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.
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.
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.
Racked and returned
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.
Hello everybody. My name is Jacob Bates, and this is my blog. I am new to blogging and generally new to the wine industry. I grew up in San Diego California, and moved to Napa to get a better understanding of how the best wines in the world are made.
Many people have the impression that making wine is a beautiful, glamorous job at some hill side chateau, with sophisticated wine makers standing around an oak barrel inside a beautiful cave with a symphony of classical music playing in the background. For some wineries this might be the case. But in general that is just a fantasy. This blog is intended to give an inside look at what it takes to make wine at Napa Cellars. From last year’s experience I know that I am in for a wild ride. There will be some incredibly hard times, interesting experiences, a few frustrating challenges, and plenty of messy, sticky, cold, wet, sleepless mornings. In the end it will be worth it as I taste the rewards of all the hard work that goes into making wine. Follow along as I learn the ins and outs of working in the cellar. Stay up to date on the process as our work load changes. And finally buy a bottle of Napa Cellars wine and enjoy.
Please feel free to add comments, ask questions, and tell me what you would like to see in this blog. Feedback is the only way I can enhance this experience for you and for myself.
I look forward to giving all of you a firsthand taste at Napa Cellars Harvest 2012.
It sure is nice driving to work never seeing tail lights in front of you or headlights behind you. Of course, driving home will be a different story, probably consisting of a thousand rental cars slamming on the brakes every time there is a driveway and a sign with French or Italian words on it
Hi, I’m Andrew, and I’m beginning my second season working harvest for Napa Cellars. I am writing this blog to show people that Napa Cellars wine is made by real people, and is not some magic elixir that bubbles up from the Napa Valley soil. NC wines are truly made by hand with passion and hard work. This blog will be showing my life through the 2012 harvest, and if last year’s harvest was any indication, there will be lots of swirling glasses and spitting into buckets, and blog entries using phrases like “tightly wound” or “assertive without being pushy” Ha! Just kidding, Most likely a picture of harvest would show me standing knee deep in grape skins and seeds franticly shoveling trying to win a free lunch, or possibly my purple t-shirt that I swore was white when I left the house, or driving a forklift stacking barrels to the ceiling of the warehouse hoping there won’t be an earthquake anytime soon.