A few weeks ago the Napa cellars team got to go on a little field trip to the waste water treatment facility. I have always known about “the ponds” but never really knew what went on there. I learned that the ponds were actually a state of the art water treatment facility that treats all the water that we use here at the winery. Believe it or not it takes a lot of water to make wine. All the washing, sterilizing, cleaning, and rinsing we do really adds up. It was fascinating to learn that non of that water goes to waste. Instead it goes down a drain and into a pond. It sits in this pond to allow the heavy solids to sink. Next it is sent into one of two tanks that contain microbes. These micro bacteria eat away at the dirty water. Eventually the water and microbes are sent to a settling tank, all the micro bacteria sink to the bottom as solids. The water is then pumped back into a fresh pond and allowed to sit until it is needed. For now we use it to water in landscaping around the winery.The left over sludge is rich nutrients. Currently our company is looking for practical and convenient use for this sludge. Somebody suggested we use it for fertilizer. However, the Napa valley soil is really rich in potassium, so is this settlement. Its not very practical to add more potassium to the soil. any ideas on what to use this rich sludge for?
The water treatment facility is a first of its kind in wineries. We have two people who monitor the cleanliness of the water on a daily bases. They are responsible for keeping the microbiology alive and happy. They make sure all the pumps and aerators are working properly and that no cross contamination goes on. What’s amazing is the fact that the facility is capable of cleaning up to 250,000 gallons of water in a single day. That’s a good thing because during harvest we use a lot of water. Its nice to know that it is not just going down the drain. Other wineries have noticed as well, and have come out to inspect our facility to see how we have set up our treatment plant.
Not only do we make fine wine, But we also look after the environment as well.
Living the dream~Jacob
Treating the water
An empty treatment tank
The first wine of the 2012 vintage is getting ready to be bottled. This wine would be the Napa Cellars Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is the first verital of grapes we get during harvest. They ferment rather quick and spend a very short time in stainless steal barrels. Right now the final tests are being done. The wine is pumped into tanks, filtered, and checked for stability. Finally,trials are ran and the wine maker tastes them and makes adjustments to really fine tune the thirst quenching, mouth watering, exhilarating experience that is NC Sauvignon blanc. Its a good thing we are bottling this wine because the tasting room is sold out. If you were hoping to buy yourself a bottle of this wine, do not worry, a fresh shipment will be at the tasting room within a few months.
Enjoy a chilled bottle on a hot summer day.
Living the Dream~Jacob.
Running wine analysis
A complicated little machine.
Winery work is not just about harvest. It is true that harvest is our busiest time of year. Lots of work needs to be done during harvest. However, wine, good wine, requires more then just crushing, fermenting, and let sit in a barrel. Our work load has changed from outside work to barrel room work. The wine is finishing ML fermentation and is being pumped off the lees and into tanks only to return to barrel the next day. The barrels are moved into a cooler room and scanned. From there the wine is monitored on a monthly bases. Samples are taken to check the sulfur levels. The barrels are constantly being “topped off” to keep any air from touching the wine. Some wine lots are being shipped to other storage facilities and in return we are receiving our older wines that have been at those storage facilities. The chardonnays are being stirred on a weekly schedule. We are on a constant watch for mold, fruit flies, barrels that have lost their bungs, and any other threats that might ruin our precious nectar. Needless to say harvest is over but the work continues.
Living the dream~ Jacob
Before harvest started I, got the unique opportunity to go out to the vineyards with Joe Shirley our wine maker. My initial reaction was excitement and yet nervous as well. For one Joe was kind of mysterious to me. My roommate and I joke around saying he could be the real Indiana Jones. Except he would be Indiana Joe. He wears a duster jacket and his office is covered with airial maps. The only thing missing is the hat and whip. Many times he is out of the office only to return dusty and tired. Once after being gone for a few weeks he came back with his arm in a sling. He claimed he had shoulder surgery, but I am not so sure. I can just imagine him jumping from a jeep while he was hot on the trail for the holy grail or something. So for me this was not just a day to get out of the office so to speak. I was slightly worried about what adventures or snake pits I might fall into. As it turns out the vineyards are dusty and often down long dirt roads with no booby traps or rolling boulders. As the day went on we talked about the styles of the vineyards and the training systems they used. He would tell old stories of his past jobs, once as a tomato truck driver. Often times he was interrupted with phone calls. It did not take long to realize that his car was his mobile office. Once we got to the vineyards Joe would start marching down a row of vines snagging grape berries here and there from different bunches. Sometimes he would take notes and other times he would just make a face and think to him self. I started to think that a winemakers job is kind of lonely. Here we are in the middle of a vineyard. Its quite and still, nobody around. Maybe the adventures i had imagined were a little exaggerated. There were no ancient treasures or leaps of faith. Instead he was just a winemaker on the quest for something more then the holy grail. He is searching for the very liquid that filled the holy grail, and that process starts in the vineyard. (I was still worried about the snake pits.) The experience was beautiful and extremely educational to say the least. I hope you enjoy the short video as much as I enjoyed taking the pictures.
Living the dream~Jacob.
Its funny, when I talk about working in a winery with my friends and family they are mostly surprised by the fact we begin work at 5 am. Most people never see that hour. I admit sometimes I don’t know how I do it either. Crawling out of bed on a Friday its freezing out side its dark and usually wet at this time of year. The last thing I want to do is wake up and go outside. However, there are certain perks from waking up early. Some people prefer sunsets, others prefer the sunrise. I myself am a sunrise person. You really have to work to get to see a sunrise. Sunsets lots of people are awake and can catch the beautiful colors. But If I were to ask any of my friends and family “hey did you see that awesome sunrise this morning?” chances are they will say no. Therefor sometimes waking up before the sun is worth it.
Living the dream~jacob
Things are really starting to slow down. Grapes have stopped coming in. Tanks are finishing there fermentation’s and wine is going into barrels. There are still lots of wines going through secondary fermentation. Even about 15 tanks going through primary fermentation. However, the work load is noticeably less. Its no longer a frantic push to get things done. Instead is more like a steady jog.
I suppose now is a good time to describe secondary fermentation. We call it ML, This refers to a bacteria that converts Malic acid into lactic acid. Malic acid is a crisp sharp acid, like biting into an apple. Lactic acid is more of a soft rounded acid. Like cheese. (maybe that’s why Apples and cheese go so well together.) We want our wines to be balanced and well rounded. Not a sharp tongue tickling lemon drop. So we add bacteria that eats malic acid and converts it into a softer lactic acid. This bacteria works best in a warm environment and so we have a heated room just for this purpose. Twice a week samples are taken into the lab to test the amount of malic and lactic acids in the wine. I get to take those samples. so twice a week I pull about 100 samples from the different barrel lots and take them in the lab for analysis. It will take anywhere from 2 weeks to about 2 months for the the bacteria to work its magic.
Here is me pulling samples using a high tech turkey baster.
Living the dream~jacob
Pulling samples for ML
Some people pay lots of money to indulge in the soothing, exciting, rich, sometimes exotic flavor aspects of wine. Others get paid to do just that. I feel like its the hardest job for the wine maker. Imagine you come to work and laid out before you are 30 glasses of wine all one varietal. Each glass represents a wine that is from a different vineyard and all of them are at different stages in the wine making process. Now imagine your job is to decipher the different, delicate, hidden, notes in each glass. You have to understand the potential for each wine, but also be aware of the signs that spell disaster for a wine. Most of us when we go wine tasting we are tasting a finished product. However this is not a vacation or a jolly good time tasting, this work. This is picking apart every aspect of wine using the senses so that if necessary, corrections can be made and one day the consumer will taste this wine at a tasting room and say yeah this is good stuff. Frankly I don’t know how Joe Shirley keeps his taste buds from getting tired. For me after about the third glass they all taste the same.
Living the dream~Jacob.
Another day at the office.
I dont know who this guy is... But I like his style.