Thanks to a CrushCamper who took a bunch of really great photos while they were here, I finally have some images to share with you. Consider this a truncated tour, for all of you who can’t make it out for a camp. Check it out, after the jump!
Grapes arrive and are generally sorted for any leaves, sticks, rocks, or bad berries we don’t want fermented. The exception to this are white wine varietals, which are generally pressed as whole clusters. A winemaker (in this case, Chris) will often stand watch over the berries as they are sorted (and sometimes doubly sorted on the shaking table, pictured above) in order to judge their appearance for crucial winemaking decisions. The T-bin, which has the red tape on it, holds 1 ton of berries, or 2 barrels worth.
Fast forward through cold maceration and several days of punchdowns. This wine is about to be inoculated with yeast. Just like in pastry making, when sauces and egg-based items must be tempered, so too does yeast need to be tempered with both sugar and warmth. The dry yeast is stirred with warm water in the clear plastic bin you see here, then left out for 20 minutes or so to acclimatize to the liquid and “bloom,” so to speak. Then, a bit of juice from the T-bin is stirred into the solution, so that the yeast can begin to feed — that’s why the above solution looks 1) really purple and 2) really foamy…these yeast are feasting! Once acclimatized again, the yeast slurry is dumped into one corner of the bin, and the magic starts happening. You’re just a few short days away from red wine.
Sometimes, yeast can get so excited that the ferment gets a bit too hot. This is bad — too much heat can kill the yeast. Sometimes, a wine plan also dictates that the ferment be kept below a certain temperature, even though the yeast can survive in a hotter environment. This is because different levels of heat will lead to different amounts of color and character extraction. Folks who want a “bigger” wine might want a red hot ferment. Someone who wants a more restrained wine might go for something less hot.
In any case, if a bin gets too hot, we cool it off with dry ice. Here, Mike is dumping in little dry ice capsules…
…and Ron’s going to town punching them in. Very Halloween. Even though I’ve seen this done many, many times, I never tire of looking at the “clouds” created by dry ice additions!
Here, we’re teaching people about cap management, and proving to them that most of the wine lies below the huge, heavy cap of grape skins and seeds. If you stick your hand down below one of these caps, it feels like very warm soda pop — especially if the wine is a few days into ferment. The bin next to us has a subcap in it, and you can see CO2 being released through the holes in the cap plate.
Once a wine is ready to be pressed, free run juice is first siphoned out from underneath the cap and racked into barrels.
Then, the whole bin gets dumped into our bladder press. Remaining free run juice is allowed to drain out, then the grape skins are gently pressed (at increments of .2 bars of pressure) to extract more juice. This juice, called press fraction juice, will have more tannin in it and is often used for blending, to help add structure to a wine.
Total side note — white wines in barrel can sometimes have their lees stirred. We have a couple of these fun clear-headed barrels to show people what this looks like. The orange you’re seeing is from a light hung behind the barrel. You can tell that once Stu stirs this, the lees cloud the wine so much that there is no light visible. It’ll take about 2 to 3 weeks for the lees to completely settle on the bottom of the barrel again, and during this period, you’ll see them stratify like a tequila sunset. If a wine has had its lees stirred, it’s often referred to as a sur lie wine.
Believe me, this is very much a truncated version of everything there is to see and do at the winery. But in any case, I hope it gave you some insight into what it’s like to make wine.