Welcome to First Crush Winery
Greetings First Crushers…
This is the time of the year I begin to plan for the exciting and demanding wine making season that lies just weeks ahead. Hard to believe, but this marks the seventh formal vintage season of our winery. Before that, there were many of you making wine with me at my home on the Cape. Those of you that were with me then were the trailblazers of our unique Coop concept. First Crush Winery would not exist today without the initial encouragement and support of so many. Oh, I almost forgot,… and the great wines we made together…and still do!
So, we are a bit less than a month away from harvest. Last year, the late season heat in California created an early harvest, and let’s not forget, devastating fires in northern California. Difficult to predict at this point, but form past experiences, I will make plans to expect grapes a few days past mid-September. As I get updates from Ron Lanza and his family, our growers in Suisun Valley, I will pass the information on to you. Expect my next update in early September, and expect more frequent updates as we approach the crush and press events that lie ahead in September through mid-October.
As we did last season, and because we now receive two grape shipments, there will be a an initial crush day, a press day, a second crush day and two final press days. Lots of opportunity for Coop enthusiasts to get their hands purple.
Our Pre-Harvest Social…
Saturday, September 8th, 4-6pm. Don’t miss all those apps, all that music, all that wine, and my great jokes! Socials are for Coop members and their guests. The Harvest Social is especially exciting since it is the pep rally for our wine making season just days away.
For all of our new Coop members…couples attending a First Crush socials are asked to bring an appetizer to share with all, and to coin a phrase, singles, can mooch. Keep in mind that it is difficult during a social to have members pick up their reserved wine. Please come earlier in the day, or on another day, if possible.
2017 Coop Wine Reserve Pickup and 2018 Signup…
The 2017 Coop season ends August 31st and it’s now time to pick up your 2017 Coop Reserve. Not to worry if you cannot get here anytime soon, I will keep your wines safe and sound until you get here. All of our fine wines are available and in plentiful supply.
We have begun signups for our 2018 Coop reserve season.
Thank you to all that have already done so to date. Early-bird signups will receive an extra bonus gift of two bottles of our zinfandel blend as a thank you gift from Frank and Diane. Since our expensive grape shipments arrive in September, having the support from early-bird signup for the next season assists us greatly to keep our unique Coop concept alive. Despite rising grape costs, and everything else, we will not be raising wine pricing in 2018.
Those Dreaded Sulfites in Wine…
In the section below, you can read an article I wrote on this very misunderstood topic. Enjoy!
Will I live to see 90?
I recently had to choose a new primary care doctor.
After two visits and exhaustive lab tests, she said I was doing fairly well for my age. (I am seventy).
A little concerned about that comment, I couldn’t resist asking her, ‘Do you think I’ll live to be 90?’
She asked, ‘Do you smoke tobacco, or drink beer, wine or hard liquor?’
‘Oh no,’ I replied. ‘I’m not doing drugs, either!’
Then she asked, ‘Do you eat rib-eye steaks and barbecued ribs?’
‘I said, ‘Not much… My former doctor said that all red meat is very unhealthy!’
‘Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, like playing golf, boating, sailing, hiking, or bicycling?’
‘No, I don’t,’ I said.
She asked, ‘Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or have a lot of sex?’
‘No,’ I said………
She looked at me and said,
‘Then why do you even give a flying crap?’…
I cleaned it up a bit for the benefit of our new members. Have to break them in slowly!
Sulfites and Wine
BY: Frank Puzio
To a consumer, the word sulfite in regard to wine generally has a negative connotation. We have become accustomed to warning labels on many consumable products, and for wine, it is a government mandate to alert the consumer that the wine product contains, what many believe, an undesirable additive called sulfites. Falsely or otherwise, sulfites are blamed by many for wine headaches, and varied ill-effects experienced subsequent to wine consumption. It is often expressed from people traveling to countries like Italy and France…
“My wife and I were in Europe and we had much more wine than we typically consume in the States and we never experienced a headache or undesirable after-effects. I’m sure it’s because they don’t put sulfites in their wine like they do here.”
I have personally had the opportunity to discuss this topic with numerous European winemakers about this claim, and they all reveal, “But of course we use sulfites in our wines. The wines must be protected.” So what’s the truth? The European winemakers do admit that their wines sold in their local European markets generally contain less sulfites than their exported products. In truth, it would be extremely rare to find a wine produced and bottled without sulfites. Only very recently there is there a trend to use less. As an aside, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) can be used to protect wine, but it is not a likely to keep the wine fresh for long periods of time if used alone. And yes, even organic wines generally contain some, but lesser amounts, of protective sulfites.
You should be aware that sulfites are a naturally occurring compound that nature uses to prevent microbial growth. They are found on grapes, onions, garlic, and on a host of other growing plants. So in reality, no wine can ever be “sulfite free,” because of this natural occurrence within the grape itself. All packaged dried fruits, such as apricots, cranberries, raisins, etc., have 10-15x more sulfite content than that contained in the government regulated amounts allowed in red wine. Most often the labeling on dried fruits has no warning printed that they contain sulfites. If one does suspect sulfite sensitivities some suggest that an easy way to see if they are a problem for you is to eat a food high in sulfites, say dried apricots, and if a reaction is experienced you can generally confirm a negative reaction to sulfites in this manner. In my research for this topic, it was stated that people truly allergic to sulfites may also be asthmatic or people with varied levels of respiratory concerns.
More often than not, old-school home winemakers did not utilize sulfites. As a result, their wines did not last and lacked optimum flavor. The natural amount of sulfite contained in the grape is not at all sufficient to protect the wine during the winemaking process or to insure the long-term quality of the product for commercial consumption.
For modern winemakers, sulfur dioxide (SO2), a molecular compound, is added to their product to in order to keep it stable. Sulfur dioxide is known by a variety of terms to winemakers, such as SO2, metabisulfite, or simply sulfite. Sulfur dioxide is usually measured in parts per million, or ppm. This unit simply quantifies how many parts of sulfur dioxide there are per million parts of wine. The benefits of SO2 as a preservative were recognized as early on as the time of the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians. It has since become one of the safest and most widely used preservatives not only in the wine industry, but throughout the entire food and beverage industry. There are several very significant and specific benefits to adding sulfur dioxide to wine. These include:
*Helping to reduce undesirable bacteria, molds, and yeasts
*Acting as an antioxidant, slowing down the oxidation process
*Maintaining wine’s desirable characteristics such as taste, fruit flavoring, and aroma
The crushed grape must be protected to discourage or suppress unwanted wild natural yeasts in the fruit and also to protect it from harmful bacteria and mold spores. At specific subsequent stages in the wine making process carefully calculated amounts of sulfite are added for the same reasons. Anytime wine is exposed the oxygen subsequent to the initial process of fermentation, the risk of flavor and color damaging effects escalate due to harmful oxidation. In summary, the addition of sulfites during winemaking stages is a delicate balance to control spoilage and unavoidable exposure to oxygen. Even during barrel aging, and to a lesser extent in a corked bottle, oxidation from oxygen is ongoing. Just the right amount of free-sulfite ions help insure a fresh and enjoyable product.
The antioxidant and anti-microbial properties of SO2 that has gained it an imperative role in winemaking by again preventing the unwanted organisms that would turn wine into vinegar in a matter of months, but also there is secondary benefit that allows the wine to better develop its potential in regard to complex flavors we all find enjoyable in fine wine. Using an example we all have experienced, if you take a bite out of an apple, and leave it sit for a time, we would notice a browning discoloration to the fruit rather quickly, and in addition, if we took a subsequent bite into the same area of the apple it would not be as flavorful. Sulfites will protect our grapes from this same fate and help guarantee a long-lasting flavorful product.
I am pleased to report that a small production winery such as our First Crush Winery has an advantage to control the levels of sulfites introduced during all of the winemaking stages. First Crush wines contain approximately 40% less sulfite additions than typical commercial wines.
There are terms called “total SO2” and “free SO2.” Total SO2 is defined as the total amount per volume added from the beginning crush to bottling, and free SO2 is the amount remaining in the wine at any given time after the chemistry of the whole process dissipates some of the total. Obviously the only meaningful variable for the consumer is the amount of free SO2 in the wine at bottling.
Going back to the topic of allergies and headaches from wine consumption, sulfite allergies are a problem for a few wine drinkers, just like some people are allergic to peanuts. FDA studies note that as many as 1 in every 100 people may have some sort of sulfite sensitivity. I often hear, “Red wine gives me a headache, so I can only drink white wines.” Those folks may find it surprising that white wines generally have higher levels of sulfites than red wines. The literature indicates that when complaints of headaches are experienced after red wine consumption it is now thought that this is not technically an allergic reaction but rather what is being described as “the red wine headache syndrome.” In most cases, these headaches are not thought to be related to the sulfite content in the wine but rather due to other natural substances contained within red wine such as histamines, tyramine, and phenolic flavonoids found in the skins of the red grape. Since red wines are fermented on the skins, more of these compounds remain in the final red wine product. Aside from the discomfort of the headache, these symptoms do not appear to be a risk for progression to a more serious reaction.
Is there a remedy? Some studies have suggested that these headaches can be avoided, or minimized, by taking aspirin or ibuprofen prior to drinking wine. As an aside, do not take acetaminophen (Tylenol) while drinking alcohol since it is toxic to the liver. It must be understood that true adverse reactions to sulfite occur quickly, within the first 30 minutes, and headaches and ill-effects long after the fact, or the next day, are to be considered symptoms of excess consumption involving dehydration. Enough said. I’m getting a headache!