Winemaking is tough.
Great wines are the result of blood, sweat, tears and plenty of trial and error. Every once in a while, in the midst of their toil, a winemaker has a bone thrown his or her way. That was the case with Peter Rosback, the well-regarded Oregon winemaker, and the “discovery” of his Red Table Wine.
Rosback’s winery, Sineann, is best known for its pinot noirs, but in recent years, Rosback has dabbled with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, zinfandel and merlot from Columbia Valley. He also travels to New Zealand to produce sauvignon blanc and pinot noir from the South Island’s exciting Central Otago region.
Sineann makes about 20 wines in any given vintage with a preponderance of red varieties. Sineann is well recognized among Oregon pinot noir aficionados, but one shouldn’t get the idea that it is a great and powerful wine factory of the Northwest. It is small, indeed. Most of the offerings Rosback makes are on the order of hundreds or dozens of cases.
Rosback’s idea of winemaking is to be a strict task master in the vineyards. He and his growers prune their vines to reduce the amount of grapes produced. This creates intensely flavored wines that give the taster a true sense of the exact location of where the fruit is grown.
As precious as the juice from these grapes is, the process for world-class wine requires some waste. Leftover wine can be found in the bottom of barrels when it is transferred in the spring. This used to just go down the drain.
“When our production got big enough, I asked my assistant to save the wine,” Rosback said. “We had enough the first year to fill two barrels….I was trying to figure out what to do with the wine and decided to bottle it as a Red Table Wine and sell it for cheap. It was a big hit, flying out the door.”
Another source for leftover juice can be found in the grape pulp after the initial gentle pressing. This extra liquid can be somewhat harsh and tannic. That is why Rosback separates it from his premium bottlings. The excess juice is coaxed out with just little more pressing.
A friend of Rosback’s (and an amateur winemaker) asked if he could make some “press wine” from Sineann leftovers. “He took them home (some old vine zin and some syrah), pressed them again, made wine and eventually brought the wine in for us to sample,” Rosback said. “It was a little tannic, but delicious. Why not? They were great grapes.”
Rosback has since taken this cue from his friend and adds the press wine to the Red Table Wine blend. Now, we all get to taste Rosback’s handiwork for less than $20 (most Sineann wines are $35 or more) and Rosback has another 1,000 or so bottles he can sell for minimal additional effort and expense.
When you call Sineann Winery, often as not, Rosback picks up the phone. His days are long and fraught with challenges on many fronts. The RTW, which sells out quickly every year, makes his hard work a little more rewarding. Score one for the little guy.
Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator and a consultant for a metro-Atlanta wine shop. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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