On Friday, head winemaker at Columbia Crest, Juan Muñoz-Oca, did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). He answered questions from fans and wine lovers alike about winemaking and Columbia Crest’s latest project, Crowdsourced Cabernet — an 18-month long process of producing a Cabernet Sauvignon with fans making all the decisions.
1. Future of Wine Making Industry
Voodoodokta: What do think is the future of wine making industry? What are the biggest changes or forces of disruption affecting it? For example: Is it new technologies? Is it new business strategies? Is it new wine making techniques?
Juan: The future of winemaking will definitely be marked by new technology. Maybe not technology that’s new to the world, but is certainly new to the wine industry. Like satellite imaging being used to look into the subtle differences within a vineyard.
The challenge that the industry will then face is to keep making honest wines, that are true to the region, while introducing the technology that makes wines more affordable and approachable in taste.
2. American Viticulture Areas
MgIronman: Do you think the American Viticulture Areas will ever have varietals that are synonymous with the region? i.e. calling a wine a “Napa” or a “Columbia Valley” and it would have the same distinction as a “Burgundy”.
Juan: I feel like that is the natural evolution of a wine region, to become synonymous with a specific variety or type of wine. If a certain area is good for Cabernet, wineries in those areas will focus on making Cabernet. But at the same time, American winemakers have grown to love how free our winemaking is. When it comes to appellations, how much we blend, experiment, and the freedom to create different wines, we don’t have as many restrictions compared to Europe. So, I think there will always be more of a variety to American wines.
3. Maintaining the Right pH
Pinklicenseplates: You mentioned that Washington allows nice acidity to remain in the white varieties. Is there typically always enough acid to maintain the pH of your wine where you want it to be, or do you find yourself adding Tartaric Acid? Do you typically go for a certain pH in your red wines?
Juan: We typically get enough natural acidity in our wines to maintain the pH without having to add anything. We try to go for 3.75 to 3.8 for red wines, which is normally what our grapes will end up being.
4. Is Pinot Noir Overrated?
Petersonnet: Do you think Pinot Noir is overrated? If it costs $50 to make a decent bottle, isn’t it a good indication that this grape has little interest in being wine?
Juan: Pinot grapes only grow in certain conditions because they’re so delicate, so you can only make it in certain parts of the world, which can affect the price. But the payoff is a really good wine, keep searching there are cheaper Pinot’s out there.
5. Favorite Wine to Make
Patrickmckay: What’s your favorite varietal to create?
Juan: Cabernet Sauvignon because it picks up a lot of characteristics of the appellation more so than other varieties like a Merlot.
Read the rest of Juan’s Reddit AMA here.