Tuesday, September 28, 2010

4.5 Tons of Zinfandel

It's 4:30 pm and I'm pretty much covered in sticky Zinfandel juice. It's on my arms, in my hair, and all over my shirt and shorts. We started the day at 6:00 am, mainly because it's 97 degrees in Oakland this afternoon, and the assistant winemaker wanted to be done crushing as early as possible.

We hauled the equipment to the crush pad at 6:00: bin rack, hopper, sorting table, elevator, de-stemmer, and must pump. We washed everything with the power washer and some ozonated water, which is a great sanitizer, and proceeded to sort and de-stem 8 overflowing bins of fruit.

Zinfandel clusters.  10% - 15% raisins is quite normal for Zinfandel, and this is
high-quality fruit from Paso Robles on the Central Coast

Elevator and de-stemming machine.  The must pump (connected to the hose) collects
the berries & juice and pumps the must into the fermentation tanks in the building

Each bin is sequentially loaded onto the bin rack, which has a motorized mechanism that tips the bin and dumps the grape clusters into a hopper. The hopper then dispenses the clusters onto a sorting table (a long conveyor belt that moves the fruit toward the elevator) and workers sort the clusters. We remove leaves, spiders, earwigs, red berries (not ripe enough) and second-growth clusters. Occasionally, some clusters have some rot and they're discarded.

The elevator then carries the fruit that passed inspection into the de-stemming machine. Here's where things get interesting: Different winemakers use different techniques, and our guy does not crush the fruit in this step of the process. About 25% of the berries are crushed during de-stemming and pumping, but the remaining 75% of the berries are simply pumped (intact) into the fermentation tanks. They'll break down during fermentation, but they're not crushed by a mechanized process.

Must.  This is a mixture of crushed berries, intact berries, and juice.
It's put into fermentation tanks or bins

Stems.  This stuff goes into the garbage

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