Always Drink Responsibly

25 February 2013

From the Winemaker's Studio: Late Harvest Chenin Blanc by Hugh Remash, Eagle Harbor Wine Company, Bainbridge Island

I am very interested and excited about a wine we have fermenting currently.  Yes, we do have a wine fermenting this late in the year.  I have long wanted to make a Late Harvest Chenin Blanc.  I am a fan of dry wine and not a fan of sweet wine.  However, I do like a moelleux, French for a sweet wine made from Chenin Blanc.  (Yes, I suspect, likely you are not interested in a sweet wine. But hear me out.)
There are two appellations for moelleux in the Loire: Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux.  These two areas have old Chenin Blanc vines.  The wines from those appellations are difficult to get so not many people in the U.S. have tasted them. It is also easy to dismiss them because they are expensive. But they are wonderfully balanced with sweet and tart. Try one of them if you have a chance.
But now to Washington:  there are some very old vines of Chenin Blanc in the Horse Heaven Hills and Red Mountain AVA’s. Grapes from these old vines, if tended properly, can have stunning sweetness that isn’t cloying and a thrilling ripeness that very few varietals attain.  Combine that sweetness and ripeness with delicately balanced acids and the result can be an amazingly seductive wine.
I have acquired some old vine grapes of Chenin Blanc and have a barrel of them fermenting at this very moment.  You would have been amazed at the attractive sweetness of the juice; and you would have been even more amazed at the sweetness of the juice once it was balanced with acids---before I inoculated the juice with yeast. 
It will be some months before fermentation is complete since the must is fermenting at very cool temperatures. I have to keep an eye on it to make sure the yeasts are well fed and add yeast more resistant to alcohol to finish it.  But we should have something to try by August.  And, if all goes well, we should have a wine that will age and improve for 10 years easily.
Wish me luck.

hugh remash
eagle harbor wine co.
1818 Eagle Harbor Ln. NE
Bainbridge Island WA 98110