Destemming with Scissors

As you know I make a red wine for my brand, Orr Grenache. In 2016 and 2017, in an effort to keep it cuckoo, we destemmed about 100pounds of Syrah by hand with little dinky scissors. This ended up being co-fermented with 1.7 tons (3500 pounds) of Grenache which had been mechanically destemmed like normal. The resulting wines are out on the market now called Orr Columbia Valley Grenache (98% Grenache 2% Syrah).

The idea is that the berry is kept intact so it undergoes partial carbonic maceration - the plant-mediated enzymatic breakdown of glucose into carbon dioxide, ethanol and some unique high toned aroma compounds. The interior of the berry is sterile but after a while the grape skin is compromised by the ethanol of the must or it is physically damaged in the process of punching down and the contents of the berry are released into the fermentation where the traditional microbes do their thing. Despite my training in controlled experimental design, I had to go all or nothin here, and there is no non-hand-destemmed-with-scissors control to compare to in 2016 or 2017.

It’s a cool story and I like that Maggie Harrison from Antica Terra does this for one of her Lilian Syrahs and Jean-Francois Ganevat of the Jura, France supposedly does this for 100% of his J’en veux cuvee … but at the end of the day it is insane too much work. For what it’s worth, I moved away from this technique with the 2018 red wine - it was too hectic when the 18 Syrah was ready to pick and I didn’t have the bandwidth to spend all day long roping my dad and winemaking amigos into this ridiculous endeavor. Don’t worry I still kept it cuckoo in 2018, just in different ways. Stay tuned….

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Dad, Linn and Joel getting hand cramps

Dad, Linn and Joel getting hand cramps

That’s me, Lindsey, Joel and Kevin getting repetitive stress injuries

That’s me, Lindsey, Joel and Kevin getting repetitive stress injuries

No dads or winemakers were injured in this nutjob endeavor

No dads or winemakers were injured in this nutjob endeavor

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“Folding” the hand destemmed syrah into the hot mess of a machine destemmed grenache fermentation. Reminds me of that Schitt’s Creek episode “Fold in the cheese, David!”

“Folding” the hand destemmed syrah into the hot mess of a machine destemmed grenache fermentation. Reminds me of that Schitt’s Creek episode “Fold in the cheese, David!”

A visit to Frog Hollow Farm

At Jon Rowley’s memorial in January of 2018 I had the pleasure to meet the one the only Farmer Al of Frog Hollow. You guys might know his world famous peaches from Met Market’s Peach-O-Rama every summer (the daily average and highest Brix readings are part of the grocery store signs) or from their presence at the Ferry Building Farmers Market in SF. I’ve admired his stone fruit for a long time (best smoothie I ever had was blendered Frog Hollow yellow nectarine, Frog Hollow almond milk and ice) and I’m originally from the other side of Mt. Diablo from his farm. This summer when I was back home in Alamo for my mom’s birthday party I reached out to Farmer Al to take him up on his offer of a trade of my wine for a box of stone fruit.

Boy, did I score - not only were the yellow and white peaches and nectarines totally delicious and dead ripe and perfect for mom’s birthday dessert with vanilla Strauss ice cream but I discovered that I love pluots, specifically the plum apricot hybrid called Flavor King.

Farmer Al taught us a lot about both the heirloom varieties that he cultivates in Brentwood as well as new fangled hybrids made by Floyd Zaigler at Zaigler Genetics in Modesto. Apparently there are “sweetness tours” offered at Zaigler’s farm - I would love to visit next time I’m in that part of California. The Flavor King is more plum than apricot and is a result of a complicated cross between Santa Rosa Plum and apriums (apricot-plum hybrids). The season is late July - beginning of August typically - have a taste.

Farmer Al drivin us around

Farmer Al drivin us around

Mom and Farmer Al talkin O’Henry vs Zee Lady peaches

Mom and Farmer Al talkin O’Henry vs Zee Lady peaches

New and Old - Farmer Al with the O.G. Santa Rosa Plum and the new Zaigler Genetics hybrid Dapple Dandy Pluot

New and Old - Farmer Al with the O.G. Santa Rosa Plum and the new Zaigler Genetics hybrid Dapple Dandy Pluot

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Sorting by size

Sorting by size

Dad with Farmer Al and a Dapple Dandy pluot

Dad with Farmer Al and a Dapple Dandy pluot

Flavor Kings Aptly Named

Flavor Kings Aptly Named