Wednesday, September 29, 2010

2 Tons of Syrah and a Wine Country Pedicure

When I decided to work in a winery, many of my friends joked that I would be stomping grapes with my feet. "No way," I said, "we're much more hi-tech in California. We use specialized equipment, and it's all very mechanized."

At 11:30 this morning, 2 tons of Syrah from Davis, CA, showed up. Just like yesterday, we ran the fruit through the typical line and into 3 half-ton bins. Syrah berries are smaller than Zinfandel, and have a very different flavor. They're not as sweet, and the tannins from the skins are more pronounced. Here's what a cluster looks like:

Syrah cluster

Once the syrah was done, we punched down the large Zinfandel tank from yesterday. "Punch down" refers to pushing down the grape skins to the bottom of a fermentation tank. As must slowly ferments into wine, the grape skins will rise to the top of the must and have to be recirculated during the punch down process. As you can see in this video, it can be mechanized (for large tanks) or done by hand.

This process ensures that the liquid (juice) keeps the skins moist. Moist skins means a more flavorful wine, deeper color, and more tannins.

You want the skins to break down, but you want to do it gently. And this is where I have to eat my words and admit that we aren't that hi-tech. Sometimes, you just need some feet to break up those berries without grinding the grapes to a pulp (sorry, Robin). In this particular case, I got to stomp some must that had been sitting in the cold room since yesterday (read: nice and cold). It felt like running in knee-deep snow.

"Uh, yeah, you want me to do what?"

Yes, my feet were thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before I did this

And this is where I will end today's post.  I'm sure there are a few surprises yet to come...


  1. Ewwww!!! Feet in my wine?! I think I'll stick to beer from now on. Sorry, honey.

  2. 2 Advanced degrees...and this is what they get you?

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