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North Coast Gets Access to Flash Extraction

New units in Sonoma County expected to be ready for this harvest

by Andrew Adams
flash extraction detente della toffola pera
Flash extraction equipment like this setup in Italy will be locally available to North Coast winemakers starting this vintage. Previously the closest machines were in Lodi and Monterey County, Calif.
Kenwood, Calif.—Rudy Zuidema expected to receive his last shipping containers this week, and the winemaker plans to have his new equipment “up and flashing” by Oct. 1.

Zuidema, who owns and operates Flash Wine Technologies at Kunde Family Estate winery in Kenwood, Calif., is offering one of two new options for North Coast vintners looking to employ flash extraction on their grapes.

Tyson Rippey, general manager of the Vintners Group, confirmed that the company has installed a unit at Carneros Vintners, located near Sonoma, Calif. The company has run a larger flash unit at Lodi Vintners since 2010.

Both companies purchased their machines from Della Toffola, an Italian manufacturer with a U.S. base in Windsor, Calif., which refers to the process as “Thermoflash.”

A French company, Pera, installed the first flash détente system at the Monterey Wine Co. in time for the 2009 harvest.

How it works
MoreBoth systems take red wine must and run it through a high heat chamber, then into a vacuum where the grapes are cooled so quickly they explode. The “flash” releases steam that contains pyrazines and other flavor compounds, which can be separated from the must. The process instantly extracts color and tannin from the skins before fermentation.

A winemaking consultant for several wineries, Zuidema said he wants to provide an option for smaller wineries to experiment with the technology—or enable larger wineries to make “very bright, fruit-forward lots that they can sprinkle throughout the cellar.”

The two new systems bring the total number of large-scale flash sites in the United States to four.

The machines are not cheap. Zuidema said he and an investor spent $750,000 on their machine, and Rippey said the total investment at Carneros Vintners is a “seven-figure” amount not expected to top $2 million.

More demand in the United States
U.S. winemakers appear to be opening up to the technology. In August, Roots Run Deep Winery in Napa Valley announced the release of its Hypothesis Cabernet Sauvignon and touted the fact the wine had been barrel fermented after running the grapes through flash détente. The label’s winemaker, Barry Gnekow, has been a strong proponent of the method.

The challenging harvests of 2010 and 2011 may have helped winemakers see the potential benefits of flash extraction.

Zuidema is leasing space at Kunde while running the flash system. He said he’s merely a custom crush client with extra equipment and has no formal partnership with Kunde. He plans to process 1,000 tons of fruit this vintage and has about 800 tons already booked. He said he’s offering flash services for a minimum of 10 tons, as his machine can process 10 tons per hour.

The price depends on the size of the job. Small, 10-ton jobs will cost $3.15 per gallon, while larger jobs of around 100 tons could be up to a dollar cheaper.

Kunde winery will provide crushing and pressing services. Clients can opt to crush and destem, flash and then press to barrel for a red wine barrel ferment that winemakers can manage like white juice.

What to flash
Zuidema said that with this season’s ideal weather, this vintage would offer winemakers a chance to see what flash détente can do with good fruit. He mentioned one client from Napa who is bringing some of the valley’s best. “We’re working with high-end stuff,” he said.

Zuidema added that flash also is great for grapes from virus-compromised vines that just can’t cross the finish line—or for that lot of grapes from the shady part of the vineyard. It also enables a larger winery to purchase “C+” fruit and then spend just a little more to maximize the fruit’s potential.

Rippey said the unit at Carneros Vintners could process 20 tons per hour. He said the machine has been there for a few weeks, but installation is nearly done and it should be ready later this week.

The location at Carneros Vintners is closer for Napa and Sonoma wineries than Lodi, and so far Rippey said he’s booked at about 75% capacity. “If it starts to rain or something, I think we’ll fill up fast,” he said.

Rippey noted that the new machine has three adjacent storage tanks to get jobs done quicker and move more trucks through.

He said he is expecting to see 1,500-2,000 tons this season because of the later start, but his equipment has the capacity to process 3,000-4,000 tons per year.

What's the price?
Carneros Vintners requires a minimum of 15 tons per client but that could change to 10. Rippey said the price at the lower end of the scale is $400 per ton.

Pricing depends on what the customer wants to do with their fruit. Clients can just process for flash at Carneros or ferment there as well.

Since opening the flash unit in Lodi, Rippey said some of his clients have become experienced with the process and know exactly what they want while others are still determining what’s best for their winery. “It’s such a new technology in this country there are guys who are testing the water.”

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