Winemaking at Chicago Winery
All of our wines spend the necessary aging time required for fine wine. The aging vessel of choice, whether it be oak barrels or stainless steel tanks, is determined by the style of wine we are looking to create. This step in the process just can’t be rushed.
During this time, the red wines (and some white, such as our Barrel Fermented Chardonnay and Barrel Fermented Riesling) slowly soften and develop their flavor in oak barrels, while the flavors of most white wines come together in stainless steel tanks. Our red wines stay in barrels anywhere from 10 months, for lighter reds like Pinot Noir, up to 23 months, for our bigger reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon. White wines are generally bottled after 8 months.
Due to natural evaporation, we generally top our barrels with wine from the same vineyard every three to six weeks (depending on the time of year), to reduce the headspace that inevitably forms. Throughout this time, we also perform an array of analyses in our on-site laboratory to ensure stability in the wines during the aging process.
Depending on the desired outcome and style, we rack our wines during this period. Racking is the process of transferring wine from one vessel to another, with the goal of separating the wine from the sediment—called lees—that forms. We wash the lees out of the aging vessels before returning the wine to the same vessel for continued aging.
Aging Vessels: Oak Barrels vs. Stainless Steel
Aging in oak versus tank is all about oxygen management. Stainless steel tanks inhibit oxygen exchange, while the pores in the wood of oak barrels allow oxygen to pass through the wood at a slow and controlled rate. All of these factors determined by the level of oxygen contact change the style and flavor profile of the finished wines.