Slow Winemaking at Stoutridge Winery

In addition to studying slow food, we studied slow wine.

After we and the chickens had been hunkering down in the house for Hurricane Sandy, we enjoyed getting out of the house to go to Stoutridge Vineyard in Marlboro, NY for a tour and wine tasting.  We were greeted by the owner Steve Osborn, who became interested in wines and winemaking while studying biochemistry at Cornell.  There, he discovered that he could remember the flavor of a wine perfectly, which has been useful not only for his wines but also for his paintings which are the wine’s flavors.  In 2001, he and his wife bought the 14 acre property and began making wine five years later.  At ninety miles an hour, he described to us how his winery is different from all other winemakers’ in North America.

Steve explaining how he makes wine. Look, his paintings on the wall!

Beginning in the tasting room, Steve gave us a general overview of typical winemaking in America and how his philosophy differs from the norm.  Most wineries in the United States produce their wine with the intention to ship it and make it available to the greatest number of people.  That’s why we can easily buy California wines in the Hudson Valley.  But, as Steve explained, the wine goes through several processes such as fining and filtering by which all of the proteins and pectins (and polyphenyls in reds) are removed, as is the sediment.  The proteins and pectins are removed from processed wine because when it is heated during transport, they cause the wine to have less flavor. Thus, because Steve leaves these in his wines, the logistics required to transport his wine make it impractical for his wine to travel long distances.  Moreover, when restauranteurs have asked him to let them sell Stoutridge wine, he has told them not only that they have to buy it at full price but also warns them that if they keep it in a warm place (as many do), it will be undrinkable.

Stoutridge’s wines are never fined, filtered, or pumped.  He uses gravity, lifts and rails to move the wine and tanks.  But, as part of his philosophy, he only uses solar energy and furthermore, he usually makes enough energy to sell some back to the power company.  Finally, he doesn’t add any sulfites to his wine, which normally help preserve processed wine.  Sulfites stop the fermentation process of the wine but also prevent bacteria from entering the wine.  His wine, with the proteins and pectins and without the sulfites, can (and should) age many times longer than wines which are designed to be consumed after a few years, as is the case with most processed wines.

Grape Press

We had the opportunity to taste the difference between processed wine and Stoutridge’s “slow” wine.  Steve chose three types of wine for us to compare: Seyval Blanc, a “house red”, and a Merlot.  Immediately, we noticed the freshness of Stoutridge’s wines, as well as how they retained carbonation!  He explained that this is because they aren’t pumped and filtered, which removes it from processed wine, as we soon saw.  With the house red, the flavor of the processed wine was much less intense than that of Stoutridge’s.  The Merlot surprised us all by not being a heavy wine but rather having a full flavor.  Coincidentally, both of the Merlots we tasted came from the same grapes on Long Island so the tasting of those was as close as it could be to compare the flavor of the different processes.  We finished with a 2006 wince called Quimby’s Rosé, which was the first wine that Steve made at Stoutridge.  The grapes used are concord grapes (yes, as in the one used for grape jelly) from Howard Quimby whose father supplied grapes to the winery in the early twentieth century.  It tasted completely different from what we had sampled previously and many of us wished we could have taken some home, especially since it is the only winery in North America that sells unprocessed wine!

Wine tasting!

Aside from happy taste buds, what we took away from Stoutridge was a better understanding of the wine industry and why it operates that way, as well as an appreciation for a different way of making wine.  Also, the terroir associated with processed wine is completely different from that of a local, unprocessed wine (as in Quimby’s Rosé).  Finally, we saw an agricultural model which was based not on the idea of perpetual growth, but on pursuing a philosophy (and profitably).

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Local Ocean: waste not, want not. Fish in the Hudson Valley

The second week of classes found us on the road for a tour of Local Ocean, an aquaculture system in Greenport, NY.  After reading Paul Greenberg’s Four Fish, we were excited to see fish farming in practice.  They are “the world’s first (and only) commercial zero-discharge 100% recirculating aquaculture system”, according to their website and our guide Kate.  In fact, they aren’t even connected to the sewer system and the only water they use is to replace what evaporates.  Biofilters and settling ponds eliminate various contaminants from the system, while hydroponic plants growing near the tanks use some the nutrients that would otherwise be wasted.  Even the fish that die naturally are not simply thrown away; they are collected and sold to a local company for fertilizer.

The process of growing Local Ocean fish begins with the purchase of a changing variety of saltwater juveniles (sometimes including European sea bass, striped bass, flounder, and sea bream).  These fish are then quarantined for 4-6 weeks in large holding units to reduce the chance of disease entering the system.  Since all of the water at Local Ocean remains in the system and the fish are raised in high densities (compared to the ocean), disease is a major problem.  After quarantine, the fish are then relocated to tanks where they will grow for anywhere between ten months to more than a year.  The tanks themselves are behemoths that are either rippling with the movement of thousands of fish or eerily still from the total lack of fish.  Employees work day and night to ensure that the fish remain healthy and well-fed.  And they are well-fed, eating anywhere between five and eight times a day.  The scientists, such as Kate, are essentially on-call twenty-four hours just in case a problem with the fish arises.  When the fish are fully grown, they are harvested and shipped as far as New York City, and maybe in the future, to Boston and Philadelphia.  But no further because, after all, the company is called “Local Ocean” and one of their key beliefs is that fish can be alive in the morning and staring back at you from a plate in the evening.

However, Local Ocean is always improving and expanding.  Every time they have built a new tank system, it has been better than the last in one way or another.  Recently, they have received approval for a cold-water algae system (all of their fish are currently warm-water species).  Many of the employees are scientists, researchers, and engineers who work to make fish farming even more sustainable.  After visiting Local Ocean, we have some perspective on the fish industry and local, in-land fish sustainability.  Hopefully next week’s lecture and discussion with Paul Greenberg will lend even further insight into this branch of farming and food!

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Building the Coop

After much deliberation and discussion, we have finally decided to name our home “The Coop”.  This came shortly on the heels of building an actual chicken coop behind our co-op.  At 11 o’clock on Sunday morning, Candice and her husband Patrick arrived at our house with a car full of wood, power tools, hammers and nails.  Patrick, a physicist, designed the coop and led our efforts at carpentry.  A few short minutes of sawing, drilling and lots of hammering later, all of our neighbors were awake but too polite to come outside and say anything.  Here’s a video of Emily hammering the coop!

Yael and Maddie putting legs on the chicken roosting

Yael and Maddie putting legs on the chicken roost

Nailing the coop together!

Nailing the coop together!

Putting together the frame for the chickens' range.

Putting together the frame for the chickens' range.

Several (six) hours later, we had a fully built, mobile, chicken coop!  The raised, covered part is their roost and where we will feed them, clean up, and hopefully collect eggs.  The frame (which is covered in plastic chicken “wire”) is their range and will change about every other week so that they always have forage.  There is a small door for the chickens between the roost and the outside part, as well as a ramp, although they may just decide to fly inside.

THE COOP!!!

THE COOP!!!

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