Week 12: VA Bombs!

My fermenter has a TA of 9 with 3.6 pH. The TA is so high because my VA is twice over the legal limit. I sent a sample into a lab for testing and the results that came back were quite sad. This is all part of the learning process though and I will be able to distill the wine into brandy so it is not totally lost.

Week 11: The gas continues.

This week I have not done much out of the usual. Just punch downs on the remaining tanks and gas in my fermenter everyday. I have noticed hints of VA in my tank. This is volatile acid, what they make balsamic vinegar out of. I think it is from moldy zinfandel grapes.

Digging out a 5 ton tank with whole cluster Grenache in the bottom. The fruit is still very high in sugar as with true carbonic you can only get the sugar levels down to 17 bx. The rest of the tank is dry and the wine will finish fermenting in barrel.

Week 10: Picking my own fruit!

There is quite a bit of second set fruit. Second set from is the fruit that is not on the main shoots of the vine. They are much smaller and ripen much slower. I went around at an organic, dry farmed, head trained vineyard and picked multiple varieties. The varietals I picked were Grenache (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Zinfandel (20%), and Petite Sirah (5%). I chose to do carbonic maceration as the sugar levels are low and a dry fermentation should be obtainable.

I am putting argon into the fermenter because it does not seal and I do not want any oxygen in the there with the grapes.

Week 9: Back home

I am back at my house now and we are still pressing off tanks. The style of wine and the types of grapes are very different. Here we use multiple types of grapes for every wine and they are all very dark. Unlike Pinot in Oregon, which is one of the lightest red wines there is. We pressed off some Tannat which was basically black, also some Grenache and Graciano. Here we use a basket press, the yields are much smaller but the quality is the same as non pressed grapes.

A finished press load! The next round of grapes will go directly on top. The grapes work as a filtration system for the wine.

Here is the basket presses. The cycles are 90-120 minutes.

Week 8: Final week at Beaux Freres

A lot of tanks are getting pressed off. Pressing is done in cycles of 90-120 minutes which is very slow. The pressing is done slow so that the bad tannins are not released and the seeds are not crushed. Almost all of the tanks do not have doors on the bottom. This means that they must be scooped out with a bucket. First the tank is drained overnight so that there isn’t much juice in the tank. Then it is scooped into a press the get the remaining juice out.

A bladder press is loaded with grapes. A bladder press works by basically having a huge balloon in it that squishes the grapes.

Almost done digging out a tank! Very tiring work.

After the lees and seeds are dug out. They are not put into the press as it does not taste good.

I left this week. It was quite sad leaving but I am ready to go. I really enjoyed working with everyone a lot and they were fantastic people. I thought it was a great experience and I would love to come back some day. Now time to work at my families winery which is called Saxum.


Week 7: Continuing the pump

I am still pumping but some tanks have been pressed off. Everyone is very tired but the hours are getting lesser. Everyone is very done with pumping but it must be done. Sometimes if we are very tired we dig the caps. This is like a punch down which mixes up the cap but it does not break as many berries. It is done instead of pumping and is a little faster since we can have all the pumps running and people doing this.

A fermenter is going off! One of the 5 ton tanks has started the most active part of fermentation. It is quite exciting to see. The sugar levels will drop very fast during this stage. The tank will also get much higher temperature, sometimes up to 95 degrees!

I have punched a couple tanks down too. At Beaux Freres they do a thing called POPs which means pump over punches. A punch down is normally done without someone pumping but when the grapes are suspended in the juice there will be less damage done. The goal as always is to not break the grapes.

Much more fruit came in than expected so the tanks are everywhere. The packaging room, the garage, the refrigerator truck, the tasting room, the sorting area.

The fermenters are in the garage as we have run out of space in the fermenter room and the outside.


Week 6: Pumping a lot.

This week consisted of only pumping and cleaning the pumps. Pump overs are done twice a day and there are 80+ fermenters. The majority of the tanks are 2 tons which are 10 minutes of pumping. There are some barrel fermenters which are 3 minutes of pumping and 5 ton tanks which require 15 minutes. I am pumping for around 12 hours a day, which is nice because I can listen to headphones.

This is an amphora. It is similar to a barrel that it is porous so the flavor of the wine gets into the vessel. The main difference is that there is no oak flavor with the amphora.

This was the first tank. It is overflowing so it was pumped into a keg. The screen in the top is so it over flows in the middle and not the sides.

These barrels that are used to ferment are called a Demi. They are 159 gallons so it is larger than a normal barrel.

Week 5: Sorting and PUMPIN!!!!

I continued to sort for another 52 hours but I would also take the occasional day off to pump over for that day. Pumping over is taking the juice from the bottom and putting it on the cap. Keeping the cap wet is good to avoid mold. It also helps the yeast. The way it was described to me is imagine that the tank is a city and the yeast live inside. They eat and poop all the time with no movement so they will eventually get sick. The pumping over is like cleaning it all up so that they yeast can remain happy with all the fresh juice. It is also used for temperature control. Some pumps are connected to glycol plates which let you cool the juice down so that it would remain cold and not start to ferment. This was called a cold soak, it’s used to get the flavor of the skins along with some other extractions. Then the temperature would then be increased when the fermentation was desired.

The yellow thing is the temperature plates and it is connected to an air pump. Glycol to cool down the wine and hot water to warm it up.

This is a flexible propeller pump getting cleaned. First it is ran through sodium percarbonate and then Sulfur Dioxide and Citric acid.


Week 4: A lot of sorting

This week I did a 21 hour day of sorting fruit. I did 121 hours of working but it was only sorting fruit. I would clean the line at the end of the day. My job for the line was washing the destemmer parts. This was almost always done after midnight so I never took pictures of it. It was the most tiring experience of my life. I was averaging 18 hours of work a day, after meals this left little time for sleeping.

Week 3: Fruit is coming in!

The fruit has start to slowly but surely come in. The first of the Pinot has come in from a vineyard that is off site. It is picked early in the morning with buckets and transported in macro bins. The pickers are paid per bucket so they are constantly running and picking as fast as they can. They do a great job and the picking is done within a couple hours.

Next the bins are sorted on the line. They are picked into 1/4 ton macro bins which is smaller than usual. They use small bins because they do not want the grapes to be crushed and to lose juice. The bins are loaded onto a hydraulic dumper and raked out gently. The leaves, mold (we had lots of botrytis sadly), and raisins were sorted out. The grapes would then go through the destemmer so that berries alone would end up in the tank. Sometimes the destemmer would be taken apart but rarely.

The cage of the destemmer is taken off in this picture this allows the grapes to pass without leaving the stem. They will occasionally put in a little bit of whole cluster. Whole cluster is used for different tannin structure and flavors.

The table is still full because it could not fit into the tank.

Yearbe is sorting some fruit while his dad is taking time off because of an injury.