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by Fred McMillin
for August 9, 2000
Stir the Lees, If You Please
Lees (sediment) being stirred by ace winemaker, Mick Schroeter
"The yeast lees were stirred every three to
four weeks for eight months."...
Geyser Peak Winemaker Mick Schroeter
The Rest of the Story
Solids form during and after fermentation. They
settle slowly to the bottom of the vessel and
the wine is drained off. BUT WAIT! The French
have known for years that, if properly handled,
the sediment can add flavor. So, about 20 years
ago, some California vintners started aging
Chardonnay on the lees, even stirring it periodically
to increase the contact.
I have seen them settle through a glass-ended
barrel such as that in the photo. Typically,
there are three bands, opaque solids on the bottom,
a cloudy layer above the solids, and then a very
clear layer on top. Obviously, stirring is needed
to provide continuing contact. As an aside,
in Burgundy the lees of some wines are so prized
that after the contact is ended, the sediment
is transfered to lesser wines to give them a
flavor boost. In Chardonnay, that boost is a
creamy complexity... which you certainly can
Our Wine of the Day
1998 Block Collection Chardonnay
Russian River Valley, Big River Ranch
Geyser Peak Winery, Geyserville, Sonoma County
Production—Only 550 cases.
Character—Lovely, gentle, will not overwhelm
even lightly-seasoned fish and fowl.
Rating—Best White in our last blind tasting.
About Those Other Words
Block Collection—The grapes from Lynn and Scott
Adams' Big Ranch Vineyard came from a certain
portion or "block" within the vineyard, of
particularly high quality. That's why there were
only those 550 cases.
Geyserville—Founded in Sonoma County in 1851 by Elisha
Ely to publicize the hot springs that
bubbled up as small geysers.
Geyser Peak Stature—Former co-owner of the Oakland
Raiders pro football team, Henry Trione, did
not have a winery of great repute when he bought it
in the 1980s. But he brought in a great team,
Pres. Dennis Pasquini of Sebastiani, Aussi
ace winemaker Daryl Groom, Daryl's teammate
Mick Schroeter, P.R. star Tim McDonald, et. al.
How did it work out? He just sold it for
a cool one hundred million bucks to Fortune
Brands (Jim Beam spirits, Titleist golf equipment etc.)
Contact—Office of Tim McDonald, (707)857-9463, FAX (707)857-9401
For much more, see the Oct, 16, 1998 WineDay, "Bleak At The Peak".
For information on our San Francisco wine lessons that will include learning about lees and tasting Geyser Peak wines, FAX (415)567-4468.
|| About the
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30
years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications
honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to
American wine writers. For information about the wine
courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University
or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at
This page created August 2000