What a fantastic time Ron and I had yesterday!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Bottling Art's Red Wine
TIJERILLA CELLARS: A BOTTLING EXPERIENCE
What a fantastic time Ron and I had yesterday!
Our friend and winemaking pal, Kevin, invited us to help another couple, Art and Susan, bottle their red wine blend.
Here's a picture of Art on his back deck, where we did the bottling.
He's holding a glass of the wine we bottled.
It was a beautiful setting on a nice August morning, in spite of the smoky atmosphere due to 7 wildfires raging through California.
Fortunately, none of those fires were in Central Coast.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that Kevin and I went to Art's the previous afternoon.
We tasted and helped him decide the proportions of each of the three red varietals to go into the blend!
It was really fun.
And after several different concoctions, we all loved the 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah, and 20% Cabernet Franc.
As it would happen, that particular blend worked out perfectly with the amount of each varietal that Art had in barrels.
This is a photo of the "lower" apparatus:
A food grade tank for holding the wine blend to be bottled,
A filter, and a pump with hose to transport the wine to the deck above.
The wine ascends from ground level with the flick of a switch.
And here's where it goes!
The wine travels through a raised white small food grade container.
It's in the upper left of the photo.
The wine feeds into the stainless steel tank of the bottling mechanism, shown at center.
As Art has experienced, it's important to keep the level in the white container at a level not too low to prevent bottles from filling completely.
On the flip side, the container must not become too full, or it turns into a fountain of red wine (lovingly called "Purple Rain!").
The wine bottles came from overstock at a winery that went out of business recently.
The bottles have been in storage, collecting dust and who knows what else!
So they must be washed.
The bright red apparatus that you see to the left is a bottle washer and drying tree.
Kevin is expertly operating the bottle washer.
Basically, the dish on top holds liquid SO2.
When you press a bottle onto the upward pointing nozzle inside the dish, the solution rinses the inside of the bottle and decontaminates it.
Bottles are stored temporarily on the "tree" below.
Then it's time to fill the bottles with the beautiful blend!
Here I am, filling no less than six bottles at a time with Art's "vintage" (ha-ha) 1940s bottling machine.
Each nozzle can be adjusted to fill the bottle, via spring-loaded action, to the exact amount you wish.
And no, that is not my glass of wine in the distant background!
Mine is out of the camera shot ; )
Next, the bottles must be fitted with a suitable cork.
Here's Ron, the crazy corker, putting the wine to rest.
Ron and Kevin traded corking duties because this is a labor intensive job!
Hand corking is perfect for small volume vintners.
But corking requires major arm strength and that meticulous final "snap" to reach the desired depth in each bottle.
Corking is a thankless job, unless you cork with us!
We all really appreciate our corkers by giving them copious amounts of the wine being bottled, while they slave tirelessly!
For really sweet operations like Art's, the process and product are near pro.
The next stage is the sealing of the foil. You can see the
apparatus to Herb's left. The machine spins around the foil to fit it snugly around the bottle top.
Herb is enjoying a sample of wine while breaking from the intensive job of foiling.
Foils, or the metal cap surrounding the wine bottle, must be carefully separated.
The technique is to retrieve each foil from the stack without denting, dinging or otherwise damaging it.
Art's wife Susan and Herb, their friend, neighbor, cat-sitter, both handled foiling.
Susan had gone in the house and began preparing a lovely lunch for all of us who participated in the bottling extravaganza.
There was still wine in the holding tank.
AND one more empty bottle that would perfectly complete the final case!
Art and Ron worked together to snatch the last drops of wine from the holding tank.
They actually poured it from that huge tank into a tiny food grade plastic beaker.
Above, you see Art funneling the wine into the last bottle.
Meanwhile, Kevin started to clean up.
People, making wine at every stage of the game is a messy operation!
Even without "Purple Rain!"
Wine spills everywhere: on your clothes, hands, shoes, the floor, the sidewalk, even into your mouth!
You need a quality clean-up team to make sure the process is professional from start to finish.
Actually, Art told Kevin to stop.
He said he'd tidy up later so that we could all take a break and enjoy the lunch Susan made.
And sample some more of that wine we just bottled!
This is a shot of Art pouring his sweet wife Susan a glass of the wine we all just bottled, while we all look on and enjoy the moment.
Kevin was looking through the camera lens!
Everyone ate sandwiches and fresh produce, olives, and a delectable smoked salmon from a local vendor that was the best I'd ever had!
(The salmon, not the vendor. Keep it clean!)
Then Art opened a bottle of a previous vintage from their Tijerilla Cellars.
It was a delicious Cabernet Franc.
We just about polished that off before heading home for a little snoozy.
Oh, and isn't that label just cute as two bugs doing the Tango?!
Signing off for now, wine makers, wine lovers, and wine drinkers!