Pavle Milic Harvests the Grapes for His Still Unnamed Wine
After cleaning the press, Todd has me do punch downs. Inside the winery there are six bins already housing some grapes that were destemmed a few days earlier. The main goal is to submerge the cap (grape skins that float to the top as fermentation starts). By breaking the cap you help increase extraction of both color and flavor. It is also very important to keep the cap moist to inhibit any bacterial growth. The tool used to punch down the cap looks like a potato masher and it's made of stainless steel. (Although Todd also has one that Dick Erath gave him that looks like a wooden bat.) The best way to perform this task is to climb onto the bin and use your body's weight to help punch down. To this day I have not fallen in. Fingers crossed still.
But that's not all.
At the winery there are always two plastic barrels, one filled with a Water-ProxyClean solution and the other with a Water-Citric Acid solution. So for example: When I am done with the punch-downs, I submerse the punch down tool into the ProxyClean to sanitize and then into the citric Acid barrel to rinse off. Virtually every tool utilized in the winery has to undergo the same procedure. Again, cleanliness is paramount in wine making.
Todd gets off the phone with Juan Alba (his vineyard manager). The grapes will arrive half an hour. Todd then goes straight to get the de-stemmer ready. The machine does exactly that: separate the grapes from the stems. The grapes arrive in "FYBs"-Fn...yellow bins-I'll let you figure out what the "Fn" part means. The bins are perforated with holes to allow air to flow and keep the grapes cool. Juan and his son get on top of a platform to start dropping the clusters into the de-stemmer. The separated grapes drop into large plastic bins.
Most Embarrassing Moment of 2012
On this day I am in charge of placing the bin right underneath the de-stemmer. Underneath the bins and only on two sides there are openings or grooves where you can slide a forklift to move it. To everyone's chagrin -- and a sign of my blatant disregard for common sense -- I push the bin while empty under the de-stemmer with the grooves not exposed. This means that once the bin is full of grapes and really heavy we can't use the forklift.
Major ouch. Needless to say I am very embarrassed. "You probably won't make that mistake again Pavle," Todd tells me. Darn right I won't. He and Juan wrap the bin with belts while I lift it from the side with the manual forklift. Then Todd slides under the bin with the gas operated forklift. That blunder costs us forty five minutes. Especially during crush, time is very important because you want to get the grapes out of the heat to inhibit any premature fermentation. Just look at the image below.
The following two hours are filled with this sequence of events:
1- Todd transports the grapes in the FYBs onto the platform.
2- Juan and his son Alberto start dropping grape clusters into the de-stemmer.
3- Todd turns on de-stemmer.
4- Juan and his son start dumping the FYBs onto the floor.
5- I grab FYBs and take them to the man of international mystery JR. (We don't know what he does for a living and he won't tell us, but today he's here to powerwash FYBs.) Todd thinks he's into corporate espionage. I'm from Colombia, I know when to stop asking questions. So, JR and I are in charge of power washing them and stacking them so they can be transported back to Willcox for the next day's batch.
6- After the vin fills up with grapes, Todd transports the grapes into the winery where is really cool.
7-Repeat the aforementioned a lot of times. Did I mention a lot of times?
After all the grapes are destemmed we have a bite. Then go back to get samples of grapes fermenting. Todd checks for sugar levels, Ph Levels and temperature. Once the grapes start fermenting they require very close monitoring. While he checks the samples, Kelly and JR clean up. I help to clean up as much as I can until I have to head back to put on the apron at FnB.