This post is inspired by a comment question from Cathy. The question is.
Jacob- how do you keep track of what barrels are at what stage and what needs to be done? Are they bar coded? Tracked on a computer? It sounds like they move around a lot how is it tracked?
Well Cathy I am so glad you asked. A short answer would be that we track the barrels by bar codes and computers. Now for the long answer. Let me start from the beginning. Lets say a wine has moved from tank to barrel. First the wine maker chooses what barrels he wants the wine to go into. He might say something like, 25, 2012 barrels from such and such cooperage. 25, 2011 barrels from that cooperage, and 50 2010 barrels from a mix of these cooperage. The assistant wine maker then draws up a work order that gives the instructions and any special requests from the wine maker. The Assistant wine maker also assigns a “lot” number to the wine. He hands that to the cellar master who hands out the work order to a worker. The work order has a tracking number attached to it. If we type the work order number into the computer all the information we need comes up. What barrels were used, what wine went into the barrels on what day, etc. Once the barrels are filled, the forklift driver puts them away in a marked row. This is really up to the forklift driver since he has the best idea of where the barrels will fit. Since we are talking about a 100 barrel “lot” It may end up in two rows. But for now lets say it fits into one row. The forklift driver marks on the work order how many barrels went into what rows. He marks who filled the barrels and he also writes down any special notes or complications that may have come up during the fill. The work order is handed back to the assistant wine maker. Next the barrels are scanned with a scanner. The scanner tells the computer that these barrels are filled with this wine, and they are in this row. Since things are moving around so much right now it is impossible to scan everything each time it moves. This is when the “Lot” number is really important. Lets say we filled the barrels with Merlot. Well, we get Merlot from lots of different vineyards plus we may keep a certain vineyard section separate from another section of the same vineyard. For example Napa Caller Merlot from Carpenter Vineyards Block C, will be called B1203B Merlot from Bayview vineyards will be called B1207B. The next time we get a work order for one of these lots we know which Merlot the wine maker is referring too. We can check the computer to know, what analysis has been done or what work has been done to the wine. We can also check the computer and know what barrels are in the lots, and so forth. That is how we keep track of what has been done to the wine. I hope this answers your question and I know that its seems like a complicated process but really after working with it you begin to crack the code so to speak.Here are some pictures from around the barrel room. You can see barrels ready to be filled. also notice the lot numbers written on the barrels at the end of the row. This makes it easier for us when we are walking around the barrel room looking for a certain lot.
Living the dream~jacob