Just because the grapes have all been picked, does not mean the winemaking work has gone on holiday. Quite the contrary, now the real artistry begins.
From the day the grapes get picked off the vine, they are given the utmost attention to detail. All of the grapes are gently destemmed and hand-sorted at Wölffer. At the peak of fermentation, the cellar team pumps over the juice from the bottom of the several-thousand liter tanks, back over the skin-cap at the top every 8 hours, creating a harmonious balance in the intensity of the flavor and freshness of the fruit. Once the wines are dry (meaning all of their sugars have been converted to alcohol), the question becomes when to separate the skins from the juice (“pressing off the skins”).
“The biggest job now is tasting all of the wines still macerating on their skins,” says Roman. He tastes every day (sometimes multiple times a day), as, “it’s amazing how much the flavors change every day,” Roman add as he sips and spits a cabernet franc he is planning on pressing off the skins in the next 24-hours. Why all this obsession about skin contact and timing? The skins provide layers, structure and texture. By macerating on the skin, the juices absorb all of the intensity of the berries, getting to the taste of our terroir, our uniquely elegant Long Island flavor.
This past Wednesday, Roman and his team were pressing off merlot after 24 days on the skin. The concentration of flavor, vibrancy of the fruit and lush mouth-feel indicate perfect timing on the skins from this exquisite terroir. Once these wines enter barrels and begin their aging in the cellar for the next several months to years, we will not only see, but most importantly taste, that great things come to those who wait.