Rudy zuidema - winemaker and flash detente provider
Hey folks! Welcome back to the podcast. I’m your host, Jim Duane. This is Inside Winemaking. Before we get into today’s episode, I just want to let everyone know, that there are a couple more spots left for Deep Winemaking for August. I decided to have two sessions, because there was enough interest. So August 2nd through the 4th is filled up. But there’s still some spots on the 3-day immersion trip on the 9th through the 11th. So if you’re interested in that, please hit me up by email or you can find more on the website, at https://www.insidewinemaking.com/deep-winemaking/ - it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to see a lot of vineyards and wineries and really get deep into winemaking.
OK. So for today’s episode I got to sit down with a very cool winemaker named Rudy Zuidema. Rudy is now a consulting winemaker and we got to sit down and talk at one of the spots where he has a lot of his clients; which is Shadybrook Estate in Coombsville (https://www.shadybrookestate.com/). Rudy is known for a lot of his organic and biodynamic practices. He does a lot of consulting, both, not just as a winemaker, but also a vineyard manager and viticulturist. So we get into that a little bit of that in this episode. And then spend the second half talking about Rudy’s second project, which is flash detente. This is something that is fairly new to me, I had sort of peripherally known that it existed, but never really studied the technology. So I had a lot of questions. Rudy was the best person to learn from because he’s brought this service to the smaller scale. Previously it was only available to lots of 30 tons or greater. Rudy set this up at Kunde Family Winery in Sonoma (http://www.kunde.com/). It can process lots as small as 10 tons. So if you don’t know anything about flash detente, welcome to the rest of us. This episode will be a great primer for that. And here we go!
Jim: OK, so what’s this guy?
Rudy: So this is the only white wine that we make under the Shadybrook Estate brand. It’s soon to have a different name. But at the moment it is called the Platiné Blanc because it is not quite enough of anything to be the variety. But starting in 2016 it will be called a Sémillon.
Jim: Oh wow!
Rudy: This is only 71% Sémillon and 29% Sauvignon Blanc.
Rudy: For me, it was a take on a wine that I absolutely fell in love with a number of years ago, called the Ygrec. Which is the only still wine made from Château d'Yquem.
Jim: Right! OK. I’ve heard of this but never tasted it.
Rudy: Oh! It is mind boggling. I mean just the silky texture, the creaminess, the length and balance between acid and fruit flavors and complexity was just, just ridiculous. So when we… We have three vineyard sites: one of them has Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. At first we thought, ‘Of course we’ll make a Sauv. Blanc. And we brought a little bit of both wines in and it was the first estate Sémillon I’ve been able to work with. As I started working with it I said, ‘This should really be the highlight of our white wine. We’re a Bordeaux house here, for the most part, let’s make a real classic style Bordeaux; a lot of Sémillon.’ So we ferment the Sauvignon Blanc and the Sémillon separately. They are usually a couple weeks apart anyway; Sémillon usually takes a little longer. We whole cluster press them. Very, very cold ferment. 55-58 degrees (fahrenheit (12.7-14.4 celsius)), nice and slow and low. And then we go to barrels with both of them at around mid-fermentation: 15 Brix, 12 Brix, 10 Brix? And let it finish in barrel. Barrels that I have had since 2000.
Jim: OK. So those are cute.
Rudy: Ya, next to my coworker Michael, they are the ugliest things in the barrel, or in the barrel room.
Jim: And why do you not just go directly to barrel and ferment in barrel from the jump?
Rudy: I want the wine to start off slowly. I don’t have a cold room barrel ferment for a month so I want to get at least of two and a half weeks or so of cold fermentation and get it through the lag phase so there’s not going to be a huge increase in thermo-temperature fermentation on the back end. It’s just kind of trickling down after that. And when I’ve done things all in stainless, I typically turn the heat up a little bit anyway toward the end of fermentation, just to make sure it gets home. Usually doesn’t really come on. But I like a lot of lees in the barrels. The barrels, again, are very old. Some of them are 15 years old, some of them are 10, some are 8. I want a neutral vessel to barrel ferment and age the wine in. It’s in the barrels for 14 months, 15 months, sometimes 16. On lees the whole time. It’s a really fun program for me.
Jim: When will you blend?
Rudy: We’ll blend about a month and half before the end.
Jim: OK. So you have Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc separate for 14, 15 months?
Jim: Wow! Cool.
Rudy: We just started a program using some Puncheons to even change the wood and wine ratio up just a little bit also.
Jim: There’s certainly a “barrelness” to the wine; maybe not oak flavor like a creaminess and a weight. How much of that do you contribute to the Sémillon versus barrel? I asked because I don’t have a lot of experience with A) Sémillon and then B) Sémillon 14 months post fermentation.
Rudy: I think a lot of it is the lees stirring. We only make 200 cases of this so there’s 9 barrels that we walk passed all day long and we just stir them on the way to the bathroom, we stir them on the way to lunch; we stir them constantly. So a lot of suspension of the lees up in the wine and after the wine is autolyzed it’s giving off so much of that beautiful, creamy texture. So I think that’s a lot of it. And then certainly Sémillon is a little bit more viscous than Sauvignon Blanc. And when you taste those 14-month old barrel-aged wines, the Sémillon is much silkier than the Sauvignon Blanc is. So it’s little bit - it’s a lot of bit of both actually.
Jim: So when you come to the point, like you said going forward it’s going to be varietal Sémillon, you call it that or are kind of just keep it just like a fanciful name?
Rudy: It’s gonna have the fanciful name on it, but it will also be stated on there that it is a Sémillon.
Jim: And I just ask because marketing Sémillon may not be the easiest thing.
Rudy: Marketing a non-varietal wine is harder.
Jim: Ha! Ok. I believe that.
Rudy: And again, 200 cases in the whole lot. So it’s just kind of nerdy and geeky and the people who love it absolutely love it and we don’t look to appease too many people.
Jim: Right. That’s a beautiful wine. And you said ‘estate’, are those vines, all around the winery here?
Rudy: We have, again, the three ranches, and this is termed “Rapp Ranch” it’s 100% Cabernet here. Our Shadybrook Estate is just about a mile from here. That was the original holding for our owners, David and Alice Alkosser. At that ranch we have Cabernet Sauvignon, predominantly. Also, Cab. Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. So all of the five, sort of, primary noble varieties.
Jim: And that’s also in Coombsville?
Rudy: That’s also in Coombsville. And then the larger vineyard is in Pope Valley. And we’ve got a lot of Cabernet in there. Some Cab. Franc, soon to be Petit Verdot also, and then quite a bit of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. And from all of those ranches we use in-house, 20-25% of each of those ranches. The rest we all sell off. Eventually we’d love to use it all but that’s a lot.
Jim: Right. When was the first vintage for Shadybrook?
Rudy: 2010. So I met the Alkossers in 2009 when they purchased an auction block that I was part of. And it was a little home winemaking kit. So 500 pounds of fruit, a barrel, 22 cases of glass, corks to go with it, and somebody to hold their hand through the whole process. The owner of now Shadybrook, Alex Alkosser, purchased it and she came up to visit me, I was up on Howell Mountain at the time, which is where I worked with Philippe, and that’s how we met. And she said, ‘Hey we’d love for you to see my little property, we just bought this house, and it’s got a few vines on it, and maybe you’d want to use some of those vines for this auction lot too. You know, add them too this.’ And it didn’t sound that attractive at the time. But to appease this wonderful lady that I had just met, I went out and visited her property, and it is a glorious, 9 acres of rolling Coombsville planted with different varieties of Cabernet and I was ecstatic to try to work with some of that fruit.
Jim: OK. Before we get into the reds, I have a question about your past, because I know you spent some time at Ehlers Estate (https://www.ehlersestate.com/) in a previous career. A.) Is it true that you have a background in organics and biodynamics, and if so, what got you into that?
Rudy: So yes, I do. I am big fan of the practice. I started at Ehlers Estate and a new general manager came in who was from Quintessa. Quintessa at the time, was one of the larger, certified Demeter biodynamic... they had vineyard sites that were certified, not their entire ranch, but small little sections of it. But they created buffer zones and they thought it had fit for some of the blocks and not for some the others. And he said, ‘I’ll fund you if you want to do some research, find out about this. And we had a forty acre estate here. We’re never going to buy any other fruit. And if you want to try biodynamic or organic, 100% estate, I’m all for that.’ And we got the green light from ownership. So of course, why not? Like most people, you first hear about the tiny details that go into it.
Jim: The cowhorn.
Rudy: Yes. And it just seem ludicrous. The cowhorn actually makes sense. Some of the products we use make sense. But little things like stirring in one direction for a minute and the then other direction for another minute for an hour. I mean the guys helping me out in the vineyard are just going to stick a drill in the thing and stir the hell out of it. But no. It kind of became therapeutic, and it became…
Jim: So you actually broke it down to all those steps?
Rudy: We broke it down and just said, ‘Let’s do absolutely everything. If we kick a couple things to the curb later on, we’ll see.’ We ended up not doing that. And we ended up going, ‘It’s just as easy to do this as anything else; we’re fine.’ Slowly but surely the vineyard crew embraced it also. And they saw there was more consistency in fruit, that ripening was happening. For years there were spots in the vineyard that were a little bit weaker than others and all of a sudden, after four years of this, they’re going away. Everything looks fuller, and richer, and more alive. Certainly in the cellar, native fermentations were starting like clockwork. A lot of natural malolactic was starting. Very, very few, gosh almost a couple in four years, of sluggish fermentations. Everything was just happening a little bit easier and a little bit better. There was a lot more separation of flavors between certain clones that were planted right next to each other on similar soil profiles. There were just these things that were starting to show over time. And again, for not a whole lot of extra financial support and not a whole lot of extra time. It just seemed like a no-brainer to continue the process. So we gained Demeter certification at Ehlers Estate and for one reason or three, I was ready to move on from Ehlers. I took this practice and idea up to another small estate, called White Cottage Estate, on Howell Mountain and talked with the owners about my experiences and they were behind it wholeheartedly to get that certified as well.
Jim: And that takes a couple of years, right?
Rudy: It takes three years. Actually it took us four. Kind of one year just to sort of clean everything else out. Let a nice big heavy year of rain go by. Leach some things out of the soil. But we really started record keeping maybe after the first winter. I think that’s a good time to start. Wake up the vines with this newfound, sort of direction, this new colostrum, to start growing with, and off we go! White Cottage Ranch was, to begin with, not in as consistent shape as Ehlers was when I started there. Many different years of plantings. It’s a 20 year old ranch, some of the vines were original, some of them were on their 5th leaf. And lots of slopes, lots of different soil profiles, different aspects, very inconsistent; delightfully inconsistent ranch.
Jim: I’m particularly interested about this because you kind of just described Seavey. It’s not in Howell Mountain but it is just south of Howell Mountain. It’s hillside!
Rudy: It’s very similar. It’s hillside, it’s volcanic soils too.
Jim: So my question is, one of the things that I’m most interested in right at this point in time is, under vine weed management once you pull out herbicides.
Jim: Because we are doing that as much as possible but we’re still not off of that. But we have have yet to find good mechanical equipment or practices to really kind of not compete with the… not have the grasses and weeds compete with the vine.
Rudy: Right. One of the most effective, directly under the vine plantings was crimson clover (https://www.growveg.com/plants/us-and-canada/how-to-grow-crimson-clover/). It grows very fast and it stops growing very quickly. Not so much on valley floor were it’s richer but on a hillside it takes advantage of the spring rains, it grows a thick tuft of canopy underneath the vine and then it dies out and it really holds back any growth back of any other weeds underneath.
Jim: So is that just hand broadcast?
Rudy: Yep. Hand broadcasting.
Jim: Ok. Because you couldn’t get equipment to seed that like that?
Rudy: Nope. Hand broadcasting. And I think in the first year we even just hand some guys go through with rakes and just pull a rake underneath it and get it to germinate a little bit more consistently. But it was for 18 inches across, 9 inches on either side, to get a nice row of those clover growing underneath, let it go completely to seed, and yeah, we had some spring rains once and a while when we did have to go weedeat it a little bit, but for the most part it choked itself out when it ran out of water.
Jim: I’m definitely going to try that.
Rudy: It kept moisture in the soil. It kept sunlight away from other rouge seeds and did a great job keeping weeds out.
Rudy: And then in the vine rows, was our own just mowing mostly. Mow and grow, mow and grow, try and let that pull as much moisture out as possible. Dry or drought years; every other row. I don’t think we ever really cultivated every row. At worst it was every other row, when things were really dry. 2010, 2008, 2010. But similar findings in those hillside situations, were there very much different flavors coming from the different clones of Cabernets that we had, and different rootstocks that we had, different age of vines. It really just broadened the whole spectrum of flavors, with still having some common denominator that was from that particular microclimate. And the other, I think, benefit up on the hillsides, is that it’s not just a carpet of vineyards, next to another carpet of vineyards, and another carpet of vineyards. There’s so many areas where it’s just trees and creeks and, you know, non-vineyard acreage that is a great, comfortable situation to host all of the microorganisms and organisms in the area. We had water and compost going in some of the tree shaded areas all year long and all the bugs would go there all summer long, and stay away from the vines. And as soon as we would harvest, we’d shut them off, they would kind of come back out to the vineyard, eat some of the predatory mites and eggs that were out there too and we started working together. Really cool insectories and all kind of stuff.
Jim: Did you bring any of the practices into the cellar? You mentioned native fermentation, but was there anything else that was either a part of Demeter certification or helpful to you as a winemaker?
Rudy: No. We were always making wines with biodynamic fruit, not making biodynamic wines.
Rudy: For me it was more of taking care of the planet on a larger scale. A couple of the small little 10 pounds of this, 10 pounds of that, that I use in the cellar to help get through fermentation, didn’t seem like cutting those out were going to make such a huge impact that I didn’t need to stick my neck out that way. So we did more conventional winemaking once we had the fruit.
Jim: Are you doing anything of timing by celestial cycles in the cellar?
Rudy: Not only following the Stella Natura calendar (http://www.stellanatura.com/) in the vineyard, but doing that in the cellar for when we were blending too. Wines, I think, definitely taste a little bit differently. There are times when they’re muddled, there are times when they’re just popping and we wanted to make the best decisions when the wines were expressing themselves the best.
Jim: Is there a good resource that someone could go to look at that calendar and to have an idea of when to do the certain practices in the winery?
Rudy: Sure! There’s a small little pamphlet called “When Wine Tastes Best.”
Jim: Really? I’ve never heard of it.
Rudy: It is just a little pocket book. Literally a little, like a postcard, 2 inch by 3 inch, and it just gives you red days, yellow days, green days, and black days. So on the black days, things might taste a little more muddled, and on the brown days not so much. Red days are better, and green days are when things are really shining.
Jim: Do you know if that’s based on anything or is that just observation?
Rudy: No. It is based on configurations of the constellations in the the stars. So you take the 12 different constellations, and they are heat signs, water signs, earth signs, fire signs. And when certain ones oppose each other, it creates chaos, and it makes your vines shut down and makes your wines shut down, too. When you get a really nice, kind of triangle, little 120 degree triad of all of the fire signs, things are on fire. Water shows itself more when all of the water signs are connected to a trigon. So those are the pulses that we sort of feel in and see in the vineyard, but certainly here when we taste wine also.
Jim: And so, when would wine be tasting best? Or when would you want to schedule your blending events, your benchtop blending events?
Rudy: So if you see that book, “When Wine Tastes Best,” or the calendar I use, you will see pulses that are going on. Certainly, one of the largest influences is the moon. Whether the moon is waxing or whether it’s waning. And then within those, when those constellations in a rising moon, would align, that’s when we would start doing our tastings and thinking about our blends.
Jim: Ok. And are there certain practices that you would want to schedule for when the water systems align?
Jim: What would those be?
Rudy: We would do fertigations a couple of days before earth signs lined up. So the plant essentially associates the root days with its roots, the leaf days with its leaves, and fruit days with its fruit and its growth. So we want to sort of ride the wave of this calendar when the vine is going to be thinking about its roots, that’s when we want to make sure that the fertilizers or fertigation is right down there in the roots…
J : So you preempt it a little bit?
Rudy: Yeah, 18 hours or so.
Rudy: On leaf days is when we do some foliar sprays. It’s when the vines start really shining and they all start thinking about their leaves, the leaves are the highlight, that’s when we want to make sure that they’ll appreciate us spraying on those days. Fruit days are when we might thin fruit or pick for that matter, when it’s having a fruit day. Putting all of its energy and resources in into its fruit, that’s the day we will pick.
Rudy: So we just think the vines... I’m sure the vines are smarter than I am and so we’re just following their lead.
Jim: So at this point, do clients seek you out because of that; your background and association with those practices?
Rudy: Not necessarily. I mean it’s still... it sounds really goofy when you’re talking about it. So people understand the Farmer’s Almanac, this is somewhat similar to that but when you do talk about some of those, again, cowhorn, Valerian extract, and scraping oak root off of the tree on certain days, it can sound pretty goofy. You know I think people often our age are like, ‘Sure, what the heck!’ but we deal with a lot of people that are a little crustier and it’s just harder to talk about it. Or it can be anyway. But I think the more it’s going on, the more it’s happening, you see in the stores now “biodynamic sugar” or “biodynamic flour” or other products that are showing that certification and hopefully it’ll keep spreading and spreading and spreading. Again, I don’t know if it’s the absolutely end-all, be-all and perfect for every situation, but I’ve had nothing but great success with it.
Jim: Right. What’s the largest scale you, not necessarily been a part of, but seen an operation be able to use biodynamic practices? Because it’s a little bit limited to smaller farms just because it is the cycle of the nutrients and at big corporate scales people also care less sometimes.
Rudy: It takes dollars and cents, it takes penciling out, it takes manpower. It definitely is financially more friendly on a smaller scale than it is on a larger one. But the largest one that I have ever seen, here in California, was Grgich.
Rudy: Grgich had over 400 acres that were all Demeter certified. And it wasn’t just one continuous 400 continuous acres, it was a number of 50-, 60-acre ranches and they all had perimeters, they have issues with their perimeters and their neighbors, creating buffer zones: it was a lot of work for them to get it.
Jim: I had David Bos on the podcast (https://www.insidewinemaking.com/036) a couple times in years past.
Rudy: Oh, did you?
Jim: It was very popular.
Rudy: You know I talk about stirring up cowhorn tea in a wooden barrel. We’d take a head off a barrel and use it. All wood of course, no plastic, of course. But I only needed 50 gallons of it, so it worked out great. But when you’re talking about a ranch needing 1,500 gallons of it, where do you- how do you mix that? In a whole bunch of barrels with a bunch of guys going, ‘This is ludacris to be stirring different directions at different times?’ They came up with some mechanized ways of stirring it that were tough to have Demeter approve of because it was, again, not pure and wood and done by hand and… not only done by hand but you want your person stirring it but you want the person stirring it to be thinking happy thoughts and pulling the effects of the cosmos in while they are making this tea, and thinking about the energy they need to bring to the table. So it’s really hard when it gets big, that’s for sure. But I was extremely impressed with Grgich’s drive towards it. Great work.
Jim: Let’s switch gears a little bit. I’ve very curious to hear about all the projects you’re currently involved with and then what your typical day or week looks like?
Rudy: It all depends on how many of my clients might hear this! Haha! No, I’m blessed with now having some clients that I’ve had for a number of years. Allora Vineyards we’re going on 15 years (http://www.alloravineyards.com/).
Rudy: Allora. That’s right next to Ehlers Estate, up in St. Helena. Red Cap Vineyards I’ve been with since 2005 (http://redcapvineyards.com/). Shadybrook since 2010 (https://www.shadybrookestate.com). Kent Price Vineyards since 2010 (https://www.kentpricewines.com/).
Jim: Where’s Kent Price?
Rudy: Kent Price is here. They don’t have a… they’re just purchasing grapes and they make their wine here. And they sell it mostly in their own mailing list; friends and family.
Rudy: Very, very small. Encanto Vineyards (http://www.encantovineyards.com/), a lovely Hispanic family that have been making Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc since 2008. So they have all been pretty long term now. We started off as clients and were now friends and family and we get together for all kinds of social time and it doesn’t feel like work at all. But fortunately I get to make most of them here at Shadybrook. So I’m here most of the time. Allora has their own on-site assistant winemaker and facility so it’s more driving up to St. Helena just to make sure things are going right, tasting once maybe twice a week and otherwise I’m here the whole time.
Rudy: And I do some marketing and sales and get out on the road once and a while and go talk the talk and walk the walk.
Jim: Then you have your own brand?
Rudy: I do have my own brand!
Jim: Is that just Zuidema Wines?
Rudy: It’s Zuidema Wine (https://zuidemawines.com/). I’ll have to make sure we open one of those today here too. That’s stemmed from a great opportunity to start from dirt up in a beautiful, beautiful site in Rutherford. It is in the heart of Rutherford in the east side of the river. It’s surrounded by Beckstoffer Vineyard. It’s surrounded by the Heritage Vineyard. Beautiful just solar panels of Cabernet perfection and a string of purple pearls everywhere. As a replant was happening, we talked to the owners of this vineyard, the McGaw vineyard, and some of us, a couple of us, said we would be interested in Grenache.
Jim: Is this by Crocker & Starr? Or the Crocker Estate?
Rudy: It is not.
Jim: Ah ok. Then that would be further north.
Rudy: Right, that’s a little further north.
Rudy: This is right on Ponti Lane.
Jim: OK. Yeah.
Rudy: So it’s off of Skellenger Road.
Jim: By Georges III?
Rudy: Yeah. It dead ends right into Georges III. So it’s about halfway up that road. Georges III is kind of an “L” and it’s wrapped around this vineyard.
Rudy: And the owner said, ‘Ugh, we’re never going to make any money on Grenache. We’re only going to get $4,000 per ton for it and we’re getting $10,500 or ridiculous prices for Cab.’ Well we said, ‘What if we planted old wagon wheel style, head-trained vines to where they need ⅓ of the maintenance of a Cabernet vineyard? What if farming costs were only $3,000 or $4,000 and you were getting 5 tons per acre of Grenche?’ That almost sort of pencils out. And so they appreciated our insight and our thoughts of diversity and not them just only being more Cabernet, more Cabernet or some Sauv. Blanc. So they decided to dive in. So now we share the vineyard with, or I share the vineyard, I get a portion of it. Kale Anderson gets some for his project. Jillian Fayard makes some for both Grenache Blanc and some Grenache. We’re having a ball with it. It is a little bit trendy at the minute. We’re sort of at the right place at the right time. It’s a little less expensive. I make Cabernet for all my other clients so I’m not competing with anybody. It’s just geeky and wine nerdy enough where you get everybody’s attention. Call in to make an appointment, pour somebody a $100 bottle of Cab is a little bit less interesting than if I have got a great $28 bottle of Grenache that will blow their doors off. So it’s kind of fun doing just that. Pulling the rug out from beneath people.
Jim: And then what’s sort of your cues for ripeness or when you’re ready to pick for your Grenache, the way you’re making it?
Rudy: Right. So in that head-trained old flop style method, there’s delightful inconsistency in the fruit. A lot of it is pinkish, some of it is nice and black and very dark. There’s difference in ripeness, maybe 3 or 4 brix on the same vine.
Rudy: From stuff that’s in the sun in the afternoon, that’s in the sun in the morning, that’s in the shade all day long, it’s higher up in the canopy, that’s lower in the canopy… So it really is a random sample of all of those and it’s much more about seeing that transition of when the acid is kind of starting to finally let go and the pHs are coming up a little bit. Not 3.8 - 3.9 like a lot of other varieties, but just leaving the 3.3 and the 3.4 and just starting to rise. And then also the grapevine physiology when those vines really give it up, they turn yellow in 2 weeks time. And they just absolutely give it up. And so that’s when we start seeing the flavors that we’re looking for. We start seeing birds like crazy all around the whole vineyard and we know that the vines are going through their cycle and they’re getting to the end and we start paying close attention. And that’s been a ton of fun. With that inconsistency in the canopy, it’s never just right and I think it shows the vintage years much much more.
Rudy: So you see the hot years, the cold years, the wet ones, the dry ones, the heavier crop, the light crop… You just see a little more of that vintage-to-vintage ebb and flow. Again, with some common denominator of coming from the same vineyard site.
Jim: How did that vineyard do in 2015, which was a drought year, some real heat spikes, and some real challenges in late-August, early-September?
Rudy: Right. Yeah. It did great. We got a little bit less fruit than we were used to, but not a whole lot less. And it was only the 5th leaf so we were only looking for probably 2-3 tons per acre and we ended up getting 2.5. The following year was a 5 ton crop and the year before that was just the 1 ton an acre. So it was kind of right in line with what we were expecting. It’s on St. George so it’s dry farmed, there’s no wires, there’s no irrigation. You can drive your tractor in four different directions. So they’re out there just struggling like they are in the Northern Rhone rocks. It’s a little bit more comfortable than the Northern Rhone rocks but... haha!
Jim: If you’re Ponti Lane driving north would it be on the east or west side of the road?
Rudy: It would be on the west side and yes, it’s just about in the middle of that road, between Skellenger and its dead end. Almost dead in the middle on the west side.
Jim: OK. I got to check it out since that’s my drive home from work.
Rudy: Oh ok!
Jim: What are some of the other wines that you’re making here?
Rudy: We’re going to pour a little bit of Pinot Noir. This under the Rapp Ranch brand. Again, this property here is called the Rapp Ranch Vineyard and Winery. This property, this area here was owned by the Rapp family, a Texas family, that came here in the ‘50s and were quarter horse breeders, and very, very good at it and had some champion, champion horses in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It was right about the time the vineyard business started getting really popular and selling off an acre here, an acre there turned into, ‘Wow, we can sell this for a lot of money.’ And they were kind of getting ready to sort of downsize a little bit, maybe move back to Texas, which they did. So they sold some property to Bill Frasier and some to Frank Ambrosia and they took all those hundred 1-acre paddocks for horses out and planted vines. Coombsville was, kind of still is, a little bit different than some of the other winemaking AVAs in that there’s a lot of other ag going on here. There’s still a lot of horses, there’s emus, there’s llamas, there’s plenty of horses; it’s definitely different. I love the diversity and different culture that’s going on here in Coombsville.
Jim: So this Pinot Noir, this is from Carneros?
Rudy: Yes. So Rapp Ranch is a brand that we use a lot of our own fruit for, but we also purchase some.
Rudy: We sort of call that our Napa Valley blend where Shadybrook Estate is all from our estate owned properties. And we’re restricted to just those properties. So we purchased this Pinot Noir from a nice little vineyard in Carneros that is barely in Carneros. It’s just on the back side of Buhman Road kind of where Artesa and... gosh, the old Continuum on Dealy Lane was out there or what it..
Jim: The Michael Mondavi…
Rudy: The Michael Mondavi place. Was it was Continuum?
Jim: Kieu Hong Winery.
Rudy: Right. Something like that. We share that driveway with them.
Rudy: So I kind of sought something that is a little further away from the San Pablo Bay so we get some drainage, and there’s a little bit more soil, a little bit more sand and gravel there rather than clay. And we get the vines to struggle just a little bit more.
Jim: Was any of that in fire danger? I’ve been running around there a little bit but…?
Rudy: We had picked this long before the fires were out there in Carneros. But it was right but alongside it.
Jim: So crazy to see it. There’s not a lot of trees.
Rudy: Not a lot to burn!
Jim: Right. Some grasses. But the craziest thing is that the fence posts; you could tell the embers were everywhere because wherever there is a wood fence post is all burned out, all along there.
Rudy: Gosh. That was bizarre.
Rudy: And you can see the hills here, the fire came all the way along here and right along Shadybrook we were in line kind of shoveling it, leap frogging along the fence just throwing dirt on it to keep it off the property and move up the hill and the wind was kind of helping us but we just kept it off. It was a long night.
Jim: So did you come out here just to watch the place during that?
Rudy: Well I live at the Shadybrook Estate. So we didn’t sleep that night; that’s for sure. With that huge, glowing sky and the wind hitting you at 45 miles per hour, it was not a sleep night.
Jim: Right. OK, so what are the other red wines? We don’t necessarily have to taste them but we can just talk about them real quick.
Rudy: I have a couple of our highlights here; we have the Estate V (five) Red Blend. We call it The V because it has all five of the noble Bordeaux varieties. It’s driven mostly by Cabernet Franc, and then Cabernet and Merlot, and just a tiny little tease of Malbec and Petit Verdot; add a little bit of complexity on the back end. Silky texture, much like Bordeaux style. Cabernets are a little bit heartier, and little bit bigger and more structure, this is a little bit sexier and a little bit more approachable.
Jim: I’m kind of on a Cabernet Franc kick right now because I’m looking to replant a block at Seavey.
Jim: Do you happen to know what clones of Cabernet Franc you guys have there?
Rudy: Yes. This is the 3... We have 1312 and we have the 1326. And this is a little bit of both. We have an acre of each one.
Jim: And if you were to plant again would you go for one or both of those?
Rudy: They’re both great. You know I get a lot of pepper and tarragon, sage kinda notes from one. And a little more structure, a little bit more aromatics, bright aromatics from the other; and acid. So again, we don’t make a whole lot, we don’t need a whole lot, so I would stick with a couple eggs in the basket.
Jim: And then I’m interested in some of your flash detente business. Are we going to talk about this?
Jim: OK. How did you get going on that in the first place?
Rudy: So I got started with flash because I have a client up in St. Helena that has a vineyard that is pretty consistent, front to back, left to right. Some heavier soil, it’s growing Cabernet, Cabernet Franc and some Petit Verdot and I’m trying to slice that vineyard into a few more ingredients and components rather than just a Petit Verdot, a Cab. Franc and a Cab. and trying to cross blend them all and try to come up with enough wines for their wine club and for them to have a fun program. So I read about flash detente in a wine business magazine, and I thought, ‘This is perfect. Here is going to be now component #4. We’ll do some long, cold soak and extended macerations and we’ll do some quicker, hotter fermentations with all three varieties, and now we’ll do a small little batch of flash for all of them. And now we’ll have 9 or 10 different wines from these 3 vineyard blocks. Now we’ve got some more stuff to play with and create some different wines. So I called the only flash detente service company. It was in Lodi. And I said, ‘I’m looking to get on board. I want to come down and check out your place.’ And so I drove down there and I saw this ginormous machine and I said, ‘I can’t believe that it takes this big of a machine to do a couple tons.’ And he says, ‘Oh no, you need 30 tons just to turn it on.’ And I said, ‘Oh you’re kidding me! Who is using it?’ He said, ‘Everybody is using it but it’s truckload after truckload after truckload after truckload.’ And I said, ‘Well who's got a small one?’ He said, ‘You can’t get a small one. You just can’t do this on the small scale.’ And I just thought that seemed crazy. So I went to the manufacture and I said, ‘Why can’t anybody do this small?’ And he said, ‘Well nobody ever wants to spend the money to do it small. It costs for whatever it costs for the big one, it’s almost exactly the same for a tiny one. And it’s just going to be tough to make your money.’
Jim: Because of the upfront capital costs?
Rudy: Because of the upfront capital costs. And I said, ‘Well, I wanna see if I can find some people that would be interested. If I could find enough interest in this, maybe we can co-op one, maybe we could something, you know? ‘Can we do it mobile?’ ‘Absolutely not. It’s ginormous.’ But I talked with enough with people, we went to seminars, and there were seminars that were booked and 400-500 people were all there to learn about flash detente. And I said, ‘Well if there’s this much interest, there’s got to be business for doing small scales. There’s got to be enough 200-ton producers out there that would to a couple of small little, 8 ton lots.’ Again for the same kind of diversity that I’m looking for. So I was able to fill out enough contracts and some interests where a bank was crazy enough to give me a ginormous amount of money and my wife thought I was absolutely nuts and we put everything on the line and it’s been a real great connection back to a whole lot of people in the wine business. I have over 50 different clients. Most of them bring something every year, some of them will skip a year or two if things are really light and they don’t necessarily need that diversity or will create it within their own techniques. Some are there every single year - most of them are there every single year. Very, very little attrition. It’s such a great tool for so many applications and so many reasons, we’re finding new ones all the time.
Jim: So I have a bunch of questions to follow up and to sort of unpack that, but just to back up a little bit, but would you mind describing the process?
Rudy: Absolutely. So grapes are picked standard, and we crush those grapes into a holding tank. Around 10 tons is our minimum. If it’s really juicy Zin, I can get away with 7.5 or 8 tons. But 10 tons, in general, is the minimum. And from that must we’ll extract a couple hundred gallons of juice only...
Jim: OK. So just...
Rudy: Just juice.
Jim: Just drain that off?
Rudy: Just through a screen. That juice is then gonna go through a very large heat exchanger and it’ll continue to circulate through that heat exchanger until it’s around 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93.3 Celsius). Once it’s 200 degrees, we will slowly start dosing in the skins that are still in the tank. So it’s gonna go to continue to go through that circulation, it’ll pick up some of the solids, and as it goes through the heat exchanger again, those solids rise to that temperature in just a minute. They then get separated back out from that circulating juice and get moved into a vacuum tank. Once those skins and those solids hit the vacuum tank at that temperature, they literally are ruptured, all of the cell walls in the skins are broken, all the tannins are released, all the anthocyanins are released, all the flavonoids are released, and so you’re getting almost nearly 100% extraction out of the skins in seconds. We also have steam that is coming off of those, as your boiling point in a vacuum comes far below 212 degrees, so that steam is pulled out so rapidly from that vacuum tank, that the heat goes with it and the skins are then cooled to 90 degrees. So they get right back down, they are only hot for a minute and a half. That steam is then condensed and collected and, if the client smells it, and tastes it, and wants to put it back in the juice, they can. I have never had anybody who wants to put it back in.
Rudy: It is what pulls out the off flavors, mushroomy, tea, almost kind of sake, alcohol tasting. If the vines that the fruit came from were virused or compromised in anyway, it’s where all the vegital; asparagus, broccoli kind of flavors all consolidate, and the juice, the rest of the solids and juice, go away brimming with bright, lovely fruit. In many cases almost too fruity. A 100% flashed wine tastes like Jolly Rancher made it.
Rudy: It’s just really, really bright, bright cherry. And black and beautiful tannins. But yeah, it’s a little awkward. If it’s 10, 15, 20% of a big blend, it’s absolutely fantastic. And that’s kind of where most of my clients are now is I’m either taking care of their old vineyard that is compromised and they don’t want to replant, they want to flash it to be able to use it in their program, or a company will send me 1 truckload of Merlot, Cab. Franc, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet, Petite Sirah, and now have these components sprinkled around in the cellar, that when any blend needs just a blast of that big bright fruit, from one of those varietal directions, they have that in the cellar, just filling up the spice rack.
Jim: So the client would collect their flashed wine in a big tank and haul it back?
Rudy: Yep. And some people take their skins with them; very few though. Some people, especially in their 1st or 2nd year, you only get your skins and seeds once a year, so you think you need them as much as… use them as much as you can. But the extraction of those seeds happens very fast and hard tannins come out very fast. Most cases they might be on those skins and seeds for 24 hours, 36 hours and then press off.
Jim: So general, it’s grapes in, and just liquid juice out?
Rudy: Grapes in, must out, settle on must to let the wine cool, the must cool, even a little bit, press the following day, or later that afternoon, and take your juice away and barrel ferment, barrel fermented Cabernet that is black and awesome.
Jim: So in your facility you also have a press you’ve got to deal with?
Rudy: Yes. So years like 2012, when everything was ripe at the same time and everybody is full, what are you going to do when your grower is barking at you because you’re at 28 Brix and ‘We gotta go, we gotta go!’ and there’s a lot of it?
Jim: And you can get right into barrel!
Rudy: We go straight to barrel! It takes 24 hours. So people would hold 2 tanks or 3 tanks and just cycle 20 or 40 tons through each one, 3 days in a row; great; 100 tons are off the books now. Now we can get back to our more conventional winemaking. And we’ve got great components in the cellar.
Jim: How long is it going to take to process a 10 ton load?
Rudy: 3 hours. 3 or 4 hours.
Rudy: And those usually come in macro bins, and sometimes they leave in macro bins. You just pump the must right back in, take back to your winery, dump it into your hopper or right into your press.
Jim: Sounds like a nightmare in driving with that!
Rudy: I don’t think I’m driving! I mean you’re not going to drive all the way back to Lake County from there, but if you’re kinda local, and just throw a lid on it, put some shrink wrap around the ends and you’re fine.
Jim: So what conditions are flash best suited for? You mentioned a couple already but…
Rudy: I could break my head open and stay awake all night thinking of the applications. Certainly the compromised fruit that we were talking about.
Jim: Is that mostly because of virus? Or powdery mildew? Or what are the most common things?
Rudy: Volatile acidity is nonexistent. Brettanomyces is nonexistent with that temperature and that vacuum, all proteins are denatured. So for example, 2011, rained like crazy, French rain, and we don’t know what to do with it. Everything was moldy, things were falling off the vine on their own. Tannins are falling out, color is falling out, no stabilization. Everything that went through flash was black and solid and fantastic. All of those proteins that were fast-forwarding and hyper-oxidizing the wines were just not there.
Jim: Alright. That was probably enough that you could take out laccase.
Rudy: Yep. Exactly.
Rudy: So other than that, it is… I’ll just have to tell you by a couple of examples. One winery has a 100 ton vineyard and it is sort of the main, the core blending component. So they pick it into 10 10-ton fermenters and they end up with 10 10-ton fermenters of the same wine. Other than, yeah, a little extended maceration here, some different yeast… so now they have taken a few of those tanks and incorporated flash and do things like flash 10 tons, press it, take the juice away by itself, drain another one of the tanks of its free run only, but leave the cap in the tank, pour the flashed juice on that cap, and macerate and reuse that cap for another few days. So you’re not getting the hard tannins from your heated skins but now you’re sort of bringing back some of the terroir from that same vineyard. They might take some of their 10 tons of flashed must and just blend 5 tons of must with 5 tons of non-flashed must and just do that in a couple of tanks. So again, now just creating more and more components for the winemaker to play with.
Jim: Is there anything that a winemaker has to be aware of in terms of the nitrogen status or is it shifting anything in pH or TA?
Rudy: It does not shift pH and TA. It does extract all of the nitrogen out of the skins as well. So yours YANs could be 500, 600 all day.
Rudy: And, they’re also completely sterile and there is nothing to inhibit fermentation. Fermentation can happen 6 Brix a day for 4 days and you’re done. Very hot and very fast.
Jim: So then cooling becomes maybe more of an issue?
Rudy: Yes. Exactly.
Jim: OK. Well it’s kind of like Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir can be hot and fast, right? It has super high nitrogens.
Rudy: Sure. So when people barrel ferment it, they barrel ferment like a Chardonnay. Run it through a heat exchanger, try to put it in the barrel at 50 degrees, keep it in a very cold room, and do a nice, long, slow, cool barrel fermentation. With that explosion in the vacuum, you also get a lot of very fine solids. So some reductive qualities can happen if you’re not careful with that too. Cleaning it up as much as you can, especially if you’re going to barrel ferment, maybe a roto-redrum back, maybe just running it through a cap will clean it up quite a bit. That use of pectin enzymes will kind of help kind of consolidate and settle some of those fine solids out. But we talk about that before we get into it.
Jim: Right. And then are most clients adding a little bit of SO2 right after the flash to set the preservation to get back to winery or…?
Rudy: Usually not because the time it gets back to the winery it’s snap, crackle, pop.
Rudy: It’s already on its way. There’s no cold soaking; it’s kind of a freight train at that point.
Jim: What’s the pressure? How much pressure are you pulling on the vacuum?
Rudy: The vacuum is nearly absolute. 0.965 negative pounds. So I mean the tank is 4 gauge stainless steel with 6 gauge stainless steel rings around it so it doesn’t just ‘Coke can itself’ right in. It takes a vacuum pump that’s twice the size of you and I put together to pull that vacuum. Yeah, it’s quite a bit. Again, it’s in and out of there... it’s in and out of the heater for a minute and a half and it’s in and out of the vacuum chamber in a minute and a half. So it’s not under those pressures for a long time.
Rudy: Completely different aromatics. Completely different textures. Just…
Jim: I’ll have to hook up with you at harvest when you just start going, I’d love to taste something that’s been through this.
Rudy: Or I’ve got a bunch of samples. I’ve got a bunch of controls and flashed wines. What the water; that consolidated steam tastes like too. Well this last year we had great success removing smoke taint.
Jim: Oh cool!
Rudy: So that’s also one of those phenolics that, in that strip water, in that extreme condition, that will leave with the steam, and will be pulled out. We brought glycol levels down, from 15 to less than 1. Who knows how much they’ll bounce back, depending on if the winemaker did the press right away, or got away from the skins right away, but I have a couple of lots that were very, very tainted and they’re delicious.
Jim: So you were a very busy man by October 10th?
Rudy: Yes I was.
Rudy: And you know, fortunately, a lot of customers, a lot of new customers, came because they had smoke issues and they saw what it could do and thought, ‘Maybe I’ll try some stuff that isn’t smoke tainted, this is great.’
Jim: Do you run it 24 hours during peak times?
Rudy: Pretty much.
Rudy: I mean I gotta sleep a few hours; I do it all myself.
Jim: You do?!
Jim: Oh my goodness.
Rudy: So it’s… I sleep in the car a couple times… Haha! I have one really fun, interesting client, who is a big Sauvignon Blanc producer that sends me Sauvignon Blanc that’s pressed, already just juice only, right after veraison. 18 Brix - 18.5 Brix. 10 grams of acid. pH of 2.7 - 2.8? Just hard as nails and green. And we flashed the juice. We got a lot of that greenness out. We bring the Brix up a little bit because of that steam consolidation that leaves. And sends it back. And he ferments it and makes wine that is 10 grams of acid, 10% alcohol, and pH of 2.7-2.8 and uses that to blend with all his other blocks that hang long after that, hang to 25 to 26 Brix, get to be 16% alcohol, beautiful big peach, nectarine, stone fruit flavors, very ultra-plush, ultra-ripe. pH of 3.6 and acids that are 4.5 or 3.5 even, use this dealcoholized, just pH, and add acid, and do it all with Sauvignon Blanc juice, rather than bags of tartaric and water.
Jim: Right. Wow. That’s really creative.
Rudy: Really fun.
Jim: Do you think that was just driven on the quest or idea of not manipulating by adding these exotic agents and just using the grapes themselves?
Rudy: Well that actually stemmed from his work with red wine, red grapes that he brought me. They have a huge vineyard holding in a great, very, very expensive appellation and they were thinning right at veraison, 30 tons of fruit, and putting it on the ground, so they started collecting that, keeping it in a cold room, bringing it to me to flash as much greenness out as I can, going from 20 Brix to 21.5 Brix, and fermenting it and having thousands of gallons of highly sought after appellation wine that could be someone’s bulk wine, or it could be part of their blend, but it certainly was worth 4,000% of whatever was going to be on the ground. So they thought, ‘If we’re going to do this with red, how about trying it with white? And let’s see what happens.’ So they’re a fun client.
Jim: So what other vineyard issues have you seen people work with flash - either successfully or unsuccessfully? So maybe that’s the question, is there anything where... any trails where flash really didn’t didn’t help or fix a problem?
Rudy: It wasn’t so much that it didn’t help or fix a problem, but some very delicate Pinot Noir can become very thick and heavy and loose its intimate subtle flavors of Pinot Noir and feel Syrah-ish and be black. One client throttled back on how much Pinot they brought because such a little bit went such a long way. So that was kind of the only great plan that had to get reeled in a little bit. But you know, C- grade goes in, B- grade come out; A+ goes in, A+ on weird steroids comes out. It’s all about application and it’s all about the rest of your program and how you want to get where you want to get. But everyone keeps coming back so it’s working!
Jim: Any plans to scale up or are you happy where you are now?
Rudy: No. Harvest is a tough season for me and that’s kinda where we want to keep it for right now. Again, it’s a really small unit. I love the small little intimate, sort of creative winemaking programs I get to be a part of. It’s not like the Lodi where it’s just 24 hours, crap in and better than crap out, all day long, everyday. They’re making tons of money on it but I’m having more fun.
Jim: I was looking on the website, this isn’t in Napa?
Rudy: It’s at the Kunde Winery in Sonoma (http://www.kunde.com/).
Rudy: I wanted to capture traffic from Napa, from Healdsburg, from Mendocino, from Sonoma, Sonoma Coast, and it seemed like a great central location for that. Kunde is a big winery so it’s easy for all the traffic and different kinds of traffic that we’re going to get. If I ever need help from them with using their press for a day, I can contract out their press, I can contract tank space, we have a great symbiotic relationship. They do a lot of flash too.
Jim: Would it be at all possible to ever make this a mobile unit? For the estate wineries?
Rudy: I don’t think so. There are a few mobile units. I say ‘mobile’ but they still require a 20-ton crane to off-load them; they can’t operate on a trailer.
Rudy: So they can be moved empty, but once they’re full…
Jim: It’s just too heavy?
Rudy: ...there’s nothing that’s going to go on the road without crushing the road.
Jim: Right. OK.
Rudy: They require pilot cars, the ‘wide load’ pilot cars to get everywhere. So once they’re set somewhere, you want to keep it there for a couple weeks. It might be that you could move it to a Pinot producer for a few weeks and then to a Merlot producer and then to an... I don’t know. But it really doesn’t make any sense.
Jim: Right. OK. Cool. Anything else we need to talk about with the flash? I’ve learned a ton and realized how little I did know.
Rudy: No. With flash I think we’re good! I mean, again, there’s lots of fun applications and every year there seems to be a different one. Whether it’s overcropping, whether it’s early rains, or fire; something always seems to work.
Jim: Is there any possibility to run finished through that vacuum to pull off any fraction?
Rudy: Unfortunately not.
Jim: Hmm. Well alcohol would make the pressure…
Rudy: Alcohol and usually at that time there’s sulfur in the wine. And if that sulfur gets too hot it will, what do I say, it’s going to bind, it’s going to go to sulfuric acid and not going to be able to get removed out of the wine. We don’t put any sulfur on the way in. We add a lot of tannins. 400, 500, 600 parts per million tannins. Because through flash, so many anthocyanins are released, that if you don’t have some of those tannins molecules there to stabilize the color, it will all fall out. So a lot of tannins, a lot of pectin on the back side, and a lot of creativity.
Jim: Is it correct to say, that if you had something like a Cabernet, with a lot of tannin and you add it back on skins for a short amount of time, you can get your tannin that way?
Rudy: Sure you can!
Jim: Maybe not the seeds, but a bunch of skins.
Rudy: The tannins we use are sacrificial tannins, they’re just chestnuts so it’s not like you’re really getting a mouthfeel out of them. It’s really just for the color stabilization.
Jim: So stuff like the VR Supras Tanin and that kind of tannin? (https://laffort.com/en/product/tanin-vr-supra/)
Rudy: Yep. I use ColorPro from ATP. (https://scottlab.com/scottzyme-color-pro-sctzmcp)
Liquid tannin is easy to add.
Rudy: Alright you gotta try this Malbec!
Jim: It’s been a while since I’ve had just a Malbec.
Rudy: Not a whole lot of just Malbec out. This one of the smaller productions that we have. Some years it’s just 75 cases. Most years it’s 100-125. A little over ⅓ of an acre. And this is from the Shadybrook Estate vineyard. We don’t know what clone it is. We are going to expand the vineyard a little bit with the same clone. We’ll do some DNA testing and make sure the wood is clean. And we just love the way this is working in that site.
Jim: So how do you work with Malbec in the winery or in the cellar during fermentation different than Cab?
Rudy: It’s a little bit different in that the berries are a little bit bigger, there’s a lot off…
Jim: Do you do some saignée?
Rudy: No, I’ll just do a lot longer cold soak and we do a lot longer skin maceration time. It comes in a little bit earlier. It ripens long before even the Merlot, so the winery’s, for the most part, full of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon sitting in tank so we’ve got time to mess around with it. What we do do with it is we try and make 3 fermentations and 3 sort of components out of it. So we’ll get our, hopefully, 1.5 tons, 2 tons at most, do a 1-ton little portable tank ferment, jacketed, long cold soak…
Jim: What’s long to you?
Rudy: Cold soak for 10 days?
Jim: Wow. Ok.
Rudy: And then ferment on skins for another 20. Nice and slow. Kind of like a white wine.
Jim: So you’ll keep that cold and then warm it up or just turn the chilling off to let it go?
Rudy: We’ll try to hold it around 60-65 degrees during fermentation.
Jim: Oh but to start fermentation?
Rudy: Oh to start fermentation, let it get up to 60-65 and try to hold it there.
Jim: Gotcha. That’s a pretty cool ferment!
Rudy: Yeah. We want to keep the fruit very bright and very fresh. And then with the other 0.5 ton or 1 ton, we might knock the head off a few barrels and do open top barrel fermentation on those. And maybe 1 macro bin. So again, trying to just make 3 different components out of it; some very bright, some more tannic; and create some different wines for us to deal with.
Jim: That’s very juicy!
Rudy: It’s nice isn’t?
Rudy: It’s got the familiarity of being definitely Bordeaux but there’s something a little strange about it that kind of piques everyone’s interest just a little bit.
Jim: So a lot of people would be bleeding Malbec because of that bigger berry size. I’m sure you considered that at some point, what led you not to go down that road?
Rudy: Well because we, first of all, need every drop.
Rudy: We don’t make a rose. If we were to saignée off we would lose some production, throw the saignée in one of the other ferments probably and dilute it. I’m just a fan of kind of the natural feel that we get. Again, every year is going to follow nature’s path. If they are wilting in a little bit or you are getting some dimpling in the vines, we get bigger tannins and better color, that’s part of that year’s story. If they’re perfectly ripe and mature and plump and the color isn’t quite as purple this year, it’s part of the story.
Jim: How was Malbec in 2011?
Rudy: I don’t know. We didn’t make it in 2011… Oh wait, yes! Malbec was very good in 2011. We had more fruit in 2011 than we thought we were going to have.
Jim: I was surprised by that too.
Rudy: We threw a lot of big clusters that were very heavy and still kind of pink-y away; sorted out quite a bit of them. So yeah, we had to work quite a bit harder, just like everything. Everything needed a little bit of attention. That was a fun vintage. We didn’t have to just sit there and just watch great wine happen again. It was, ‘Wow, we really have to struggle with this.’ Some of the notes I go back and look at I go, ‘I can’t believe I did that. How do you add that much tannin and still struggle to get stabilization?’ All that laccase, just fighting and fighting and fighting with it the whole time. But yeah, creative skin contact, creative skin temperatures, all that. We picked it with scissors because as we were cutting and kind of pulling the vine with knives, just as much berries were falling off as we were actually harvesting. So we stopped and had to go to scissors.
Jim: As part of my protocol for Merlot on the sorting table once the fruit was in, is we would pickup the clusters and we would shake them, and those that would fall out were the ones that were usually botrytised; that had grey mohawk botrytis.
Jim: So we would shake the clusters and throw onto the conveyer what stayed on and cleared off everything that fell off.
Rudy: Sheesh! What’d you do with the stuff that fell off? Did you make it and just see what you had?
Jim: No. Back then… I would now, but I was like a month into the job then and I was still learning, and quickly realizing that we way more fruit than we had anticipated so it was... yeah, not that year. I think we made a lot of compost that year.
Rudy: Yeah, right. Expensive compost.
Jim: Right. OK. So about to wrap it up. There’s a couple questions that I usually like to ask most people. So where did you grow up?
Rudy: I grew up in Davis.
Jim: OK! So Davis…?
Rudy: Yep. Not too far from here. I grew up in Davis and just because it was nice and easy I went to UC Davis. I started off looking into being a graphic designer or a photographer but it turns out that I’m really crappy at both of those. And realized I needed to kinda look around, other curriculums, and another fun, blow off sounding class was “Intro to Wine” and it was indeed interesting. I took another one and it was more interesting and more, and more, and more, and 6 years later I got my degree and had to butter down a little bit and lube up to sneak out of there but it happened.
Jim: That Intro to Winemaking or whatever class is hooked a lot of people. That comes up over and over.
Rudy: Yeah! It’s not an easy class too, as an “intro” class; it was hard!
Jim: Ah! Really? I didn’t realize that.
Jim: OK. So you grew up in Davis?
Rudy: I grew up in Davis.
Jim: What did your childhood smell like?
Rudy: What did my what?
Jim: Childhood. Smell like?
Jim: What memories? What sensory smell memories?
Rudy: Ah! That’s a great question.
Jim: I’m interested too because I lived in Davis so I have a little conception of what it is.
Rudy: So where I grew up in Davis was a new development that took a long time to develop. This is in the early ‘70s and there was embargos of gas and the economy... inflation was going crazy so there was not… interest rates were through the roof, so there was not just out of water spring up houses all over the place. So around my house was nothing but alfalfa and wheat fields as far as I could see. They would let it all grow and end up bailing it, and as little kids we would get down on the ground and we would make little paths through the whole thing and make this labyrinth of awesome little trails with little rooms for us to go hangout in and bring some lemonade or whatever. So those grains were definitely in my childhood. That almost Cheerios kinda oat-sy smell I remember very much. Olive trees surrounding the whole thing and olive pollen, it drove my father and sister bats every single spring, was fantastic for me; I loved it.
Jim: That’s one of my favorite smells in the world too.
Jim: That olive pollen.
Rudy: Right behind our home was Old Man Richie’s farm and he was an old codger everyone thought he used to shoot kids with salt pellets to keep them away but we were great friends with him and we would go collect eggs from all the chickens and help him gather all his stuff up for farmers market, which was one of the first farmers markets in Davis. Just all those very old world, old school farm smells, you know, decomposing bales of hay and cow manure and fresh tomato plants… You know if you go through and pick cherry tomatoes forever, your hands, you know, that fresh tomato is amazing. When I first started working with Old Man Richie, I didn’t like tomatoes, he goes, ‘You’re crazy kid.’ So he got an old galvanized bucket of ice water and he went out and picked a bunch of tomatoes, and he threw them in the ice water for just a couple minutes, and he said, ‘Come on over here.’ We sat up against his old tractor and just plucked the cherry tomatoes out of the ice water and he had a little salt shaker and he just said, ‘Throw some salt on that and eat it.’ And I cannot eat enough salted, cold cherry tomatoes to this day. It absolutely blew me away that they were so fruity and so huge in their flavor; so much going on. He’s like, ‘This is what it’s all about.’ I remember going to the store, ‘Mom, mom get some of these cherry tomatoes!’ and we would buy them and they are horrible. They were like marbles in their texture and they’re nothing but tart.
Jim: They make me angry!
Rudy: Yeah! And I’m like, ‘This isn’t what I’m talking about. We gotta go to Richie’s place. We gotta get his tomatoes.’ And that wrecked me for fresh produce all the way until now.
Jim: That’s kind of ironic too because Davis was like an epicenter for tomatoes and produce stuff.
Rudy: Yeah. We drove passed the Hunt’s Ketchup factory everyday on the way to junior high and high school.
Jim: So you know the freeway on-ramps and off-ramps that were just all red during harvests?
Rudy: Oh yeah! Just littered with tomatoes, yeah…
Jim: OK. Last question.
Rudy: Yes, sir.
Jim: You can get, for free, 2 tons of fruit from anywhere in the world to get them and make wine as you see fit, what would you most want to work with?
Rudy: I would get a couple of tons of Syrah from the Rhone Valley. Off of just piles of rock that are earthy and funky and…
Jim: So are we talking southern Rhone, Châteauneuf-du-Pape?
Rudy: Yeah… Châteauneuf… Or maybe a little bit north of that. I just love that medicinal funk, stink, bacon fat, hard, unpolished tannins, not hard, but just unpolished tannins, rustic, Old World, old school tannins. That to me is a lovely, lovely drink. That would be fun.
Rudy: How about you? What’s your answer for that question?
Jim: Well I really want to try grapes from like Pauillac; Cabernet. Just because I’ll never… I don’t foresee myself ever having experience to go over to Bordeaux during harvest, but I want to tastes those grapes. You know some of the best vineyards
Rudy: As they ferment?
Jim: Yes. Yes.
Rudy: That’s a good one too.
Jim: A very boring Cab. answer but that’s the truth.
Jim: Where can people go to find out more? Your websites or whatever? I will have links in the Show Notes but… (https://www.insidewinemaking.com/#/071/)
Rudy: OK great.
Jim: What’s the website?
Jim: Spell that?
Rudy: Zuidema Wines dot com. We don’t have any distribution at this point. Everything is all direct here. A couple little local accounts here in Napa, but otherwise it’s all right here. We’d love to see any and everybody industry, we’d love to have you here and show you what we have going on. We have a great staff here, we have a beautiful site.
Jim: Ok, that’s an understatement. I run down this road just because it’s crazy and picturesque and beautiful.
Rudy: Ok, yeah yeah. And it’s 7 minutes from the Andaz! And you’re downtown Napa and then you’re in this planet in just a minute so anyway… We’re new, we’re still grinding it out, trying to get people to know who we are and what we’re doing and we’re having a great time doing it. Things are going to way they’re supposed to go, but we welcome anybody and everybody. It’s a great place to hang out.
Jim: And website for the flash?
Jim: Alright! Cool. Thank you for doing this. I appreciate it.
Rudy: Absolutely. Very, very nice to have you here Jim.
Jim: Thanks Rudy.
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