Quiet but Busy Times
Things are really humming at 'The Shed' during the winter.
Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc
Paris:- Saturday, 25. January 2003:- This week Allan has surprised me by sending in an account about what he's doing at the winery. I was fairly certain he was shovelling snow or planning another trip to Nevada, to while away the winter months in some form of sunshine.
Instead, I get to learn more about wine too, only a couple of days before you read this. At first he writes that January is 'quiet' but then everything at the winery becomes 'brisk' with activity.
Instead of over-exposing my ignorance, here's Allan to tell you in his own words what's happening.
About Café Metropoleô Blanc de Blanc
Winter At 'The Shed'
Putting Wine Together
by Allan Pangborn
Kennewick:- January is always the quiet after the storm in the wine business. Everyone gears up in September for the holiday season and works to ship as many cases as possible before the end of the year. New Years resolutions kick in and consumers take a break from extra calories and back off a bit on alcohol consumption. A 'floor tax' in some states is assessed at the end of January so retailers keep their inventory low for the month. Winter weather can slow economic activity. All these factors make it the least active month for wine shipments.Luckily for Allan, there is no 'bottle tax' in Washington State.
But work in the cellar continues at a brisk pace. The grapes harvested in the Fall are now finished fermenting and some are being racked and filtered or centrifuged off the fermentation lees.
Red wines are being cleaned up to go into barrels for a year or two. The winemakers making Burgundian style white wines are stirring the Chardonnay they fermented in 60 gallon oak barrels daily. These wines will be left in contact with the fermentation lees - dead yeast cells and other sediment - for up to a year to make the big, oak flavored wines that are now in fashion.
White wines that will be bottled quickly are being stabilized by mixing with bentonite. Bentonite removes some of the protein in wine and settles to the bottom of the tank. Protein will form a haze if the wine is warmed so this is called 'heat stabilization.' The wine above the bentonite sediment is pumped off or 'racked.' There are a number of other materials that may be added now to correct any deficiencies in the wine. Generally, winemakers add as little as possible to wine. Filtering and pumping the wine from tank to tank is also kept at a minimum. The skill of the winemaker is to make the best possible product with the least amount of processing.
The wine is cooled to just above freezing to remove excess tartrate in a process called, you guessed it, 'cold stabilization.' Tartaric acid is the main acid in grapes. Some of it is present in the wine in the form of potassium tartrate. This material becomes insoluble and forms crystals when the wine is cooled. By cooling white wine and filtering it in the winery, the wine will not form crystals when the consumer puts the bottle in the refrigerator for a week or two. This is less of a problem in red wines as most tartrates precipitate out during the 12 to 18 months in the barrel. Also red wines are not usually chilled before serving.
During WWII the tartaric acid from wine was in great demand as an ingredient in some explosives. In the early '70s I worked at the Italian Swiss Colony winery in Asti, California, and they had an old metal building still called the Tartrate Plant where the tartrates were purified before shipping during the 1940s.
It was then being used as a place for a crew of women to wrap string around the bottom half of bottles for their 'Tipo Chianti' brand wine. Some Chianti wines came in straw wrapped bottles and the Asti winery was started by Italian immigrants.One of Allan's collection bottles of 'Tipo Chianti' from the Italian Swiss Colony winery.
I have a couple of bottles left in my cellar. The one pictured was bottled in 1974. It was made in a 'solera' style somewhat like Spanish Sherry. About a quarter of the wine was removed for bottling from each 115 gallon barrel and then the barrels were topped up with wine from the current vintage. No sulfur dioxide was added so it had a high volatile acidity, the same as the old style Italian Chianti. The building is long gone along with Tipo. Beringer-Blass now owns the property.
At the Moonlight shed, we had two days with temperatures in the '60s so I moved some stuff out that had been accumulating during the rainy season. Got the bottles for the next blend stacked in one place.
Visits to Moonlight
If you wish to visit 'The Shed,' please contact me prior to your visit. The laws controlling alcohol, tobacco and firearms probably account for 3/4ths of all the laws ever written in the USA. The fact that I must be notified before your visit is one of them!
Ordering and Shipping
Cafe Metropoleô Sparkling Wine is available now to the residents of the following States -
California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.
There are two packages available:
Two 750 ml bottles for $52.00
Six 750 ml bottles for $136.00
The price includes packaging, handling and shipping costs. Shipment will be by UPS '3-day Select' and an adult signature is required for delivery.
Overnight or two-day shipment is an option. The shipping charge will be slightly more, so email your order to email@example.com and include your ZIP Code so I can tell you the actual cost.
Terms: Payment by check or money order, to 'Cafe Metropole' is acceptable. It should be mailed to :
Cafe Metropole, 4704 West 12th Avenue, Kennewick, WA 99338
As the winery is just beginning operations, we do not yet have the means to process credit cards. We will be adding this service in the near future. Until then, we will appreciate your use of a check or money order.
Allan Pangborn, Winemaker
What This Is About
Past 'news' and lore about Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc and the Moonlight Sparkling Wine Cellar can be found in recent issues of Metropole Paris.
The Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc went on sale last 1. November. Being able to order and pay for the wine online is coming soon. We are also hoping that New York State residents will soon be able to order the wine and have it shipped direct from the Moonlight Sparkling Wine Cellar in Washington State.
Once New York State makes its decision - if it is positive - it is believed that many other states that restrict shipping from out-of-state wineries, will cease their illogical 'import' bans.
Photos © Allan Pangborn
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