2020 brought its challenges just like any vintage year. While some were challenging, many pushed us forward to continue experimenting in our winemaking process.
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 our notes on organic practices for more info on the certification process in the US and how it differs from certifications for European wines). 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 (for 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!). We are so excited to begin working with both varieties this year. 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 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 a few 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 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 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.