We’re ‘Wine Midwives’ Here at Mount Salem Vineyards. Here’s How We Guide The Process
After harvest and crush season, it’s time to get down to the business of winemaking, which is the point where wineries divert paths and follow their own philosophies to create a bottle that will one day sit atop your table.
Some winemakers choose to use a heavy hand in these coming steps, ensuring a product that’s specified to their exact taste. But that’s not how we operate here at Mount Salem Vineyards. Actually, we tend to refer to ourselves as “wine midwives” rather than “winemakers” – we have opted to assist and guide this age-old process and product, rather than fix what has never been broken.
Since we began making wine almost two decades ago, this has always been our plan. Partly, it’s due to the very land we grow on.
With a challenging climate and limited space, the Garden State ironically isn’t the most ideal place to grow grapes. So, that means those viable batches better count. Our goal, then, is to create small batches of high-quality, handcrafted wine with distinct flavors and aromas.
To do this, we always start with extremely ripe and healthy grapes. After we harvest and crush – which you can learn about here – primary fermentation and aging begins. Here’s how it works at Mount Salem Vineyards.
The primary fermentation phase of winemaking is when yeast converts the sugar in the grapes’ juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas, resulting in an extremely young wine. Here, we rely on wild or indigenous yeasts – an uncommon practice – because we want to create wine that is made using the unique inputs from our local soil and climate.
It’s a risky practice – wine can easily spoil – but it’s worth it to us to create a one-of-kind, delicious wine. Most wineries choose to use yeast that has been engineered for specific characteristics and reliability, but we want to make wine just as it has been made for 4,000 years.
We also always want to ensure that our grapes have an environment to ferment and age well into wine. Wineries must choose what kinds of vessels their wine will be fermented in, such as stainless steel tanks, open top bins or wooden barrels. Then, they must decide what, if anything, will be added during the process, such as commercial yeasts, yeast nutrients, extracts, oak alternatives or sulfur. Finally, they much choose how long to let the new wine sit in its fermentation vessel once the yeast has consumed all of the sugar.
Sound like a lot? It is. And even the smallest choices here make a huge difference in your glass.
Right after the primary fermentation process comes the aging process, which is much more complicated than it sounds. Once again, winemakers must choose what type of vessel the wine will be aged in, whether its acidity will be adjusted, if the wine will be put through a secondary or malolactic fermentation, how often it will be racked off of its sediment as the wine clarifies naturally, and whether or not to cold-stabilize the wine.
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Then, of course, the winemaker must decide for how long a wine will age, as well as if the wine will be filtered or otherwise modified before bottling. Aging ranges anywhere from six months (for certain wines like a rose or Riesling) to 24 months (for certain red wines.)
But don’t worry – here at Mount Salem Vineyards, we’ll take care of the hard part and we’ll leave you to enjoy our handcrafted, local wines. Stop by and try them for yourself by visiting us at 54 Mount Salem Rd., Pittstown or learn more at mountsalemvineyards.com.