This week was bottling week for our 2010 Semillon (with ingredients listed!) and our 2010 estate Pinot Noirs. It's another busy, hectic time during the year -- one that's both stressful and exciting. The stress comes from the myriad of things that can go wrong, and the excitement from seeing another vintage shepherded safely into bottle.
One thing that I've learned: winemakers hate bottling. I think it just puts them in a bad mood. With all the moving parts and the unpredictability factor, it can certainly be nerve-wracking. Questions abound, like: "How much wine will we actually have?" Or: "Is the clarity, sulfur level, etc. good?"
For those of us who have to order the supplies, it's always interesting. You can certainly think you ordered enough of something, only to find out you botched it, or, even worse, the printer or the printing house did. Just last year the printing house we were using had to fire the employee who counted the labels -- our rolls of labels listed the right numbers, but they were short. The guy in charge wasn't making sure the count was spot-on. This year, we were sent the entire wrong set of labels but luckily had enough time to return them and receive the correct ones. We also had our warehouse load pallets of the wrong glass onto the truck. Luckily, we checked before we drove it all the way from Santa Rosa back to Boonville (about an hour's drive).
Mistakes from receiving the wrong glass, labels, corks, capsules or foils to simply missing the deadline for the boat to ship them from Europe are common. Talk to anyone who works a bottling line, and they'll tell you horror stories from winemakers bottling with the wrong vintage on the label to putting Malbec in the Syrah bottle because the hose was hooked up to the wrong tank.Oops! If those aren't bad enough, imagine getting 3/4 of the way through bottling only to run out of corks. Then you have a partial tank of wine now exposed to oxygen (not good for it) and no closures for your bottles. And bottling lines aren't cheap, nor do they always have a free schedule to come back tomorrow and finish up.
Luckily, our bottlings this week went smoothly. There were a few hiccups, but nothing majorly concerning. Big thanks to our friends who came up to help us work the line. And now we can rest for a few weeks while the 2010's are all in bottle and we await the 2011 vintage.