Monday, December 27, 2010

After a break the Construction Continues

Well it has been nearly 2 weeks since something noticeable was accomplished. Actually in that time period a lot of materials have been brought on sight including the steel support beams, floor joists, roof trusses and more. Unfortunately while trying to install the steel beams last week the framers noticed some problems with the beam pockets and anchor bolts the concrete folks put in. One set of beam pockets wasn't made deep enough for the steel beam - a 14" tall beam doesn't work well in a 12" tall pocket! As a result I had to have the concrete folks come back and cut the pocket deeper and order some steel shims to use for some other corrections. The fun life of the general contractor!

So today they were finally able to place the 2 steel beams and progress begins to crank up again. You will note the 2 beams - one spans the entire 60' length of the building and has 2 columns of support. The other "just" spans 25' and is beefy enough to need no columns. Amy was home and was able to get some action shots of the work.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Basement floor is in

This past week we scrambled to beat the incoming winter weather. The plumber put in all the below grade plumbing. Including the trench drains for the cellar. As the plumbers were finishing up their work the guys that were putting in the basement floor were busy at work getting the dirt prepped to pour the concrete. Fortunately we had 2 really nice days last Thursday and Friday with temps in the 50's. They got the rock base down late on Thursday and we rented a ground heater to heat the soil and covered that with insulating blankets. With the ground already frozen to about 6" they were worried about pouring a slab on already frozen ground, so that is where the heater came in. Friday morning the floor was poured so when I got back from work late Friday we had a basement floor! They came on Saturday morning to cut the joints and cover it up with insulating blankets to keep it warm as we had highs in the low teens on Sat and Sunday and lows below zero - ahh a wonderful Nebraska winter day!
This week will be a bit slow as my framer can only get in next Monday, but I will be busy behind the scenes making sure the steel beams, roof trusses, lumber and windows get scheduled.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The basement Walls Are Up!

The walls got poured on Wednesday and the crew started removing the forms on Thursday and into Friday. Also on Friday they added waterproofing and drain tile. It is starting to look like a building. This coming week the underground rough in plumbing goes in and maybe the basement floor will get poured.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The basement walls go up

This week the crew set up the forms for the basement and poured the walls on Wednesday. Here are some of the pre-pour set up pictures. With the days so short it is hard to get pics during the week before or after work, so we will take plenty of pictures of the finished basement this weekend.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Footings Poured

The footings are in and are awaiting the walls! On Tuesday the crews came in and dug for the footings and Wednesday, before some light drizzle came, they poured the concrete for them. Next up the forms for the basement wall will get set and the basement walls will get poured. It was a good Thanksgiving knowing progress is being made.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Construction Begins

Last Thursday we finally kicked off construction of our new winery and tasting room facility. The hole for the basement was dug. It changed the landscaped quite a bit on the site. Then Sunday Richard's brother Bob stopped by to help survey in the corners of the building. This is in preparation of the pouring of the footings on Tuesday.

It is great to finally be moving forward and get our building going.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Harvest is Over

Well my time at Sonoma Cutrer has come to an end. After 125 tons of grapes, countless punch downs, 20 some tanks of wine processed, a lot of long days, but most of all a lot of fun and a great learning experience. What an adventure.

Amy and I will take a little time to see a few things and hit the road back to Nebraska. It is quite tough to leave as I have had a great time, the area is gorgeous, and the weather is even better. I am not looking forward to winter being right around the corner.

When we return we have a winery facility to get built. That will be the next adventure and more stories to tell - the blog will continue!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pressing & Barreling Down

The last few days have been a mix of pressing tanks and barreling down the juice from those presses the following day (This give them a night to settle). I have included some pics of the post pressing emptying of the press. The pressed grape skins remain in the press basket. The basket is removed from the press and the inside of the basket is hoisted high with a fork lift, the basket is opened, and the remnants are dumped over 4 macro bins.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More of the Same

Nothing exciting to report from today. We barreled down 28 more barrels and we emptied out 2 more tanks - I only had to shovel one of them - the early one when it was 50 degrees and not the one when the temp reached about 95. Lucky me.

The big news of the day is my sweetie Amy is flying in to join me for a week before we head back home in a week. It will be good to have some company!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Barreling Down

Today was a big day as we barreled down 2 tanks into 28 barrels - I have attached a couple of pictures which show our barrel washer. You can put 2 barrels on it at a time and it takes about 2 minutes to clean the barrels. Then they are ready to fill.
Along with the barrel downs we also drained and pressed 2 tanks - I was "fortunate" enough to shovel out both tanks - and on my birthday - quite the present! The first tank was ok as when I did that one it was 7am and about 48 degrees. Contrast that with the second one at 1:15pm and about 90 degrees. PHEW! Nothing like shoveling 5 tons of grape pumice at that temp.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First day without fruit

Our first day without fruit and there was still plenty to do. We had our twice daily punch downs - those seem to be never ending! Then today we did a barrel down of a tank that had been pressed yesterday into 14 barrels plus we drained a tank that had completed fermentation to the press basket and pressed off the skins. This gets any remaining juice from the skins and allows the juice to settle.
As mentioned in a previous post one of the fun activities after draining a tank is to shovel out the skins from the tank to get ready for pressing. Here you can see some "action" shots of me shoveling out the tank. Plus you see inside the man way door before the clean out and after I shoveled it out. Finally you can see the press basket after it was filled and just prior to putting it in the press
Look like fun?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Last Grapes

Today we processed our last 10 tons of grapes - that makes a total of 125 tons of grapes processed (120 of them in the last 2 weeks). After the grapes were in the tanks we began the process of cleaning up the sorting line and crusher destemmer. We took down the canopy over the line and got a good cleaning in.

Now tomorrow we will continue to do some barrel downs and empty some tanks. The good news is that the days may be shortening up a bit as we only put in about 10 hours today and hopefully the rest of the week it may get even less as the pressure is off.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A day off with the Peanuts Gang

It was great to have a day off. No grapes to sort, no punch downs, no tanks to empty. So what did I do I went to a couple of wineries, as a customer and sampled some wines and enjoyed some great weather - almost 90 degrees today. I like to consider the trips to the wineries as research as I am trying to see what ideas I can get for our venture back home. So it's strictly a business trip!
I also visited the Charles Schulz museum in Santa Rosa. He is the creator of the comic strip Peanuts. What most people that know me don't know is that as a kid I loved Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the gang. In fact I will still watch A Charlie Brown Christmas during the holidays. So this was a fun time. A lot of comic strips and memories.

Well its back to work tomorrow for the final 10 tons of grapes.

Shoveling out

Coming from the Midwest I am well experienced with a shovel, but that is from shoveling inches and inches of snow (especially last winter). Well Saturday I got my first experience shoveling out a wine tank that had been full with 5 tons of fresh grapes and now was a fermented mass of solid skins. Upon opening the man way door (no tidal wave - we are learning well!) I was greeted by solid skins - all told probably about 3 feet deep. So with a rake and shovel I began to remove them into a press basket and 35 minutes later the tank was empty and ready for a new batch of grapes on Monday - our last batch you may remember.

Also on Saturday we barreled down 2 tanks worth of wine into 28 barrels (for the wine aficionados the barrels were a mix, all french oak, from 2010, 09, 08, & a couple of 07's). Plus of course we had punch downs - more muscle building! What was supposed to be an easy 8 hour day turned into another hectic 11 hours of work on what was a fairly warm, for October day 85 degrees. Well the good news is that I have Sunday off!

Friday, October 8, 2010

No tidal waves Today

Today was fairly uneventful, a good thing after yesterdays tidal wave! This was our second to last day of getting fruit. After a break on Saturday we will get our last 10 tons on Monday. We did come up with a new way to drain a tank and it worked a lot better or at least with a lot less drama. We pushed an approximately 4" diameter and 8' tall cylinder screen down into the tank. A hose was then placed down into the tube and the wine was slowly pumped up through that. This was a lot more effective, although still quite slow as it took about 3 to 4 hours to drain a tank. I was also able to do more lab sample collecting (and wine testing!). It is nice to be able to sample wines in various stages of the fermentation process and seeing the difference in taste, sweetness, alcohol, etc.

Tomorrow we, as previously mentioned, won't get any grapes in, but will drain at least another tank, maybe 2. Plus we will barrel down some of the previously drained tanks. At least we are only starting at 7am so I get an extra hour of sleep. I sure need it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A long day turns longer... And Wetter!

I knew when I awoke it would be a long day at the winery. I was hoping to get done early so I could catch the Huskers on Tv, with the game starting at 4:30pm out here I knew it would be a long shot. Anyway, today, along with our normal fun stuff we were going to do drain 2 tanks, press them, and get a third tank draining for tomorrow. After getting the first press done just prior to lunch we attempted to drain the second tank. Unfortunately it seemed to have some issues with the valve getting clogged with grapes so we had to resort to plan B, Slowly opening the manway door. This seemed to work for a while as juice started to flow into the press basket. We kept loosening the handle and letting more wine out. This continued for nearly 4 hours and the thought was it may be drained.

Finally the decision was made to open the manway door entirely...Bad move, REAL bad move. While standing on a ladder I pushed the door open and a tidal wave occurred with wine going everywhere - especially one me. I immediately jumped from the ladder but couldn't escape the wave of wine and became drenched from my waist down. Fortunately I had a change of clothes. You can see some of the action photos and my after look.

Hopefully tomorrow goes a little better. At least the Huskers won Big!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Daily Sampling & More

Today I did quite a few different tasks. Of course there were the daily punch downs. Today I did it the old fashioned way, by hand and someone else utilized the boom. Also on the daily task list: Inoculating a couple of tanks, taking care of a couple of tartrate additions, setting up a tank to drain for pressing tomorrow, and adding some yeast nutrients to some already fermenting tanks (this helps the yeasts do a better job).

But the fun part of the morning was doing the daily tank samples. No not me sampling the wine (although I did anyways!) but preparing bottles of each tank to send to the lab at the main building for analysis. You can see my line up of bottles in the picture. This was not quite all the tanks.

I have been lucky as they have kind of taken me away from the sorting line and are trusting me to do some more technical things. I must be doing something right!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Grapes Keep Coming

By the end of last week we had processed a total 65 tons of grapes. This week the grapes keep rolling in - 10 tons yesterday and today with similar amounts to follow each day. With the usual harvest coming in around 130 tons we should have most if not all of the grapes in by the end of this week. That would be nice as it might reduce the hours a bit as we are still putting in 11 to 12 hours each day.

Beginning yesterday we started doing the majority of the punch downs with a hydraulic punch down device attached to the boom hoist (see pic) yep that's me on the hoist. The other pic is a close-up of the tank as it is being punched down.
Besides the punch downs I have also been lucky enough to continue to work with the harvest enologist in assisting with inoculations and additions to the developing wines.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Weekend

The weekend began where the week left off... A long Saturday. We started off thinking it might be a slightly shorter day, but when the fruit failed to arrive early and only 6 of the 3o expected macro bins showed up at 9:30 we knew we were in for a long day and it turned into another nearly 12 hour day. Apparently only 1 crew was picking at this vineyard which was about 40 minutes away. As a result the last of our 10 tons only came in around 2:45 so the day stretched on.

After starting the morning with some grueling punch downs and then helping with the new incoming fruit, I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of the day working with the harvest enologist preparing yeasts for inoculations and some tartaric acid additions. This was great learning experience. Of course the day had to end with some more fun punch downs! Especially fun when you are at the 10+ hour mark and dead tired from a long long week.

Fortunately Sunday brings no new fruit and I only have to put in about 2 hours in the morning taking care of some punch downs.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Another double digit day in terms of hours worked and it was supposed to be an easy day as we only had 5 tons of fruit coming in. But there was plenty of other items to keep us busy including the twice daily punch downs, inoculation of 3 tanks with yeast and adding tartaric acid. Plus today we barreled down our first wine. You can note from the pics that the tank that had settled for 24 hours is placed on the elevator and the barrels are "gravity fed". It takes about 7 minutes to fill each barrel (approx 6o gals per barrel). We ended up with 13 barrels filled, so it takes some time. Tough to do near the end of the day when you are tired and your patience is running thin!

No rest for the weary as we get 10 tons in on Saturday morning. "Fortunately" since they won't be picked overnight we only have to be in a 7am.

15 Tons and What Do You Get

Today was a mega long day starting bright and early at 6am and finally getting over at 7:20pm - PHEW! As mentioned yesterday we got in 15 tons of grapes. I was in charge of forking the macro bins and getting them weighed. While the others finished up the 15 tons I assisted the winemaker in getting the tank from the 17th ready to press. It was hoisted back up on the lift. The remaining juice was drained into the press basket (see pic) and the manway door was opened and the hard must was shoveled out in the press basket. The press basket was then brought to the press and the press was done - the first pic shows the setup. After all was done the 5 tons of grapes generated about 84o gallons of wine. We even had our first taste of the harvest - a very good start. The day ended with a long, long clean up of the crush area, the press area and the tank we pressed from. What a day!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The next 10 Tons

Today we whipped thru another 10 tons of grapes - this is becoming old hat and I am becoming a better and better forklift driver! Today marked the completion of initial fermentation of our first 5 ton batch of grapes - remember them back on Sept 17th? Before leaving tonight we moved the tank onto the lift and let the lift do it's magic raising the tank up to the heavens - ok so only up about 4 feet (see first pic). A hose was attached and run to another tank (see pic 2). When the valve was opened the juice ran to the second tank. This was left to drain overnight and is known as the free run juice - a better quality juice. Tomorrow we will take the remaining mass of grapes from tank 1 and press out the excess juice. I will be especially curious to see how much free run juice is in tank # 2 in the morning.

Tomorrow will be a long long day (although today's 11 hour shift was long as well - thank god for OT!) We have the press plus our punch downs - now with 6 tanks to work our muscles, and we will have a whopping 15 tons of grapes awaiting us at 6am.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

10 more Tons

The morning started with a punch down of the tank we had inoculated a week a go.e It looks like we might be pressing that on Thursday as the fermentation is nearly complete. Around 9am the first of what turned out to be 10 tons of grapes arrived. With additional sorters sent down from Chardonnay and with improved methods we whipped right thru them. Unfortunately near the end I ended up cutting my pinkie finger on a sharp edge on the sorter table which, at my bosses insistence, brought a quick trip to an ER. No stitches were needed, just some new fangled glue and I should be good to go. I even got an updated tetanus shot as a souvenir of my visit. Even with the brief respite it still was a long 10 hour day.

Tomorrow we start bright and early at 6am as the grapes will be there early! 10 more tons will be awaiting us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

10 Tons of Grapes Are A Lot of Work!

Well today was the day. 10 tons of pinot grapes arrived. What does that look like, Well, the first pic shows the truck where about 8.5 of the tons came on. That's a lot of grapes, believe me. So the grapes got weighed in the macro bins (see pic 2)and then cluster weights were also taken. Then to the sorting table and into the destemmer.

This turned into a long day starting at 7am. First off I had to do a punch down on the fermenting tank from the 17th. Then we had to ready ourselves for the grapes by rinsing a few tanks and the sorting line. The grapes showed up around 10am and after a day at the sorting table, driving the forklift, cleaning emptied macro bins, and finally the dreaded clean-up of the crush pad (which really sucks after a long day!) we were out of there at 7pm - so a nice 12 hour day. Initially it looked like it might be a lot longer as we were trying to do all this with basically 5 people. Fortunately they saw our struggles (and the potential enormous OT bill) and sent down 3 sorters from the Chardonnay facility and the speed picked up big time.

Tomorrow we do it all over again as 10 more tons are scheduled to come. Am I having fun yet!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day Off

Today I had a rare day off. We are awaiting 10 tons of grapes on Monday. I decided to go and do some sight seeing. I went to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park near Santa Rosa. I stopped at the gate house and asked the park attendant what there was to do. She said mainly hiking and I should take the 2.7 mile hike to the top of Bald Mountain. With it being 92 degrees she said to take plenty of water. I asked if the park had any animals that could kill me like bears. She said no bears, but they did have rattle snakes. Ok that's a lot better! So the entire hike was filled with me hearing things rustling by the path. On one occasion I swear I heard a rattler in front of me to the side. So what to do. I could chicken out and go back, no instead I decide to run full speed by the area in question. Phew!

When I got to the top (approximate time was 1 hour) it was gorgeous. You could see 50 plus miles in each direction. I could see San Francisco Bay to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the West, the town of Napa to the Southeast and much more. It was amazing In the first pic you can see Santa Rosa in foreground and the Pacific Ocean is the bright strip in the middle (Unfortunately the sun was this way so the pic doesn't do the view justice). The second picture is of a lizard - there were tons of these all around the path. Fortunately I made it safely back to my truck avoiding the rattlers. Although the climb down was harder than expected as it was so steep my calves and shins were burning as you had to really grip with your legs.
Well just another day in paradise. We shall see what the weekend will bring before the onslaught of grapes. The temps are to be close to 100 for the next half week at least.