledge that all will be green in the vineyards this year keeps me smiling. -Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls

Rainbow next to the winery, taken by our Angela in the Visitor Center.