The harvest season at August West officially kicks off this coming Wednesday. Even though we’ve already gotten through some bins of early-ripening Pinot fruit, were getting a lot more of it this coming week. It will be Pinot from the Peterson Vineyard I believe and we will be using a mechanical sorter and hopper. Anyway, as I learn more and more about what to do in a winery to meet safety and quality standards, here are some much-needed techniques I’ve practiced and must commit to memory (Warning! This list could be particularly boring, so feel free to skip this post if you like!):

  • When cleaning bungs, clamps, or other things, always take a rag/sponge that only sees Cleanskin (and not the floor!) and be sure to a) first wipe off any excess wine residue, b) soak the object in Cleanskin solution mixture, and c) always rinse the Cleanskin solution off completely and place into another white bucket that has itself also been hit with Cleanskin and rinsed with water.
  • Never let objects that will touch wine or objects that might touch other objects that might touch wine touch the floor or be placed in the blue buckets. (Sorry for the Dr. Suess there.)
  • When cinching twine to hold a second or fourth layer of cases in place on a pallet, always do the following: a) take a piece of twine and make a loop with a solid knot holding it, b) tuck the end of a piece of twine under the corner of one case, c) gently trace around the entire pallet with the twine until you meet back up with that original corner and then cut it, allowing enough excess for a loop to provide a slipknot, d) untuck the twine and drag it to the middle of that case layer, e) cinch the twine until it’s fairly taut, and f) form a loop with the other end of the cut twine and pull that over the tautly wrapped twine and then under it and finally through the original loop. This gives you your slipknot.
  • When hand labeling bottles, to ensure you don’t miss any, always take all bottles out of the case first and then affix labels one by one. Always place bottles back inside the case box, punt-side up.
  • Always clean as you go.
  • When steaming barrels, be sure to also hose off their exteriors to rid them of any lees that may have splashed on. Also, do a “spot check” via taking a flashlight to peer inside one of the barrels to make sure they are being appropriately cleaned and steamed to the point where there are minimal to no titrates on the interiors of the staves.
  • When shutting down a steamer, do the following: a) turn the yellow valve off, b) turn off the machine itself, c) open the valve on the right-hand side near the base of the machine to release the steam and pressure. IMPORTANT! Be sure the machine is positioned away from you and others and that the hose is not in the way of the blast. The blast itself is 212 degrees and explodes out from the valve with an insanely heavy and rapid PSI. This release happens for about 2 mins., c) shut release valve off, d) turn the water pressure off, and e) unhook the water hose from the gauge. Be sure to fold up the steamer’s hose on the machine as well.
  • When lining up barrels on racks for stacking, do so in a parallel manner with all the heads and their labels facing the same way, leaving at least 3 feet between each rack. Be sure to pallet jack them into place so that the hoops match up. That way, you can see if one hoop is misaligned and needs to be fixed. You can never trust hoops on a barrel.
  • When positioning your hopper and destemmer into place, be sure to apply at least 2 foot brakes on the hopper as it’s fairly heavy and likely won’t move much, but apply all 4 of the brakes on the destemmer since it’s lighter and might move.

More tips and technique must-dos to come!