Happy Birthday Clyde!

To celebrate, I’m offering you all a special gift.  Right now, Clyde is loving the 2008 Norton, so for today (Friday Aug. 27) I’m offering an extra 10% off any Norton purchase here at the winery or online.

We celebrated last night since we have Concord to press out this morning and a trailer load of bottles to unload this afternoon.  So feel free to toast Clyde’s birthday for us today!  🙂

Happy Birthday Clyde!

We just want to Pump…Concord….Up.

Did you ever see that Saturday night live skit with Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon pretending to be Arnold Schwartzenegger-wannabes, Hanz & Franz?  They’re tagline was “We just want to  PUMP (clap) YOU  UP!”

I realized this afternoon that we do the same thing with our red grapes!  Let me explain.

We received Concord grapes in on Monday afternoon and they have been bubbling away down in the cellar all week.  In general, most red varieties are destemmed and crushed, then added into an open-top tank to ferment in contact with the skins.  This allows time for all the color compounds to migrate out of the skins and into the wine.

The only problem is that all those skins (and seeds) float to the top where a majority don’t even touch the liquid at all, and possibly dry out.  The dried cap could then be a breeding ground for wine microbes which cause yucky (that’s the technical term) flavors in the wine.

To keep that from happening, clyde stirs up each tank to keep the cap moist and in contact with the fermenting wine.  Here’s a picture of the set-up to stir all this stuff together:

The white bins each hold about a 1/2 ton of grapes, and once the grapes are crushed – well, let’s just say they hold a whole lotta juice!  Clyde uses his pump (the blue machine in the lower left corner of the picture) to bring the fermenting wine at the bottom of the bin up to the top.  As the liquid pumps over the top of the cap, he’ll move the end of the hose around so everything gets stirred in. This is called a ‘pump over’.

Before he had this pump, he used an tool that looked like an over-sized potato masher to punch that cap down into the wine and mix it in.  Talk about a muscle-building, non girly-man workout!

At the moment we have 5 bins, and each one gets a pump over at least once a day.

Here’s a closer look at the cap:

Once the wine has fermented a few days in contact with the skins, he will pump all this stuff up into the press and strain out the fermenting juice.  So that is our plan for tomorrow morning.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek into the wine making process.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for a very special announcement!

It was a crush of a day

We crushed Vignoles and Chardonel this morning, plus Clyde brought in some Concord this afternoon, so all in all, it’s been a big day.  I did think to snap a few pictures at various times this morning, and thought you all would enjoy a snapshot of what goes on during a processing day.

First off, the fog was AMAZING this morning.  Anyone who knows me, knows I like fog pictures, so I couldn’t resist this sight this morning:

Bins of grapes and fog-enshrouded hillsides.  With sunbeams, no less!  Magical.

Clyde finishes his coffee and asks “how’s my hair?”

Polly peeks out from behind the tractor and says “Your hair looks fine, now get to work!”  She’s awfully bossy.

One of our challenges this morning is that we had all different sizes of containers that the grapes came to us in.  After each size, Clyde had to readjust the bar that holds the bins on our bin dumper when it’s dumping the grapes out.  Here’s Clyde and Julie adjusting the bar for the second time this morning.

That’s what all the destemmed and crushed grapes look like inside the press.  Scrumptious looking, no?  No?  Oh well, I understand.  Trust me, the wine tastes a lot better than these grapes look right now!

Now at this point, you might be wondering what all our animals do while we are working so hard.  Do they have jobs?  Are they integral parts of this operation?  The answer, is yes they do!  For instance:

Pepe is chief holder-downer-of-the-straps.  It’s a critical job since you never know when one of those crazy straps will try to escape.  Maggie was sleeping during the whole operation.  Someone has to sleep on the job after all!

After the bins are emptied, they all get a rinse, and that’s what Julie is doing in the next photo:

The blue bins in front of Julie are collapsable bins.  We are not too fond of those, but they certainly store much more compactly!  Julie is cleaning out a bin we call a ‘T-bin’ which holds about 1 ton of grapes when full.  We also had bins that were half the size of the T-bin today…the picture of Clyde and Julie up on top of the bin dumper showed one of the half bins.

Finally, all the grapes are in the press, and the bins are all washed, so Clyde loads up the empty bins to be returned to their owner.

So that’s a quick look at our morning.  As I’m writing this, it’s about 6pm and Julie is just about finished cleaning up the press.  We started at 7am this morning, so it’s been a full day.  I’ll share more of the wine making process soon, but for now, I’m going to go figure out what to fix for dinner.  Have a wonderful evening!  Cheers.