View Full Version : Back from wineries - with three things of interest

Commander Toasty
06-27-2005, 11:24 AM
Well I survived, although my wallet took something of a beating and my RVis full of wine cases.

I left with two issues to get educated on, and returned with info on three! Not a bad weekend. First - the life cycle of oak barrels.

This was consistent at all the wineries where I was talking with someone of knowledge, rather than a counter clerk I might not trust with accurate info. The question is how long does an oak barrel give off wood. Oskarr has some barrels that have been around a long time, and still in use. But I get almost new barrels from the wineries because they've served their purpose. Turns out that whether used for initial oak or longer storage, the barrel is rated at two years. After two years they consider the barrel to be 'neutral' or in other words no longer gives any wood to the wine. At that time depending on the winery and how they are set up for storage, they will either get rid of the barrels, or they use them for long term aging - but not to get any wood. They consider that even if used for long term storage there will be no wood contribution. We didn't get into reconditioning since that isn't something they would consider. So it's possible that if Oskarr is getting benefit from his barrels that it is simply the aging process itself, rather than taking on oak. Don't know, but that's the lowdown from Napa.

Second topic was esters, and aroma. This one was more esoteric and downright wishy-washy, but one thing was consistent - esters are about nose. They do create a fragrance. Where things got muddy is in how you create and control them, what nose you can manipulate and all that. Either I didn't follow, or they weren't making sense. But as far as there being a definate contribution of odor due to esters they all agreed.

Enough of that - here is the interesting stuff!

I'm slurping some great wines at this one spot and got into a chat with a couple visiting from Tennesee. He's a third generation moonshiner! You can bet we got to talking. His wife kept remarking how smooth and easy to drink his shine is. I told him about making wines and he laughed. Every other thing he heard, he'd just say, "needs more sugar".

He triple distills his hootch. Does this to bump up the alcohol, to purify the drink, and to filter out the solids (actually leave them behind in the distilling process). But start to finish, with three passes and including fermentation, his stuff is ready to drink in one week! And he swears it's smooth sipping shine.

He has a still in the hills, just like his father and his father before him. I asked about the law and he says there is a standard that has been observed forever. You give the local sherrif some of your shine. If it's good he leaves you alone. If it isn't any good he shuts you down. Their own quality control!

06-27-2005, 05:38 PM
Pretty much the same information I got when I spoke with the folks from Rosenblum and Cosentino. After a couple of years they're best for nuetral storage which is how we age our wine. We like the barrels because the volume is larger than the five gallon carboys, and there are less of them to mutz around with.



06-27-2005, 05:44 PM
Here that? Does anybody else hear the beginning to Dualing Banjo's? ???

Seriously though, that is some cool stuff!

Commander Toasty
06-27-2005, 08:38 PM
Oskarr you spoke with Kent? He's a heck of a nice guy. When he first started making wine he was a full time veteranarian, with his practice in Alameda CA. My father and I helped with the first few crushes which were quite small. He now makes one of the best Zinfandels you can drink, and has enormous production volume compared to what he started with.

06-27-2005, 09:07 PM
Yup, Kent is a great guy, and a superb zinfandel maker. Their budget for cooperage last year was over 800K and this year they plan on going just north of the million mark.