Christmas in September...
Now that Allegro is producing wine out of two facilities, and because our production is still increasing every year, Carl has gotten the chance to purchase new and bigger equipment. Yesterday we went over to the Stewartstown location so that he could check out installation of the new bottling line and check sugar levels on grapes.
A month ago I wrote a short blog post about this year's "Great Tank Swap," during which Carl is moving fermentation tanks for red wines to The Brogue and fermentation tanks for white wines to Stewartstown. That work continues. At Stewartstown I got to see these four huge tanks for white wines, as well as some of the smaller tanks destined for their future homecoming.
In the soon-to-be-bottling area of the winery, two impressive new purchases were gleaming. The first is a cross-flow filtration system, quite an advanced technology compared to the plate and frame filters he's used for years. The cross-flow system has only been used by wineries for about three decades. In one filtration, the wine becomes clarified and stabilized, without having to pass through (and possibly clog up) multiple filler sheets.
This new system will filter the wines much more quickly and easily, and was a necessary companion purchase to the real star: the new (to us--it's a 2001 model) 16-spout Gai bottling line.
The bottling line is a machine that accepts empty bottles in on the left, fills them, corks them, and applies and melts the capsules on. The wine bottles coming off the right side are ready to be put in cases. Allegro's machine at The Brogue is an 8-spout line, capable of bottling 15 bottles per minute. During the biggest bottling day ever at The Brogue, they bottled 440 cases of wine. With this new machine, Allegro's winery crew at Stewartstown should be able to bottle 50 bottles per minute, and as many as 800 cases on a regular bottling day.
I watched as Dwayne and Carl plugged in the bottling line and worked out some of its kinks in its new home.
During the bottling line's first few minutes coming to life, there was an accompanying smell that reminded me of our family's O-gauge trains, which we bring out to run at Christmas-time. I have to say that there was sort of an air of Christmas around these new machines. These guys have made do with the equipment that we have (thanks in large part to Dwayne's wide-ranging mechanical expertise), but I know that it's exciting for them to get a version of "Bigger. Better. Faster. More."
Cheers to expansion, new equipment, and the excitement of Christmas come early this year!
Tomorrow's the day--the release date for Allegro's first estate-grown (Cadenza) Sauvignon Blanc: the 2019 Cadenza Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc.
I don't have much influence on the decision-making which goes into the winegrowing and winemaking at Allegro, but I do feel quite pleased with myself for having inspired Carl to try his hand at growing this wine.
Sauvignon Blanc has long been a favorite white wine of mine, even though there can be so much of a wide range of styles and flavor profiles among Sauvignon Blancs that purchasing one blind can feel like some weird kind of roulette--it may taste crisp and delicious; it may smell like cat pee. Despite the many disappointing wines I've tasted, my affinity for the lighter style has kept me trying.
Carl planted Sauvignon Blanc here in the vineyards in The Brogue in 2016, so this 2019 was the first year that the vines produced enough fruit for a wine vintage. It wasn't the first Sauvignon Blanc vines growing here, however--there were enough rogue Sauvignon Blanc vines among the 1973 and/or 1980 plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon that Carl knew the variety would grow well here. ("Proof of concept," he notes.) He likes focusing on Bordeaux vinifera varieties.
Allegro has also previously produced Sauvignon Blanc wines from fruit grown by Kris Kane at 21 Brix Winery. But the 2019 vintage is our first Cadenza (estate-grown) wine.
This is a richer style of Sauvignon Blanc. Carl blended the fruit with some Chardonnay for balance and body and then fermented and aged the wine in neutral French oak barrels. (He explains this process in his winemaker notes.)
The resulting wine is a nice marriage between Sauvignon Blanc's brightness and "zip" and the Cadenza line's tendency toward more complex and ageable wines.
Tonight, on the eve of the wine's release, we enjoyed it with a creamy lemon pasta which worked really well as a companion. The wine's own lemon characteristics were front and center and the two together made for a really nice late summer pairing.
So--happy release day to a wonderful new Cadenza wine!
Harvest Has Begun!
This week it's officially upon us: the start of the harvest of our 2020 vintage. This is Allegro's 40th commercial vintage and Carl's 20th at Allegro. While it hasn't been a stellar year in the vineyards (cold damage, lower-than-usual yields), there is still tons of promise and anticipation for the grapes coming in and those still on the vines.
This week included harvest of the sweet white native varietal Niagara from our vineyards at Stewartstown (the familiar grape in our Suite wine) and harvest of the Arandell grapes from our small Nouveau vineyard block here in The Brogue. (Here's a link to Paul Vigna's recent Penn Live article about this new grape variety at Allegro.)
This afternoon, the action was on the crush pad here behind the winery in The Brogue, where Carl and Dave were working to unload Niagara fruit brought over in the truck from Stewartstown and to run it through the crusher/destemmer and the press. (The distinctive scent of this grape nectar is a definite presence in the air.)
Harvest season is definitely a "marathon, not a sprint" situation, and it takes an enormous amount of effort to do the work and to meet all of the inevitable challenges--today it was an overheating forklift. But Carl has become quite seasoned in dealing with it all. I've heard him express several times over the years the sentiment that winegrowers and winemakers have a finite number of vintages in their lives, a finite number of opportunities to make great wine. We'll keep you posted about the vintage as harvest progresses, and will look forward to reporting about the estate-grown grapes which will (in the best growing seasons) become our flagship Cadenza wines.
Cheers to the 2020 harvest!