Many people enjoy drinking wine on special occasions, including weddings, anniversaries, holidays, and family gatherings. Some have even discovered the health benefits of drinking a daily glass of wine. But how many wine enthusiasts know how their favorite wines are made? Wine making is an art steeped in tradition, passed on through many generations. Mother Nature supplies everything needed to make wine, including the grapes and hard-compact clay soil necessary to grow a vineyard in a cool climate.
It’s up to humans to perfect the wine making process, and you won’t find more passionate winemakers than those at Aurora Cellars. Below, we’re proud to share a few of the secrets about our cool climate wine making process in Lake Leelanau, MI. Our family-owned boutique winery produces fewer than 10,000 cases per year, giving us time to carefully examine each batch to ensure it meets our high standards. Learn more about what makes our world-class cool climate wines so exquisitely flavorful.
The first step in the wine making process is harvesting the grapes, for it’s the acids, tannins, and esters in the grapes that give wines their distinct flavor notes. When you pick the grapes is essential because their level of physiological ripeness directly influences the resulting wine’s acidity, sweetness, and flavor. The weather also plays a significant role in wine making, especially in colder climates where winter and spring frosts may be an annual concern for the harvests. Science, experience, art, and good old-fashioned tasting all go together in determining the ideal time to harvest the grapes. At Aurora Cellars, we monitor our plants’ soil, acid and sugar levels, and other factors to ensure they’re ready for harvesting. Cane pruning lets us remove old growth from our plants and helps us protect them from annual frosts. Operating a smaller vineyard allows us to hand tend and harvest our grapes and invest in better quality control measures to ensure a perfect small batch of wine every time.
Once they’ve been harvested, the grapes are then sorted to eliminate the rotten or under-ripe ones before we’re ready to begin crushing and pressing them. While winemakers used to perform this ritual by stomping the grapes with their feet, today’s mechanical crushers have improved the process. Because the crushing process now takes less time and is more sanitary, fewer preservatives are needed to ensure the longevity of the wine. The type of wine desired will influence the pressing stage. White wines require pressing the grapes immediately after crushing to separate their juice from the skins and seeds. Red wines allow the grapes to keep their skins to aid in their color and flavor with additional tannins during the fermentation stage of the wine making process.
The extracted grape juice will typically begin the natural fermentation process within 6-12 hours. Some winemakers allow wild yeasts in the air to do their job of fermenting the grapes, while others prefer to use a controlled yeast of their choosing. During the fermentation process, the juice’s sugars are converted into alcohol. Fermentation times will vary, ranging from 10 days to a month or longer. In cool climates, an alcohol level of 10% is considered the standard. If you desire a sweeter wine, you need to stop the fermentation process prematurely before all the sugars become alcohol. We have perfected our cold climate wine making process over the years to avoid issues with extreme ripeness, too much fermentation, and over-extraction to eliminate undesired flavors and taste profiles.
After fermentation comes the clarification stage of the wine making process. Wines are put inside stainless steel tanks or oak barrels where they are siphoned or filtered to separate the liquids from the solids. During clarification, filters allow the removal of dead yeast, tannins, and proteins from the wines. Once the wine has been filtered, it’s ready for the aging and bottling processes. The wine can either be bottled immediately with a screw cap or cork atop the bottle or left to age inside the tank or barrel. Each has its own merits regarding refining the flavor of the wine. Oak barrels tend to give wines a smoother, almost vanilla-like flavor. Stainless steel tanks are often preferred when aging whites.
Where grapes are grown and harvested can affect their taste profiles. Warm climate grapes enjoy more consistent temperatures throughout their growing season. However, grapes in warmer climates tend to lose more of their natural acidity. Cool climate grapes retain their acidity but may have a harder time ripening. As a result, cool climate red wines tend to have a lighter body, lower alcohol content, higher acidity, and a more robust flavor than other red wines. Many cool climate wines are described as tart, elegant, nuanced, or fresh, accounting for why they are so popular among wine enthusiasts. Grapes that tend to favor cooler climates include Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Zweigelt.
Aurora Cellars specializes in Blaufrankisch, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot cool climate wines in our Lake Leelanau, MI boutique winery. Our cool climate reds have gained national notoriety in recent years. The Leelanau Peninsula’s rolling hills and hard-compact clay soil give us an ideal location for wine making. We cordially invite you to visit our tasting room to taste our award-winning wines for yourself. If you enjoy our welcoming atmosphere, knowledgeable staff, and exquisite wines, why not join our Wine Club? Members receive exclusive access to select and boutique wines, free wine tastings, deals on wines, discounts on glass pours, and more fun-filled perks. Contact us today to learn more!