Pre-crush, I prepared a rain shelter for forecasted weather challenges.It looked like the gallows, so we had a little fun with Woody, but not to worry… Woody is a alive and well, still smiling, just a little stiff and choked up!
Our Fifth First Crush CRUSH…
Where does the time go? Our 2016 wine making season has officially begun, but not without challenges. This past Monday, our cross-country delivery of 40,000 pounds of CA grape was expected at 7am. With excitement and anxiety, I was at the winery at 6:30 anticipating seeing the semi already at the winery. No such luck. I was finally informed at 9am that the truck had been delayed due to tail light issues and was 300 miles away in western PA. I was not berry happy!
The delivery finally arrived that evening at 9:30pm, and with the assistance of COOP member extraordinaire JT, who flew up from Maryland for our crush event, we finished unloading at 10:45 and headed home to catch some needed rest before our 6:30 planned start.
We Weathered the Storm…
And of course, the prediction for our Tuesday crush day was rain, rain, rain. Go figure! No rain all summer and the one day rain would be a HUGE issue, or UGE (depending on your political diction), on crush day. So in anticipation, beginning Sunday afternoon, and all day Tuesday, as I waited and waited, I constructed a 12′ high wood-frame structure to help protect our crush team’s efforts. Thank God I did! It began raining at 7am, and of course, the rain ended just as we finished.
Our Amazing 2016 Crush Team…
I know I sound like I’m repeating myself from previous years, however I remain humbled when I experience and witness the unselfish hard-working efforts of so many. Despite the rain, we set a record and had fully processed the entire 40,000 pounds of grape by noon. We then enjoyed Diane’s chili and condiments, and a glass of wine to toast our efforts and camaraderie. Soon after lunch, a second tractor trailer arrived with an additional 5 tons of grape. We finished all crush efforts by 2:30 and were all cleaned up by 4pm. I want to once again thank everyone that participated in our crush day efforts. We smiled, we laughed, enjoyed our friendships, and we got it done.
2016 crush team tee-shirts were provided to all workers, however, if any of you did not take one home, please let us know so that we can save one for you.
We crushed on Tuesday, and on Wednesday late afternoon the temperatures per fermenter finally rose to a required 60 degrees. Each primary fermenter was then inoculated with special yeasts and nutrients per wine. Thursday morning, fermentation was visually active and I am happy to report that we are on our way to creating more fine wine. For the next 7-9 days, Diane and I will visit the winery morning, mid-day and early evening to perform a process called a punch-down. For you COOP newbies, a by-product of fermentation is carbon dioxide (CO2). This gas pushes the crushed grape skins to the top of the fermenters. In a punch down, you use a long stainless paddle to physically push an 8″ thick grape skin cap down into the more liquid volume below. This process is required to rehydrate the grape skins and foster optimum fermentation.
During active fermentation, as CO2 is produced, the inside of the winery becomes void of something all living creatures require, oxygen. Since CO2 is heavier than air, floor level in the winery is not safe without precautions. As a remedy, when we open the winery front door, we reach in to open one of our large garage doors fully. Then, holding my breath, I hustle through the maze of fermenters to open the other garage door. After standing outdoors for 10 minutes, there has been enough oxygen transfer from outdoors to enter the winery and begin a punch down.
I will send a short update by next Tuesday as to our press schedule. Don’t press me to be more specific at this time. Generally, we press on two back-to-back days.
Optimally, the timing of a press is are determined by when all sugar per wine has been converted to alcohol (0% sugar). Using past experience, that would be between next Wednesday at the earliest, and next Saturday at the latest. It cannot be Sunday because we have to get ready for some football! But with that said, have you seen the extended forecast. Here we go again! There may be a little storm named Matthew coming up the coast.
So, my wheels are turning, considering a messy mostly indoor press event or rigging another “MacGyver” outdoor protection area. Woody is already in hiding! Stay tuned.
Thanks again crushsters,