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
This post answeres a question from Tom the question is: Jacob, What do you do with all the grape skins that you shovel out of the fermenting tanks? Where do they go?
The first thing that happens is we press them. Pressing means we dump them into what is known as a bladder press. It is basically a tank that has a large airbag inside. We dump the skins into this tank and turn on the air. The airbag fills up squeezing out whatever juice is left. After that the skins go onto a conveyor belt that drops them into a dump truck. The truck only has a short drive and dumps the skins into a large pile. Eventually trucks will come and a tractor will load up the trucks. The skins are carried away and made into fertilizer. Would you like some grape skin fertilizer?
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