Friday, August 27, 2010

Our Final Bottling Adventure


Our final bottling of this year was Wednesday, with 70 cases of 2009 Semillon from our estate, Charles Vineyard.

A bit of background about this varietal and wine: There are less than three acres of Semillon in the entire Anderson Valley, and only one other AV winery has ever made a stand-alone Semillon (their grapes are in a very different area than ours). So, this wine is a bit rare and a bit special for us. We originally planted the varietal to blend in with the Sauvignon Blanc on our property, but in 2008, due to spring frosts, we got about 25 cases worth and decided to make a 100% Semillon bottling. We ferment this wine with wild yeast and ML, and then age it in about 25-30% new French oak barrels. What we end up with is a tropical, slightly toasty wine that still has good acidity and structure. Estimate release for the 2009 vintage: winter 2011.

So, on Wednesday -- a blazingly hot day here in the Valley -- we had a very small bottling truck come to the winery. Because it was a small truck and a hot day, we had him back the trailer into the cellar and shut the door on the trailer hitch, blocking the space at the bottom with cardboard, floor mats, and everything else we could rummage up. I have to say, it saved our tushes. Both for the wine, which stayed  nice and cool, and the people working the line.

With a line this small you volunteer labor and help get the wine into bottle. So Joe, Bill, Nancy, myself, and friends Gary and Johnny all received stations to work and, within a few hours, the Semillon was in bottle. Gary and Johnny were loading empty glass and unloading the full cases, plus stacking the taped and properly labeled cases on a pallet; I was sparging the bottles with nitrogen and placing them on the filler; the operator was helping with the filler and putting corks into the bottles; my mother was hand-placing the capsules on the bottles; my father was spinning the capsules down (the machine that makes them all neat and tidy is called a "spinner"); and Joe was labeling the bottles and putting them in case boxes to return to Johnny and Gary.

Most of these jobs are fairly self-explanatory. However, if you're not in the business you may not know that bottles are "sparged" with nitrogen before being filled with wine. Sparging removes the oxygen in the bottle, thus reducing the chance of "oxidated" wine (wine exposed to too much oxygen can turn slightly brown in color and taste a little flat, or even worse, sherry like).

Below are some photos of us at work on Wednesday. Just a note: the rubber gloves are so we don't put a bunch of fingerprints on the bottles, which the tasting room person (me!) has to later wipe off.

The bottling crew.


Sparging.

Filler and corker.
Labeler.

3 comments:

Jenni said...

Thanks for the photos. Super interesting to see the process!

Rob Feckler said...

Thanks for information about sparging, Kristy! It can be a good point to those who are also in the field. The process somewhat takes a lot of work. But I’m glad that you are able to finish it on time with the help of some volunteers, of course. Anyway, I like your line of work. :-)

Rob Feckler

Kristy Charles, Foursight Wines said...

Thanks Rob! Bottling day is always exciting because a whole year of winemaking is finally wrapped up into a sellable product. Feels like the culmination of a lot of work!