Thursday, February 23, 2012

The First 2011's Go Into Bottle!

On Tuesday we bottled our 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and 2011 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir. Barely. But they did end up in bottle at the end of the day, and we're really excited to see the first of a new vintage.

Joe supervises.
This is the first year we've made a vin gris, which is a fancy name for rose', more or less. Grey wine, it actually means -- white wine made from red grapes. We whole-cluster pressed Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir grapes and let the juice sit on the skins for just a few hours. The wine tastes like fresh strawberries. We're really excited to have something fun and new in the tasting room for the spring and summer.

Our vin gris is very light in color -- like a blanc de noirs bubbles but without the bubbles. Basically, we didn't add mega red or mega purple to make it that nice, vibrant pink color. Being more of the natural winemaking persuasion, we're anti grape juice concentrate, which is commonly added to deepen the color but makes the wine sweet as well. It just seems wrong to doctor up a perfectly delicious wine for color's sake.

Our 2011 Charles Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc tastes very much like our vineyard and past bottlings of this wine, but will be more delicate due to the very cool vintage. Yum.

However well you think you have it planned, bottling is always ripe with calamities. This year our glass company simply never delivered our glass! Having something to bottle IN and a cork to seal it up are the most important elements. You can always bottle your wine in "shiners" (unlabeled bottles) and run them back through the line later for labels, if need be, but you can't bottle without the vessel to put it in.

Bottling zoom out from the machine.
Knowing this was the last piece of the puzzle, the first thing I did on Tuesday morning was check on the glass. Of course, it wasn't there. Apparently a temp put the wrong delivery date into their system, meaning the glass was actually scheduled to arrive the next week. In fact, it was split between two separate warehouses in two counties! Luckily, we had a few hours to deal with it.

After several phone calls and a good, stressed out hour, the company agreed to send two separate trucks with the glass so we could bottle the same day. We'd be late, but it would get done. So, we waited for the trucks, and, after they arrived and were unloaded, one of the warehouse guys asked me if I wanted to run the green or clear glass first. WHAT??? Green glass? We weren't supposed to have any green glass in the mix. At all. Cue mini heart attack.

I had him double-check the color of the glass, even though the boxes were indeed labeled as antique green. Thank goodness, the glass inside was actually clear. Whew!

After all of those issues, we started bottling, and things ran smoothly after that. The lesson in it all? On a bottling day, always expect something to go wrong. Because it will. Whether it's the label guy who didn't count correctly last year or capsules inexplicably being smooshed and unusable the year before, something always goes awry. You have to have a cool head to be in the bottling business full-time. Of course, it also helps when it's not your wines you're worrying about.

What I also find helpful on bottling days: having the winemaker present. There are always tough questions about very technical things, like dissolved oxygen in the wines or vacuum on the line, that I don't always feel comfortable answering by myself. Theoretically, I know the acceptable ranges of most things, but if there are follow-up questions, forget it! That's where Joe comes in.

Here 's a short video from this week's bottling. This is a pretty big line. The one we typically use at the winery is MUCH smaller (think a horse trailer full of bottling equipment).

video

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