In a story by my writing buddy Larry Walker, which was publised in Wine & Vines, Larry wrote a story entitled “How Big Is Your Barrel?” It was written in February 2006, and Larry quotes barrel broker Mel Knox as saying
“… in the early 1980s, he didn’t sell a single puncheon. ‘Now, I can’t get enough of them.'”
(A puncheon is just slightly larger then two and a half 59 gallon barrels ~ 1 puncheon = 2.66877872 fluid barrels.)
I first became familiar with puncheons when Concannon Vineyard did their $35MIL renovation. At the time, I was involved in Concannon’s day-to-day PR. I was tasked with getting the word out on all of their changes, including their new barrel room. I didn’t have time to interview winemaker Adam Richardson about his choice of barrels… There was so much going on with all of the many changes, that barrel choice details just slipped right by me. Since then, most especially since the annual Petite Sirah Symposium is sponsored and hosted by Concannon, I’ve been able to have a lot of time in that barrel room. The annual Petite Sirah media tasting happens in there, and I’ve come to realize how jaw dropping that room is.
Now, I’m working with River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, and massive renovations aren’t at the top of my list right now. What is a priority is learning all I can about the winery and its players, and telling those stories.
Winemaker Joe Freeman has made himself very available for interviews and photos, most especially during the harvest of 2012, which is normally a bad time to distract winemakers with lots of questions. For Joe, it was quite the contrary. He’s quite knowledgeable and very willing to share all that’s happening and what he knows about each process.
In this video, Joe shares his uses and advantages of both 60 gallon and puncheon barrels, including using the larger barrels as open top fermenters. This is something I had never considered as a method of fermenting. But, when you’re assistant winemaker is also a cooper, anything is easily possible. (Ed Morris spent 11 years as a cooper, before he reset his career button from cooper to winemaker, and joined Joe Freeman at River Road Family Vineyards and Winery.)
After Joe had shown his new barrels to me for this season’s harvest, I realized that this would be a great video for those of you not able to get to a winery’s barrel room and see what’s being used. So, I asked him to repeat it for my camera.