Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winemaking - In The Beginning

Quest for Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Successful wine making starts with the very best - the finest grapes you can procure, tried and true techniques, unwaivering passion (oh, yeah, it also takes a lot of beer to make good wine), and most importantly, good friends who are crazier than you about wine making.

"The grapes are ready when the grapes are ready."

Growers sometimes call on a day's notice.  An early morning start puts us just a coffee ahead of another busy mid-October harvest day in the Napa and Sonoma valleys. The grapes that we're getting live in a vineyard north of Jimtown in Alexander Valley. 

The foggy vineyard's crushpad was the staging area for crushing. Grapes are picked into half- ton square beige macro bins. Using pitchforks, bins and muscle, the clusters are tossed into the destemmer-crushers. 

These Italian-made destemmer-crushers are  filled with sharp nooks and crannies.  Where's the band-aids?

Tom, in the red hat, is the quality assurance inspector looking for MOG (matter other than grapes).  Some MOG move, some don't.

The destemmer-crushers are suspended on 2x4s or rods above the macro bins so that the must (crushed grapes) fall directly into the bins.

Henry (foreground) and Jamie (next to Henry) continue the quality assurance and also look for MOG.  We had two destemmer-crushers going crushing over 4 1/2 tons of cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

Neal's unclogging the auger inside the destemmer (maybe some MOG?) as Seth looks on.  Maybe they're squished European Grapevine Moths!  This was the first grape harvest when the grower's area was subject to the pesky bug's quarantine. We crushed on site to avoid the horrendous paperwork.

The fog's burning off.

The must was weighed by a scale dangling from a forklift.  Bins were strapped to suspend them off the ground.  The approximate weight for half-ton macro bins was slightly under 100 lbs.

Macro bins are loaded on to pickups and lids snapped on tight for the ride home.

The grapes were beautiful.  24.5 to 25 degrees Brix, pH and acids within range.  2010's vintage is going to be one of the best!!

I know that you're wondering, they're merlot grapes hangng off the vines pictured behind the truck.

Crushing grapes is hard work requiring sustenance.  Lay down a colorful tablecloth (compliments of Linda) and a pickup tailgate doubles as a surface for the spread of foods and wines.  Cheeses, breads, spreads, cured meats, olives, pesto, fritatta, cookies,!

Another harvest in wine fantasyland with good food, good wine, and good friends.

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