Today we received early morning Sauvignon Blanc fruit from Adam and Stacy Hersly for their label Hersly, custom crush clients of Ed’s. Adam trained as an intern under Ed and so he prefers to do some of the work himself while allowing Ed to do the rest, so technically, it’s a partial custom crush.

*Update: We just got in Cabernet Sauvignon for Hersly, making their fruit the last to come in for Ed’s custom crush clients. While I was taking brix readings on the fruit, Ed asked me if I could detect anything menthol-like about the fruit’s current aroma. (Ed knows I have a pretty strong sniffer, so I think that’s why he asked me.) I could only detect a very faint menthol aroma, but nothing worth noting. He told me that the vineyard used to sit on eucalyptus trees. That fact immediately reminded me of Jean & John Gadiot’s Las Madres Vineyards in Los Carneros, Sonoma (that VIE Winery sources fruit from to make a killer, meaty Syrah), as their property was originally populated with such trees that they ripped out in order to plant their vines.

To date, Tim and Philip Cuadra (Highlawn Wine Company.) are the only ones working solely on their own in Ed’s facility to produce wine for their labels. While we’ll be getting some Pinot in from Peterson tomorrow, we spent pretty much all of today cleaning bins – t-bins, macro bins, and massive plastic containers, along with the destemmer and hopper and the pomace from the pressed skins of the Sauvignon Blanc.

I cleaned the plastic container unit by climbing up on a ladder and sitting atop this behemoth receptacle using a mop and Cleanskin and tons of scorching hot water. This receptacle would be used to hold all the juice from the 6 bins of Sauv Blanc. As the fruit came in, Ed weighed each one for Adam and Stacy to record. As Ed loaded up/positioned a bin on the forklift to dump into the hopper, he made sure to first put a metal bar across the bin, pinning it in on one side that attaches to the forklift and then placing another key through the hole in the opposite end of the bar and another pin. These pins, by the way, look like old-school hairpins for women with very thick hair.This “pin” however, is one of those incredibly important things that if you forget to use it or place it immediately back onto the forklift behind the drivers seat (should you not want to hold it), Ed will not be happy. Add that to the list of not cleaning things correctly and those are grounds for dismissal. (Well that and not wearing the appropriate footwear to work in the winery.)

It turns out that that little pin is what keeps the bar in place, the bin in place, the grapes in place. So that = good, good, good. When the pin and key are not in use, they are hooked back together and placed on the back of the forklift. The bar keeps the entire bin from falling into the hopper (we used the press equipment for the Hersly fruit). After Ed dumped each bin, he rotated them into their upright position and lowered them to the floor where we could rush over and unlock the pin and key for quick removal of the bar and bin. The bin then gets swiftly washed and then dragged outside to either dry in the sun (if the bin is ours) or to be forklifted back onto the truck to go back to whence they came.

As the press worked the fruit, it went through automatic, timed cycles of pressing, rotating in clockwise and then counter clockwise movements. The juice funneled out onto a tray and then through a square metal colander-like receptacle (to catch excessive amounts of bugs, leaves, seeds, etc.), and finally drained into a deep metal sump. From there, the juice got siphoned into the big bin I cleaned earlier. Note: You can run the siphoning hose whenever there’s juice in the metal sump, but it’s best to run it when there’s half to 3/4 of bin full of juice to over overflowing, loss of juice and too much oxygen, (although at this stage, the yeast needs some oxygen so that it can grow and convert). The fewer grapes there are to press, the more the press is likely to jolt forward a few inches to a foot, so NEVER stand directly next to the press lest you wish to be knocked out.

While I’m on the safety note, Ed has mentioned that silent equipment could mean deadly equipment:

  • If a steamer is quiet, it’s building up steam = never touch!
  • If a hopper’s heavy, steel blades are in motion funneling grapes, it doesn’t make much sound and you cannot see the blades moving unless you climb up and peer down into the hopper. But it’s best to be advised to peer with caution since these blades will grab hold of clothes fingers, hands, or even an entire arm and feel no remorse. Not a fun way to lose a limb.
  • Electric forklifts are apparently much nicer and smoother to drive and work with but when they back up they are not very loud, so if you don’t know what or WHO is behind you, beware of squishing a person. (I hear that is not the same squishing a grape.) Also, if you have been doused with a lot of water or it’s raining outside, never, never, never sit in the drivers seat without placing a plastic bag down first nor take the forklift outside unless you want to risk electrocuting yourself.

We also cleaned the massively tall hopper and destemmer equipment for the first time in order to ready it to receive tomorrow’s fruit that will be destemmed. This was quite an interesting job, requiring us to move the equipment over to the stairway so we could stand on top and mop the massive interior of the hopper and its blades with Cleanskin and then hose it down. I took that on while Dave tackled the exterior parts. The destemmer was the trickiest part to me. Two massively heavy pieces had to be pulled out and cleaned and then re-inserted correctly back up on the wheels. I know I’ll get the “feel” of this part, but man was that tricky. Lining up the wheel cogs and the blades so that you could safely close the door and not jam it is also essential. It’s all about technique in the winery and knowing the feel of things. I’ll get there!