Monday, October 4, 2010

A Visit To Freitas Vineyard and Winery

The view from Ray Freitas' patio, across some of her vines to the winery below

  The harvest is finished, the grapes are in the vats and Ray Freitas is on her way to completing another batch of her award winning estate wines. Ray invited my son and me to visit the winery and vineyard yesterday. We spent about two fascinating hours and could have spent many more as Ray and her son walked us through the entire process of making wine, from harvest, thru crush, vinting, pressing, barrel aging, bottling and storage.
  Walking into the winery the first thing that hit me was the incredible yeasty smell. I've been to breweries many times. When you enter a brewery, the smell is very much like walking into a bakery. Immediately comforting, warm. A winery is different. First off, it's cold in there, or at least cool. Secondly, the yeast is much more intense and fermenting fruit smells decidedly more intense, sharper in the nose, than fermenting grain.
  We spent quite a long time watching Ray and her son test the brix level and Ph of her two vats of fermenting Cab. It's almost ready for pressing and barrel storage. We got to help with the "punch down". The CO2 produced by the fermentation process causes the berries to rise to the surface of the juice and form a cap, which if not broken up and punched down every 4 hours will effectively seal the top of the must and slow down the fermentation process. I got to sample the raw must, swish and spit only of course. A taste of wine in the making. Definitely wine, but not quite. Like looking at an ultrasound of a child in the womb. My son remarked "this vat is like an ecosystem, a living thing". Very true. I was able to taste her Malvasia Bianca, which is still in stainless steel and not ready yet. Her last Malvasia Bianca was voted Best AZ White at a prestigious judging in Phoenix in 2009, and if my scortched palate is any guide, this one's going to be a winner too. The essence of tropical flowers hits your nose right up front. Watch for this wine. I actually got to DRINK a whole glass of the new Ray's Red, and it's going to be better than the current one I think. It's still in the steel, but is ready to be bottled.
  My son, ever the chemist and artist, asked Ray "how can a person learn about this? How could someone apprentice at this?" Uh-oh, I knew he'd find it fascinating. A budding winemaker? Who knows?
  We're hoping to go back after frost and the vines go to sleep and learn something about the viticultural end of things. Pruning and caring for the vines themselves in anticipation of bud-break in the spring. I'm thinking a viticulturist looks forward to bud-break in much the same way we look forward to kidding season, filled with hope, anxiety and anticipation.
  All in all it was a great afternoon and Ray and her son couldn't have been more gracious to a couple of rubes like us. We're looking forward to lots more visits. Here's a quick slideshow of a few pics we took.