Facebook is the land of questions, including winemaking; especially for some of us in the wine business. If I get a winemaking question on this blog and I don’t have an answer, I turn to my winemaking friends. Last week, on my blog about “Sur Lie aging versus aging Sur Lees,” one of my readers thought I might have an answer for a very complicated question.

The one time that I tried winemaking, it quickly turned to mold; so I knew that I had to let it go and just get better at asking questions and then writing about the winemakers… Let the experts worry about the chemistry. I was much better with biology, anatomy, physiology, physical science, and languages (English grammar, French, Spanish, and American Sign Language).

The following question as a “comment”


“Have 120 gal. of Pino noir aging for 5 mo. Trying to build flavor & aroma how long can I leave it on the lees before racking? Color & aroma are still a little weak, but it has good flavors?”

Hum… Not wanting to have him turn his wine into mold, I turned to my Facebook friends:


WINEMAKING QUESTION: for my winemaking friends… Seems like a home winemaker…

“Have 120 gal. of Pino noir aging for 5 mo. Trying to build flavor & aroma how long can I leave it on the lees before racking? Color & aroma are still a little weak, but it has good flavors?

Here are many answers

… which prove that this simple question is quite complicated. And, makes for a very interesting read, in my humble opinion.

Collin Jeffery Cranor (Nottingham Cellars and Vasco Urbano Wine Company) ~ Winemaker

“That’s a loaded question Jo. And one that will certainly draw 10 different responses from 10 different people.”


All great opinions [welcomed], and it would make fora great blog story, too… Publicity in the making… I can’t answer this, because the only time I tried to make wine, it developed mold overnight. Yeah… I’m not all that.

Christine Havens (Wawawai Canyon Winery) ~ Winemaker

“I think it’s impossible to say without being there to assess the wine. Mistakes in winemaking happen! I once had to dump 400 gallons of Gewurztraminer.”


Both good answers to give to my reader who asked this question.

Melanie Hoffman

I’ll ask Heath [Hoffman] ~ Winemaker

(My daughter and son-in-law… Heath has worked for Davis Bynam, Venge Vineyards, Clos Pegase, and more… many prestigious wine brands and winemakers. This, along with working with a wine analysis company in Graton, which adjusts wines that need adjusting. He actually makes some of the finest Pinots I’ve ever tasted; soft, elegant, and very very smooth.)

Miro Tcholakov (Trentadue Winery and Miro Cellars) ~ Winemaker

The color is not going to improve for sure, the aromas will change -for good or bad is uncertain without being there and knowing the entire history. If the lees is clean at this point -keep the wine on it until bottling. If there were no obvious fruit aromas improvement in that direction is unlikely.

Melanie Hoffman ~ from the Winemaker

Heath asked, “Do they have access to an air pump? They can inject air into the bottom of the barrel for about 30 sec, while stirring the lees up to 2 minutes. That will be basically the equivalent of a racking. If they don’t have an air pump the wine should come off the lees at 6 months and racked. Sur lie aging is pretty much an expert process. Not for the faint of heart. It could go wrong quickly. After racking the sulfur should be tested so the free SO2 is between 30 and 35, ballpark.”

Alison Crowe (Garnet Vineyards) ~ Winemaker

Have them email me, happy to help the micro vintner. It’s a phone conversation rather than a 25 word FB response.

Marty Johnson (Eaton Hill Winery and Ruby Magdalena Vineyards) ~ Winemaker

If Alison is willing to help, steer your reader in her direction! It can be a very complicated or a very simple solution. It can depend on many variables. She is the “go-to” girl for Pinot Noir, and for winemaking questions!


Thanks Alison, I’ll send an Email to him… Everyone’s comments – so much good advice – and I’ll also give him your email. These answers demonstrate how complicated his seemingly simple question is.

Susanne Carlberg (Christopher Bridge Wines) ~ Vintner

And then there’s always Alison’s “bible” … good to have in any winemaking library!