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Winemaker's Journal — Wine crush wrapping up

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The 2013 wine crush is wrapping up. Most Washington wineries will crush the last of their grapes in the next week or two, if they haven't done so already.

Winemakers are ecstatic about this year's weather and grape growing conditions and predict the 2013 vintage will be one of the best in years. Long hang time with sunny but cool conditions the past few weeks have allowed grapes to develop full flavors without increasing sugars that can push alcohol levels too high.

My amateur winemaking endeavors were helped along by two friends this year who helped me purchase grapes from some of Washington's best vineyards. I scrambled to find grapes to buy late in the season after deer and quail also thought this was a stellar growing year for grapes. They managed to devour my crop in the week before I planned to pick in spite of my efforts to net the 100 vines.

Mike Monaco of Villa Monaco and Rob Newsom of Boudreaux Cellars sold me about 300 pounds total of beautiful merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes from Gamache, Seven Hills and Pepperbridge vineyards from the lower Yakima Valley and Walla Walla areas to go along with the small amounts of cabernet franc, lemberger and sangiovese I was able to salvage from my own vineyard.

Both Monaco and Newsom said this year's grapes are perhaps the best they've seen. Monaco finished crushing about 4 tons this week for his new winery. He'll sell the wine at his Leavenworth wine shop Monaco's Corner Market. Newsom finished crushing 55 tons of grapes from the state's oldest and most famed vineyards for his premium Boudreaux wines.

I still have four small batches of grapes in primary fermentation. I'll press all of them by next weekend and put the wine in carboys for slower secondary fermentation that can take a year to complete. I'll have enough to make about 30 gallons of red wine, about 12 cases. Commercial wineries will finish fermentation and aging in barrels. This year's red wines won't be bottled and ready to drink until 2015 or later. White wines are ready to drink much sooner, usually within a year.

These are probably the best grapes I've had to work with, so I'm stoked about making some good wine. As Newsom said, "Wine will make itself. You just have to make sure you don't screw it up."

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