New winery features grape stomping – the old fashioned way
Washington’s newest winery opened last weekend in Blaine, in a former aircraft hangar on Boblett Street just east of the Blaine airport. Vintners Tracey DeGraff and Tom Davis opened the doors for the first time last week to guests who came from as far as Portland, Oregon, for a taste of their new wine called Deluge.
“For the winery we picked the name Lake Missoula after some searching. It was a prehistoric glacial lake in Idaho and Montana that would periodically drain, covering much of what is now the wine-growing areas east of the Cascades with huge floods,” said Davis, formerly the brewmaster at Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay Brewing Company.
Their product is a Bordeaux, which as Davis explained is always a blend. In this case they’ve blended red cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc into a red wine that’s got a hearty taste to it, somewhat astringent with a strong but pleasant after taste, or follow.
Like the town it comes from (Blaine), it’s not subtle, but given the strong flavors in the fish or steak entrees one is likely to serve with such a wine it will fit in quite nicely.
The two still think of themselves as amateurs in the wine business and both have retained their day jobs in Vancouver for the present, but their effort is a serious one.
They’ve been at it in Blaine since 2002 when they put up their first six 225 liter barrels, or 150 cases. In 2003 they put up another six barrels. Then, in 2004 they put up nine barrels, and last year they put up 10, 300 liter barrels of their 2005 Deluge.
When asked if he bottled the product in Blaine, Davis laughed and produced a small bottle corking device from a cupboard, saying, “Yep, we do that right here!” He said that using an imitation cork material lets the bottles be safe when stored upright. “We’re always fighting oxygen,” he said, “but with these corks we get a good tight seal and don’t have to worry.”
The wine-making process, the part that happens here in town, begins with the delivery of several tons of hand-picked grapes from the Prosser area.
Since the color of the wine comes from the skin of the grapes – without them “red” wine is clear – the process involves a lot of hands-on work to get the taste and color they want. Actually, feet-on would be more appropriate as the grapes are stomped the old-fashioned way, by wading around barefoot in a vat full of grape clusters.
“It may not look appetizing,” Davis said, “but the alternative is a mechanical crusher that basically just pinches the grapes once or twice.
way we get a taste and color that is very old world,
reminiscent of the wines produced by small family wineries
back into the middle ages.” He added that they’re
able to get enough product out of the grapes
that they actually remove some of the liquid grape juice
for greater concentration. “Wine made with more mechanical
systems is faster but you often have to add water, which
is not good,” Davis said.
Everything from the kind of soil and the weather in the vineyard, the care with which the grapes are handled and the fermentation and storage process contribute to the final product, and Davis and DeGraff work hard to produce their own unique taste and color.
The process of extracting the juice leaves behind the stems and skins and so on that make a by-product called must, which some people use for compost.
Once the stomping is accomplished, cultured yeast is put into the mix. It eats the natural sugars in the grapes in about three weeks, producing alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat: C6 H12 O6 g 2 CH3CH 2OH + 2 CO2. After a final pressing the clarified liquid is stored in oak barrels for at least two years before being tapped.
Lake Missoula Winery is open Saturdays from noon until 6 p.m. and is located at 1625 Boblett Street, on the east side of the airport. Their phone is 778/881-6718. For more information, go to www.lakemisoulawine.com.