Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wines & Beverages: Schramsberg Winery Tour!

No class instruction about Wines & Beverages would be complete without a field trip!  Even after 21 consecutive years of education, I still get excited about field trips!  Whether it's to the Barling Lock & Dam with a lunch stop at McDonald's, or now-a-days with a trip to the local sparkling wine producer Schramsberg; I still look forward to getting out and seeing what I am learning about.
No barrel aging here at Schramsberg!  They produce their wines via the méthode traditionnelle, famously known as the méthode champenoise. Here, the bottles line the walls where they are aged on the lees. This means the wine is undergoing fermentation as the yeast is dying and undergoing autolysis. The breakdown of the yeast gives sparkling wine that bready, baked goods characteristic that it is so famous for. Sounds gross, but it is yummy!
Speaking of gross! Don't look up in a 150 year old natural cave. Don't worry, it's not mold.  Actually it is a natural lichen species that creates additional insulation for the cave. If it's good for the wine, it's good for me...........I think.
Once again, here is another example that the wine industry isn't quite as sexy as everyone thinks. These workers actually have to wear face shields to protect themselves from potentially explosive bottles of sparkling wine.  The backed-up pressure is the equivalent of 90 psi, or twice the air pressure of your car tire.
For all the bottles that don't blow up in your face (roughly 99.9%), they are then placed on riddling racks or pupitres where they will be slightly turned and hand!!! over the next 6-8 weeks to disgorge the remaining sediment.
The by-hand method, performed by a Riddler (not making that up), has been mechanized and now this task can be done using sophisticated, computerized gyropalettes. Interestingly enough, Schramsberg still uses a professional riddler who has been doing the same job for over 30 years! No matter which method is used, the end result is all that is important..................
..............and Schramsberg always seems to produce a great product. Would you like a standard bottle, or perhaps a magnum (2 bottles), or PERHAPS A REHOBOAM (six bottles).
No matter the size you pick, enjoying a tasting of California Champagne with friends is all that is important.  Cheers to AOS 6 as we conclude Wines & Beverages.  Thank you Schramsberg for capping off a really cool class here at the CIA. Back to the kitchen we go!

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