Zen Breath 3-2-1

Note: You are receiving this email because you subscribed to my weekly 3-2-1 newsletter or you subscribed to the Koi Zen Cellars newsletter. Every Friday, I share 3 wine terms, 2 quotes from me, and 1 question for you to ponder. Occasionally, I also send out long-form articles on habits and self-improvement.

"Life is what is happening while you are dreaming of the future"
~ The Zen Winemaker ~

3 terms, 2 quotes, 1 question

October 22, 2021

Happy Friday! Time to wrap up this week and get ready for the next! Take a deep breath and kick off the weekend on a positive note. Let's consider where we have been, improve it, and move forward next week. Packing the most content into the least words and trying to change the world, one glass at a time.

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3 - Wine Terms - Élevage

We are about 3/4 of the way through harvest and are hopping to have all the 2021 wines into barrel by Thanksgiving. Then a magical process begins to happen. The French use the term Élevage to describe the transformational process wine goes through while it ages. A close English translation would be "raising" as in raising a child.

After fermentation, we press the infant wine to remove the solids and then bulk age all of our red wines in Oak Barrels for a minimum of 18 months, often as long as 36 months.

And here are some the cool things that happen during élevage.
  1. Clarification - when the fermented grapes (called must) is complete, we press the wine to extract the solids from the wine. During this process the wine is very turbid with fine particles of grape skin, crushed seeds, and yeast cells. Over time, these fine particles drop to the bottom of the barrel forming a thick sludge called gross lees. (note, if it is only dead yeast cells, it is called fine lees.)

    Some winemakers will leave the gross lees in the barrels to enhance the mouthfeel of the wine while extracting extra aromas and flavors. At Koi Zen, we usually leave the wine on the lees for 6-9 months. There are risks though; if the gross lees have any nutrients, bad bacteria can form resulting in spoilage or off aromas.

    To mitigate this risk, Winemakers can also stir the lees and frequently taste the wine in a process called Bâtonnage which translates to "stirring the lees" .

    Over time, the wine will naturally clarify using gravity alone. At Koi Zen we have never needed to filter our red wines due to the extended aging process.
  2. Texture - baby wine is often lean, mean and completely unruly - just like a human baby. But as it ages, it develops maturity and calms down. Many of the compounds in young wine are new, such as alcohol, tannins, acid, and pigmentation and it takes time for these to chemically bind and homogenize. When they unite together the wine will smooth and become integrated.

    As wines continue to age, the small tannin particles will bind together developing longer chains which contribute to the mouthfeel and roundness of the wine. This lead to the historical practice of "laying wine down." Modern wines, however, are create to be table ready when they are released and few large commercial wines improve with age.

    Small craft wines, like Koi Zen produces, are hand crafted and table ready when purchased, but are created to improve over the next few years. That being said, most red wines from California should be consumed within 3-5 years; slightly longer in a wine refrigerator and less when stored on the shelf.
  3. Micro Oxygenation - At Koi Zen we age all of our red wines in barrels. Each barrel holds about 300 bottles which is 25 cases. Every year about 5-10 gallons of wine evaporates out of the barrel which is often referred to as the 'Angel Share,' or the sprites guys call it the 'Devils Cut.' While this is happening, a micro amount of oxygen seeps in through the seams of the barrel into the wine that improves the texture, smoothness, and roundness of the wine.

    In general, oxygen is bad for wine, but when it is done through micro oxygenation, it greatly enhances the product. Large producers don't use barrels (only 3% of all wine is matured in barrels worldwide) will use a bubbler, similar to an air stone for a fish tank to achieve similar results, but we love our barrels.
Remember : Aging wine past its time is a form of alcohol abuse.

2 - Quotes from Me:

1. "An email or text does not constitute communication." ~ The Zen Winemaker

2. "You only know what you said, not what was heard." ~ The Zen Winemaker

1 - Question to ponder:

Saying vs. Hearing?

This year Koi Zen Cellars offered a "Grape to Bottle" class where students learn how to make wine using the same fruit we harvest at the winery. We opened the class up to 30 students and the class was sold out within two days. Raise a glass to these future winemakers and to those who support them.

We started the class with a 3 hour long lesson on the highlights of making wine, covering aspects of ripeness, preparation, fermentation, pressing, and aging. Fermentation is the key step and is the magical step that converts sweet grape juice into liquid of the gods.

Mother Nature is quite adapt at fermentation and has been doing it for eons (some monkeys also ferment fruit). And while it is a natural process, it is a finicky process if you actually want to drink what is fermented. For three hours I poured out information like a fire-hose. I followed the basic teaching tenant of: 1) tell them what you are going to tell them, 2) tell them, 3) summarize and tell them what you told them.

There were a lot of questions asked during the class and then the future winemakers dispersed with their handouts, notes and contact information for me if they have any additional questions.

And boy did they ask questions. There were basic questions, clarification questions and then questions I had never though of. I thought I had communicated, but there were gaps and even some chasms in my lesson.

I was mistaken taking things for granted; assuming things were 'obvious' or 'common' when they were novel. I have been making wine for many years now and what I know is different than what my students knew. It was one of those situations where you know what you know but don't know what you don't know.

This has caused me to rethink the material I covered and did not cover. This made me change the curriculum to include the missing gaps and provide more examples and explanations of new concepts such as fermentation.  Next years class will be even better - but sign up quickly next fall.

There is a communication technique called 'Brief Back,' where the listener explains to the teller what they heard and understood. While it sound silly or trivial, it is amazing when you 'think' you say X but people hear Y. Utilizing a brief back, it is easy 'communicate' with mutual understanding. And how much easier would life be if without misunderstandings.

Unfortunately we are often busy or distracted when we speak or listen and what we think we are saying is not what is being heard. And if that is the case, then why speak at all? It only leads to misunderstanding, confusion, loss, and worse.

When one becomes mindful of the act of speaking and of listening, true communication can occur. It is often said that there is a reason we have two ears and only one mouth. When listening, listen and then provide feedback of what you understood.

This one trick can help tremendously from the boardroom the the living room.

Are you a communicator, or a talker?

Would you be interested in taking a class on:

~~ Notice ~~

Listening is more important than speaking



Darius Miller - The Zen Winemaker

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Author of a #1 best seller:
'The Zen Winemaker - Follow Your Dreams & Overcome Your Fears'

Creator of:

'The Zen Wine Tasting Journal - Life is too short to drink bad wine, or to wear ugly underwear.'

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