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Winemaker’s Blog 
January 2016:  OAK Trials (click here for pdf of this blog with additional photos)

What is an oak trial?  Oak trials are the process of testing different oak varieties for a wine and they are completed by preparing a series of taste samples to help us to determine the best oak or oak combinations for a particular wine.  In this case, we were doing oak trials for Founders’ Red – with different kinds of oak (American, Hungarian, and French) and different toast levels (Light, Medium, and Heavy).   For the trials, we use a product called “Oak Beans”, small cubes of different kinds of oak which have been toasted over a traditional oak fire and which permit us to easily test multiple small samples. We try to achieve a certain consistency in flavors from vintage to vintage while making the best wine possible.  We will insert the oak beans in the sample bottles, seen labelled above, and then taste the wine over the course of 2-3 days as oxygen is allowed to be incorporated, giving us a glimpse of how the wine, and its oak flavors, will age. 

Which did pick?  Number 777, Hungarian oak with Heavy Toast and Barrel Head.

Why Oak Beans?  The usage of oak beans when making wine in stainless steel tanks allows us to incorporate the flavor impact of high quality oak in a cost effective manner.  If we were to purchase the same quality of oak in barrel form, the oak expenditures would be 85% more.  Most of the oak in a barrel is for the structure of the barrel not the flavor!  Thus, we can produce a delicious wine with the tannins and structure that oak can provide in a cost conscious way. 

Winemaker, Jeff Murphy, January 2016