Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Coldest Job in the Winery.

There's a beautiful three ton capacity stainless steel tank at Chaine d'Or.

We hardly ever use it. Anne and Jerry used it for fermentation of their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and again for prep for bottling. I use it to settle the Chardonnay but prefer to use the inside tanks for bottling and finishing the Chardonnay. For red wines we usually use Macro T-Bins.

The T-Bins have fallen a bit out of favor recently because they are so small, but for the room we have they are perfect. I can fit them through the cellar doors if I need to , and larger bins won't fit. They also fit on the upper crush pad area, where bigger bins would not fit on the cement pad. The best thing though is that the are relatively low so Stefania can reach over and do punchdowns with out getting on a ladder. They are also pretty easy for us to keep cool, clean, and sealed, so almost all our fermentations are done in them.

This year though for the Harvest Moon fermentation I decided to use the three ton tank. Here's an older picture of me checking on Chardonnay must going into it:

I decided to use the tank because the harvest was so late and we'd be fermenting into late November. I knew it would get cold, and that temperature control would be critical. It's easier to heat up the big tank than the smaller plastic T-bins. It did get cold, and we did drag out the heat lamps to heat up the tank and keep fermentation temps between 60-70 degrees.

Yesterday though I knew would be one of the most painful unhappy days in the winery. Fermentation was done and it was time to press the wine. That means transferring the juice and must from the tank to the press.

The first part is pretty easy. You hook up the pump to the tank and start pumping the juice out into the press. Eventually though the pump just can't move any more must. The solids are too solid to make it through the pump and that means someone has to climb in the tank and hand buckets out.

Get any illusions of I Love Lucy out of your head. This isn't a warm Italian countryside, or a Hollywood set. It was 44 degrees outside when we arrived at the winery yesterday morning. The temperature on the tank was reading 52, and it fell quickly as we got the juice out into the press to 48. This is a job for the tallest person in your crew. That's me.

Off came my boots, my warm socks, and my jeans. I'd selected an old pair of boxers for the morning because I knew this task was ahead. And I climbed in. The must was just above my knees, and 48 degrees. It took about 30 minutes to empty the tank one 5 gallon bucket at a time. Just to add to the misery, that's about 40 pounds, lifted over your head, about 180 times.

Those gym trips this summer paying off again. I was tired, arms got sore and my back felt it, but worst of all was feeling my feet get numb. I have to climb back out of the tank also, I don't fit through the door. Stef had towels out and a warm bucket of water waiting for me. I dried back off and got dressed and we finished the days tasks.

The pressing went fine and we transferred about 5 barrels worth of wine to the inside tank to settle. We also prepped all the barrels we will need to fill on Tuesday. Jerry did most of the cleaning outside and I got some barrels moved inside. (more heavy lifting).

We got home about 3:30. I never felt warm again the rest of the day. We started a fire, and I wore socks to bed, but my feet still felt cold all night. Finally this morning they felt better. It feels good though to know that we've got just 5 more barrels to fill and we can call the harvest season over. Just in time for Thanksgiving and a chance to warm back up before pruning season starts.

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