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!