Welcome to Lost Oak Winery's Blog.
Winemaking can be romantic and fun, but it’s also hard and dirty work. One of my favorite dirty jobs around the production barn is cap management. No, it’s not trying on different hats and posing for selfies with the barrels.
Let’s start with the cap and why it needs managing. The cap is a layer of grape skins and seeds that forms on the top of fermenting red wine. The yeast eats the sugars in the grape juice and produces CO₂. The CO₂ pushes the skins and seeds to the top of the fermenting juice and then you get a cap. We don’t want that cap to stay there, we want it all mixed up with the fermenting juice for better color, aroma, and flavor extraction.
There are different techniques we can use to get this cap all stirred up. The first is called a punch down. We use a tool to punch the cap back down and stir it all up. Large fermentation tanks are too big to use the punch down method, so we pump-over. This means we pump the fermenting juice from the bottom of the tank and spray it on top of the cap to mix it up.
The last method is delestage (rhymes with sell-best-lodge). This is like pump over except we pump the fermenting juice into a different tank, allowing the cap to fall all the way to the bottom. We let the cap settle and then pump the juice back on top of the cap. It is a messy job and it one that cannot be ignored; it must be done every day. As long as we have red wines fermenting, I’ll be here managing the caps… and taking the occasional selfie.
It’s hot out, and in Texas that means it is time for the grapes to come off the vine. We started harvesting on our property on July 24th! Now we are well into September and all the Lost Oak grapes are off the vines and being turned into wine.
So, how was the harvest? Going into spring the weather was cool and there were wonderful pop-up rains with no hail. The vines were bursting with buds and looking happy and healthy. But as the grapes matured the reality of “snowmageddon” started to set in. Turns out, it affected the vines a little more than we thought it was going to. Our yields were down… way down. No Blanc du Bois at all!
But it is not all doom and gloom. Our vines may not have produced what we wanted them to, but they survived, and we are sure that this will only make them stronger. We are also working closely with our growers in the High Plains, so we won’t be lacking for grapes around here. We may see less of some of our favorites this year, but it may also be a great opportunity to pick up some new favorites…wink-wink.
Every year the Lost Oak Team heads out to the High Plains to check in on our grape growers. This year was more educational than usual because we also had the opportunity to stop in Plains Texas for Newsom Grape Day, a free event held every year by Neal and Janice Newsom of Newsome Vineyards. Growers, winemakers, and anyone interested in Texas wine gather to hear experts address a topic that affects grapes and wine. This year’s topic was Soil! Dirt may not sound all that exciting, but it was truly fascinating how this plant necessity can have a BIG impact on the finished product. Most wine enthusiasts know that soil can add to the terroir characteristic of wine. It is one of the big reasons that a Merlot from Australia does not taste the same as a Merlot from California. But soil is more important to winemaking than just its terroir contributions. It is directly responsible for much of the vine’s ability to grow and sustain itself.
As a grower or potential grower, soil can be your best friend or worst enemy. We spent the day looking at presentations on soil mapping, soil compositions, soil striations, chemical compositions of soil, and topographical maps. We even went outside and looked in a freshly dug soil pit. So, why is dirt so important? Why spend a whole day discussing it and looking at it?
Grapevines are hardy and will grow just about anywhere, but just because grapes will grow just about anywhere does not mean that you will get the best grapes out of just any old piece of land. Topsoil that is too thin means the roots could hit bedrock and become stunted. Soil that does not drain well could mean too much water for the vines. Soil with too much drainage means a grower may have to use more water than expected. Nutrient-deficient soil could mean that the vines struggle to produce fruit. Soil with uneven nutrients may result in a vineyard that does not produce an even crop yield. Soil with certain chemical compounds can result in grapes with higher or lower than expected pH.
Following the topography and soil maps can also help a potential grower map out the design of their vineyard more efficiently. This soil and topographic information can identify how to break up a vineyard into blocks for optimal production and ease of use of the land. Topographical maps can even help identify areas that may be more affected by freezes.
One thing is for sure: grape growing is not for the impulsive! It takes immense amounts of planning, managing, and maintenance.
Thank you to everyone at Newsom Grape Day for having us and cheers to all our growers. Their hard work makes it possible for us to provide you with excellent wine!
February is almost here, the time of year our thoughts turn to romance and love for one special day. But is that one special day just for couples? I think now. Valentine's Day can be for you sweetheart, your best gal pals, or just for you. And what better way to celebrate than with wine and chocolate? Here are some guidelines to help you prepare the perfect wine and chocolate experience.
You cannot go wrong with milk chocolate and a sweet red. Lost Oak's Dolce Rouge has a velvety texture, full body, and delicate sweetness that will meld with the rich and creamy milk chocolate. For a bolder experience, pair dark chocolate with full bodied dry reds. Dark chocolate and dry red wines have tannins in common making them a match made in heaven. We suggest making the experience extravagant with our Shiraz Reserve or Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. You should probably splurge on the chocolate too and try something that is 60% or more cocoa. When pairing chocolates that have additives like fruit or nuts, look for wines with similar flavor profiles. Crimson Oak and chocolate covered cherries would hit the spot. Maybe fancy chocolate just isn't your thing. What about the classic peanut butter cup? Reach for a more fruit forward wine like our Petite Sirah. It may seem like wine and chocolate pairing is only for the red wine drinkers, but this is not true. White wines can complelement many different types of chocolates, the most obvious being white chocolate. White chocolate tends to be more creamy and sweeter than even milk chocolate, so our Sweet Duet would pair perfectly. Dryer whites, like Quartet or Viognier, pair well with chocolates that have caramel or toffee.
But maybe the best pairing advice would be to grab your favorite bottle of wine and an assortment of chocolates and try them all! Wine and food pairing is about exploration and finding what you, your sweetheart, or your gal pals like best.
I am so excited to see Shiraz back on our wine list, and for the first time we are welcoming a Petite Sirah to the family. But these wine names along with their friend Syrah can be a little confusing.
When it is called Syrah, the style and flavor tend to be more old world, more earthy and savory. Shiraz, on the other hand, is produced in a new world style with more fruit forward (and even jammy) flavors. Petite Sirah, however, is a completely different grape. In fact, in Europe it is known as Durif. Genetic testing has proven that it is a product of cross pollination of Syrah and Peloursin grapes. Because one of its parent grapes is Syrah, it can share some flavor similarities with it which may have prompted the name change to Petite Sirah.
Our new Shiraz Reserve will be available to Wine Club members only. Non Wine Club Members can obtain this Shiraz by purchasing one of our Virtual Tasting Packs up until the tasting on September 25th. This tasting will be led by our winemaker, Jim Evans, and our tour guide and employee spotlight, Zack. Click here to purchase your tasting pack. We look forward to having all of you back out at the winery enjoying some awesome Texas wine!
Farming is not an easy job. Crops can be temperamental and require specific conditions. Some environmental conditions can be controlled, such as adding nutrients to the soil and watering when needed. When all the conditions are right, the crops are happy, healthy, and fruitful. When they are not, it can be disastrous. In October of last year there was an unexpected weather event in the High Plains of Texas that threw grape growing into chaos. Being in Burleson, this weather event did not make it to us and we did not know how to process the information our growers were reporting to us: projected massive losses. At the time, no one knew that the word massive was not a strong enough word to describe the devastation.
Massacred Vines at Bingham Family Vineyards
So, what happened? And how could it have been that bad? Grape growing in Texas has many pitfalls. The most common are hailstorms, the Texas heat, and late freezes. All grape growers in Texas have experienced all three of these at one time or another, but what happened in the High Plains was more uncommon. It was an early freeze. A late freeze happens in March or April, usually after the vine has started to bud out. When the freeze occurs, the unexpected cold will kill newly grown shoots and buds. In most cases the vine will survive, but there will be little to no crop that year. But with an early freeze, the extreme temperature drop happens after harvest but before the vine becomes dormant. That should be fine, right? There are no grapes growing so it seems there should be nothing to worry about. That is what I thought, and I was very wrong.
To really understand what had happened, Roxanne, Gene, Jim, and I took a trip to the High Plains to meet with our growers and to see the vines for ourselves. Our growers are a hardy type of folk, they are farmers through and through, with generations of experience in their blood and grit under their fingernails. Imagine our shock when one seasoned grower said to us, “I’m depressed.” Again, we still could not fully understand, so out to the vineyards we headed. What we saw was row after row of damaged or dead vines. It was not merely massive, it was catastrophic.
Angela, Jim, Gene at Krick Hill Vineyard
The growers explained it to me like this: when a vine goes dormant in the winter, all its sap moves to its roots. There it saves up its energy and waits out the worst of the winter until it bursts forth in the spring ready to make grapes. Back in October, the vines had not gone dormant yet, so there was till sap in the cordons and the trunk. The freeze happened so quickly and lasted just long enough that the sap froze inside the vines destroying the interior cellular structure. It gets worse. If the vine was between 1 to 3 years old, it died. If the vine was older, 10+ years, it also died.
But as devastating as this was to see, I was surprised to hear that many of our growers retained an extraordinary amount of hope, including the one who told us that he was depressed. You see, for the most part, those vines that were not too young or too old, survived! They are not in good shape, but an alive vine is something the growers can work with, though it is like starting over from scratch. To begin again, the growers must take a new shoot from the trunk, using the old dead trunk as a guide and bring it up to the trellis. This shoot will become the new trunk and from there new cordons can be trained. It will be a few years before those vines start producing grapes again, but it is still better than replanting everything. And, there is some even better news than that; some varietals were not affected as much as others. We did see acres of vines that looked happy and healthy even if they did not have any grapes on them.
Gene & Roxanne at the Newsom Vineyards Rock'N Bed and Breakfast
Many of the growers looked at this event as a learning opportunity. I heard a lot of talk about different rootstocks for the vines that need to be replanted and an increase in planting the vines that weathered the freeze better. It is always hard to lose a crop, but as farmers they must continually look forward to the next year’s crop. I imagine if you only focus on the bad years it would be impossible to move forward.
We are thankful for our grower’s expertise, diligence, and hospitality as they guided us through their vineyards. Next time you open a bottle of wine, give a heartfelt, “Cheers” to the growers. Afterall, Jim and I believe that good wine is made in the vineyard.
Like all food and drink, wine is hard to explain. For example, Dr. Pepper has 23 flavor components. Most people can pick out a few of them when sipping on a Dr. Pepper. Let’s just take one of those flavor components, such as cherry. Think about how you would describe what a cherry tastes like to someone who has never had a cherry. You couldn’t just say it tastes like cherry; they wouldn’t understand because they have no frame of reference. You could say it tastes good or bad, but that’s not helpful because that is your opinion of the flavor and may not be theirs. Then the problem is compounded further by what kind of cherry it is. A Bing cherry and a Renoir cherry don’t taste the same. When making a description we are tapping into our memory banks of other aromas and flavors to make something unfamiliar, familiar. The process for assessing aroma and flavor components in wine can be applied to any food or beverage. It can help other people understand what they are smelling and tasting. And it’s just fun to do.
Some things to keep in mind when tasting/describing wine:
- Wine tasting is subjective. You may not taste the same thing someone else does and that is ok.
- Flavors and aromas are tied very strongly to memory. You might not like the wine because a flavor or aroma brings up an unpleasant memory or vice versa.
- We may describe wine as having flavors of apricots or cherries, but these are just descriptors. The flavors in the wine remind us of those flavors but there aren’t actually apricots or cherries in the wine (unless it is wine made from apricots or cherries).
- The majority of people approach trying new food and drinks in the simplest of ways; take a bite or sip and you'll decide pretty quickly if you like it or not.
- A structured approach to tasting wine (or anything) is a tool to help see beyond that mimediate "like/dislike reaction".
Wine tasting 101 starts with looking at the wine in the glass. One of the first thing you want to look for is if the wine is cloudy or has sediment. Cloudy/sediments in wine is not necessarily an indicator of bad wine, but it could be, so it is important to note. Then, take a look at the color; is it deep, rich, light, ruby, golden, tawny? When doing blind taste tests, sommeliers use color as a clue as to what varietal and vintage the wine may be. For the novice, it's a way to get to know the varieties and how age can affect color.
Give the wine a swirl! This can help in assessing the color but more importantly, this aerates the wine, allowing more aromas to be released. The shape of the wine glass is designed to trap those aromas, which brings us to our next step; smelling the wine. The idea is to gently inhale and try to pick out familiar aromas. It helps to close your eyes and imagine the aromas.
Now, we have looked at the wine, we have swirled the wine, and we have smelled the wine. It is finally time to taste the wine! Take a small sip of the wine and hold it in your mouth for a few seconds. Do not use this first sip to assess the wine, this sip is to get your mouth and brain ready to pick out familiar flavors. Now, take a bigger sip and swish it around to coat the mouth. Swallow or spit, then inhale through the mouth. Think about how the wine felt in your mouth, on all parts of it. What are the texture components? Was there a prickly sensation, a mouth drying sensation? Did the wine seem oily, heavy, light? Next (and you may need another sip) start to identify flavors. If you are having trouble identifying flavors, a flavor wheel may help. You may find that the wine doesn't taste how it smells, in fact it may be quite a bit different from what you were expecting.
There is a lot of pomp and circumstance to tasting wine and sometimes it does seem a little silly, but give it a try. You might find a new appreciation for the complexity of wine.
Any party is an excuse to drink wine, but what about a party all about wine? Here are some ideas to get your wine party on!
Wine and Cheese go together like…. wine and cheese.
Throw a party to celebrate this match made in heaven. Have all of your guests bring their favorite bottle of wine and block cheese. Your guests can try different combinations to find their perfect pairings. It is a great way to try new things and explore with friends without breaking the bank. As the party winds down, a fun game of “guess who brought what wine and cheese” is always a good way to see how well everyone knows each other.
Group like wines together. For example, put all the dry reds/dry whites/sweet wines together so that certain types of wine are easier for you guest to find. The same can go for the cheese by placing hard cheeses in one groupng and soft cheese in another.
See how well you and your guests know their stuff with a Blind Wine Tasting Party. Have your guests bring a bottle of wine in a non-descript bag. This works best when it is single varietals, so specify no blends. Have the person who brought the wine pour everyone a sample. Let the group talk it over and then everyone tries to guess what the wine is. It’s a fun way to see who in your group knows their wine. Alternatively, you can assign each wine a number and set them out on a table and let your friends try the wine as they mingle. Afterwards you can have a big reveal and see who guessed correctly.
Pro-tip: With any party, the ultimate goal is to have fun. Make sure you wine party is unpretentious and welcoming to all types of wine. Afterall, wine is all about enjoying it with friends.
In 2019, Lost Oak Winery entered a number of our wines into two important competitions, and the results did not disappoint!
The first competition was the 39th Annual San Francisco International Wine Competition. Our wines went head-to-head with wines from all over the world!
The Result: Double Gold for the 2017 Cabernet Franc!
Later that year we entered the 20th Annual San Francisco Chronical Competition, the largest wine competition of American wines in the world!
The Result: Double Gold for the 2018 Viognier!
These aren’t the only awards we took home; visit our website LostOakWinery.com for a full list of all the wines that won Gold, Silver, and Bronze at these prestigious wine competitions!
Every November, Lost Oak sets out to answer that age-old question; What wine should I pair with Thanksgiving dinner? Don’t worry, our resident wine nerd has you covered. This year we have a knockout box of four wines specially selected to not only go with everything on your Thanksgiving table but to also please everyone sitting at the table.
First up we have our yearly Holiday release! A versatile dry red that is more on the fruity side. Rich with flavors of ripe berries it will complement everything from turkey to mashed potatoes and everything in between.
But if you have friends or family that are looking for something a little dryer, we have the Montepulciano. Its character is a little more spicy with rich tannins making it the perfect complement ham and some of your creamy side dishes.
For the white drinkers in your life we have our Gewurztraminer. A wonderfully friendly wine reminiscent of figs and nectarines, this wine is the perfect starter to your evening. Have it with your appetizers or with you are cooking.
Last but not least is our Lat Harvest Roussanne. This dessert wine needs no paring, it is decadent and rich all on its own. However, no Thanksgiving is complete without pie, and this is just the wine you want while enjoying that slice, whether it’s apple, pumpkin, or pecan!
Come into the tasting room to pick up all four wines together in a convenient tote, ready to take to your Thanksgiving table for the discounted price $95.95. Or, if you can’t make it to the tasting room click here to order it online and we’ll ship it to you. To ensure that your wine gets to you by Thanksgiving all orders must be placed by November 20th.