2020 was my fourth vintage creating pet-nats, so I was excited to try a few new things, one being, sparkling red wine. I was inspired by the many Lambruscos I’ve enjoyed over the years and wanted to make something in that spirit. Lambrusco is often made in the same style as prosecco, using the charmat method, which takes a finished wine through a second fermentation in-tank.
For our new sparkling Syrah, we harvested the grapes early and used whole cluster carbonic maceration for 10 days prior to pressing. With minimal tannin from skin contact, you get that super juicy, fruit profile.
After pressing, the fermenting wine continued its fermentation in stainless steel. Rather than bottling this wine near the end of fermentation and disgorging after a few months, we placed the wine in a pressure tank to finish its primary fermentation. This allowed the wine to self-carbonate. After a settling period we bottled the wine unfined and unfiltered from this same tank using a counter pressure bottler with no additives or SO2 during any stage of the winemaking process. The result is a light, nuanced, fruit-forward sparkling red.
Vineyard: Conley Vineyard
AVA: Columbia Valley
Farming Practices: Certified Organic
Aromatics: funk, raspberry coulis
Palate: cranberry, pomegranate, rye
Cases Produced: 55
The 2020 vintage was a big year of changes at the winery. We made the decision to go full tilt on organic certifications for all of our wines. This lets you know you can trust that everything made under the pét project label came from vetted sources and contains no SO2 (check out the section on organic practices for more info on the certification process in the US). The growing season was relatively predictable, however as harvest approached, severe smoke from fires in California and parts of the Pacific Northwest created a lot of uncertainty. Because of potential smoke taint, we avoided the use of any skin contact on our whites this year, which saved us from serious smoke impact.
We purchased fruit from Arete Vineyard this year, a new (to us) vineyard in the Columbia Valley AVA near the town of Othello, WA. This vineyard has some of the oldest Chenin Blanc and Gewürztraminer in Washington State (38 years old!). Also joining the line-up: Riesling and Syrah. Along with the new wines we tried a few new wine-making techniques (both during fermentation and in the cellar) in an effort to continually push for more complexity and diversity of flavor in our pet-nats.
Both the Syrah and the Gewürztraminer were started using carbonic maceration to naturally boost aromatics and fruit intensity. This process is most famously used in Beaujolais to produce lively, fruit-forward wines. For us the process begins by adding the grapes to a tank with a little pied de cuve and some dry ice to purge the tanks of oxygen (see our notes on native fermentation to learn more about pied de cuve). The tank is closed off with a fermentation lock which allows gas to escape without letting oxygen enter. The absence of oxygen allows the fruit to begin an anaerobic fermentation and over the course of several days the fruit begins fermenting from the inside out. The Gewürztraminer spent one week in these conditions while the Syrah spent about 10 days.
Also new this year, we utilized more pressure tanks in our production. Typically, with our hand-disgorged pet-nats we bottle just before fermentation completes followed by 3-4 months of lees aging, then disgorging. With this new method we add the fermenting wine into a pressure tank at about the same time it would typically go into bottle. The tank is locked down and the wine completes its fermentation, building CO2. After a settling period we bottle the wine under pressure off a higher racking port, leaving the sediment behind. This process does two things: it gives the wine less time on the lees, and it allows us to bypass the disgorging process while maintaining a naturally sparkling wine without filtration or additives.
Every pét project wine is fermented naturally, utilizing wild indiginous yeast from the vineyard, as opposed to cultured lab yeast. I opt to use a pied de cuve to begin each fermentation- it’s a small, "starter" from the vineyard- which I begin in advance of the bulk fermentation. I often compare this method to baking sourdough bread with a starter. Using this technique helps build up a healthy and diverse natural yeast population, allowing the primary fermentation to take off strong.
I have been asked on occasion if this process yields the same result as leaving the grapes and must to ferment on their own, completely untouched. In fact, it can be almost the exact same result, however, using a pied de cuve is more intentional, it promotes a healthier fermentation and in my opinion adds an element of intention to an otherwise uncontrolled process.
To make the pied de cuve, I pick about 25 lbs of exceptionally healthy looking fruit at the vineyard about a week before harvest. I hand destem this fruit into a large-mouth glass carboy and use what looks like an oversized potato masher (it’s actually a large potato masher) to crush the fruit and make a mash of juice and skins.
The environmental yeasts get to work and after 3-4 days the fermentation really starts bubbling away. I do a series of mini-punch downs to wet the cap and introduce oxygen before lightly pressing and straining off the fermenting liquid to add to the harvested fruit in a whole-cluster format or to recently pressed juice depending on the intended direction of a given wine. The result is stylistically consistent, yet the product is always unique and the quality of the wine depends entirely on the quality of the raw material from the vineyard.
spring roll salad / green bean salad
To talk simply about pairing, there are two ways to go about it, matching flavors or contrasting them. Personally, I like to pair things that are similar- think about a pairing based on the body of a wine and the heaviness of the food. Light salads with light bodied, zesty wines or rich stews with medium-full bodied wines that have more cooked fruit or savory flavors. There are lots of times when rich fatty foods require bright high acid wines but in general looking for similarities between food and wine is a bit more reliable than predicting the outcome of a contrast pairing.
One of my favorite dinners of the summer was this spring roll salad which I paired with our 2019 Roussanne pet-nat. This salad is light but extremely filling with cold rice noodles, shaved cabbage, cucumbers, fresh herbs and a ginger-citrus dressing. The Roussanne that year had a lot of tropical fruit and citrus flavors that pair perfectly with this bright, aromatic salad. Perfect for those sweltering evenings when the last thing you want to do is go anywhere near a hot stove.
Spring Roll Salad (vegan)
8 oz vermicelli rice noodles (boiled, strained, rinsed with cold water, and strained again)
1 head Napa cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 bunch each Thai basil, Mint, Cilantro picked and torn (reserve half of the herbs for the dressing)
5-6 Scallions, thinly sliced
2-3 Carrots, shredded on a mandolin
1 Cucumber, peeled, seeded, halved and cut thinly
¼ Cup Peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Reserve half of the remaining herbs and half of the scallions for garnish.
1/2 cup vegetable
2 T sesame oil
1 inch piece of ginger peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, de-stemmed and chopped (or other pepper or chili for desired heat level)
1/2 of the above herb blend (thai basil, mint, cilantro)
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
s&p to taste
Puree all ingredients in a blender until incorporated.
Add the noodles to a large bowl with half the dressing and toss. Add all remaining ingredients and remaining dressing and toss. Let this salad sit in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before serving. Any leftovers will still keep well for lunch the following day.
Serve in your favorite bowls (maybe the ones you don’t use all that often) and garnish with scallions and herbs. Share with friends (maybe the ones you don’t see all that often).
Pairs well with our Roussanne pet-nats.
Serves 6-8 for a dinner sized salads
This green bean salad was a hit with my family and could be made with almost any type of pole bean, bush bean, snap peas or asparagus. The salad comes together in minutes and is great as a veggie main course or a filling side dish at a barbeque. We paired it with our 2019 Grüner Veltliner.
Green Bean Salad (vegan)
Rinse 2 pounds of green beans well and pick the stem ends off. Quickly blanch them in salted water for 1-2 minutes, they should still be a bit crunchy. Quickly strain and shock them in ice cold water. Set them back in the strainer to drain for a few minutes while making the dressing.
¼ cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
3 Tablespoons wine vinegar (or lemon juice if you like)
1 small shallot finely minced
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard (or dijon mustard if you like)
1 tablespoon raw honey (or raw maple syrup if you prefer)
1 handful fresh tarragon leaves, picked and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients with a whisk, slowly adding EVOO to emulsify, or use a blender to incorporate if you are in a rush. Toss the beans and dressing in a large bowl and serve or allow them to marinate for an hour or two and serve cold. Garnish with whole tarragon leaves.
Serves 4-6 for a dinner sized salad or 8-10 for a side dish.
Summer bounty is perfect for my favorite kind of cooking. The produce is bright, colorful, and packed with flavor, requiring minimal intervention. For summertime recipes, I take the same approach I take to winemaking - let the ingredients speak for themselves.
pétproject is available for purchase at both of Foundry Vineyards' tasting rooms.
pétproject does not have a wine club, and sells out completely each year.
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