It’s the end of a long week. And after a day of slamming my shin into a rung on a latter, and shoveling the slipperiest tank imaginable, I had to laugh a little when I saw the white limousine in front of me, on the drive home, roll down the rear window to allow one of its patrons to, well, evacuate the excess wine that had built up in their system. I’m sorry for laughing, and feel better whoever you are…
P.S. If that was Napa Cellars wine that would have never happened.
When the juice finally ferments to below 0.01 residual sugars, the “Must” is pressed. This process involves many steps. First of all the juice (we can officially call it wine at this point.) Is drained into another tank. What is leftover is all the skins and seeds that have been soaking in fermenting juice for about a week. This is when the fun starts. We shovel out the seeds and stems into a macro bin. This is only a small tank so most of the must can be reached from our little gate here.
On the bigger tanks somebody has to crawl inside to shovel out the must. On the largest tanks we have, (they hold about 45 tons of grape skins and seeds) we play a little game. If you can shovel it out in under 1 hour the company will buy you lunch. Needless to say this creates a very competitive atmosphere. I will keep you posted on the times when those get shoveled out.
Once all of the must is shoveled out it goes into a press. At first the press lightly squeezes the berries and gets any leftover wine out of them. That wine is pumped into its own special tank. Next, we crank up the pressure and really squeeze whatever might be left in the berries out. Since the berries and seeds have all the tannins, squeezing them produces really tanic dark wine. This juice is again pumped into its own special tank to keep all those tannins out of our nice clean wine. Later, if the winemaker chooses to, he will add little bits and pieces of these “pressed” wines to the “free run” wine until it reaches the desired tastes and texture. Things are fermenting well and moving really fast. Yesterday we drained and pressed about 10 tanks. Its a lot of hard work but somebody has to do it. As of the end of September we have received a total of 1344 tons of grapes. That breaks down into 466 tons in white grapes and 878 tons of red grapes. Only 2506 tons to go.
Living the dream~ Jacob.
Here is the wheel at the end of the day. It’s all clean and ready to get dirty again tomorrow. It’s been a long week. Monday will mark the start of an even longer week for us. For now it’s time to go home and get a days rest.
Living the dream~ Jacob
Its a hot Saturday afternoon and most of us have worked 12 hour days all week. Today is no exception. The crew looks ready for a day off. Its a smaller crew today since the night shift takes Saturday off, leaving the morning crew with a lot of work. But Sunday will be our one glorious day of rest. Here is a quick spin around the “wheel” This is where all the magic happens. We call it the wheel because the center is wide open and all the tanks go off of it like spokes on a wheel. Underneath is where the presses are in what we like to call “the Pit” I will venture down in the pit another day for now its back to the wheel for some more action.
Living the dream~Jacob
Its 5am and its time to check the sugar levels of the juice. Soon it should all be wine. As you can tell is a lovely, foggy, Napa morning. Today marks 1/3 of the way through harvest. Its going to be a busy, busy, busy next few weeks.
Here is a fellow worker doing whats called a Rack and Return on one of the tanks. This is usually done towards the middle of fermentation. The juice is pumped from one tank to another. Allowing the “cap” (all the grape skins and seeds that float on top of the juice) to drop to the bottom of the tank. The juice is then pumped back into the original tank over the top of the skins and seeds. This will break up the cap allowing for more color and flavor in the finished wine. This is also a great way of mixing up any adds such as yeast or acids. The rest of the day this tank will get pump overs to keep the cap wet.
After weeks of waiting, things finally got crazy. The morning began with 3 Hours of pump overs, then transitioned to running back and forth from the stem truck back to the wheel to wash tanks. Over 200 tons of Zin and Pinot, plus a little Sa Blanc, were crushed and sent to tanks to begin the fermentation process
No it’s not snowing during harvest Sauvignon Blanc + Dry Ice: The dry ice is actually not intended to keep the grapes cool. Its purpose is to create a barrier between the grapes and the oxygen in the air. As the dry ice melts, the Co2 turns directly from a solid to a gas. The Co2 gas is heavier that air and blankets the grapes. This process is necessary to keep the grapes from turning brown or oxidizing.
Pretty self explanatory: Before the grapes are crushed, the stems are separated, then conveyed to this truck to be transported to a dumping area
We have officially kicked off Harvest 2012. On 9/19/12 we had a total of 14 tanks going through primary fermentation. All white grapes. One week later, 9/26/12 a total of 47 tanks are going through primary fermentation. A great mix of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and light loads of Chardonnay and Petite Syrah. Everyday more tanks are being filled and everyday new fermentation’s start. This is only the beginning. We are still waiting for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. As well as, the bulk of Chardonnay and the rest of the Pinot and Zinfandel. All of them are expected to be picked within the next two weeks.
The grapes keep coming in. The tanks are filling up. The pumps are moving the juice from here to there. Hoses are connected, disconnected, and reconnected. The sweet smell of yeast is filling the air. CO2 is steaming out the tops of tanks. Presses are turning. A tank is emptied cleaned and refilled. Acid and nutrients are added. Lees is being filtered. The walkways and in between tanks are being cleaned of grape debris. Pump over lines are being sterilized. The sun comes up… The sun goes down.
This is Harvest.
Living the dream ~Jacob
For the first time, Napa Cellars will give you a peek behind the curtain during harvest. Two of our interns, Andrew & Jacob, have agreed to document their lives during harvest. We’re grateful to them for giving us this unique opportunity to see what actually happens in the winemaking process.
Enjoy the ride!
-The Napa Cellars Team