Folie a Deux Crush Fantasy

Pump-overs 101 by Crush Crusader
September 8, 2008, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Harvest Adventures

Ok, so this may bore you, but since you are here already, you might as well read through it. I might surprise you with something you don’t know. I’ll call it, “everything you wanted to know about the pump-over process, but were afraid to ask.” By the end of this lesson, YOU TOO could be well on your way to becoming a harvest intern!

Anyways, first off we make sure the pump is set and the lines are connected & ready.  Then I climp up to the catwalks above the tanks and stage the device (see pictures in prior post), if the tank needs one, inside the top of the tank.  Next, someone down below sends me the wine.  They yell, ‘Ready?’ I return with ‘Send tank #’.  The person screams back ‘Pump-over on tank # on pump-over line #’  We communicate the tank # and pump-over line to check and make sure the lines are all connected correctly and we are not sending the juice elsewhere.  With my hand on the valve, I wait till I feel pressure, then I yell back ‘Pressure!’

Checking for pressure

Checking for pressure

Now, usually water comes through first and that is spilled outside of the tank until I get grape juice.  At that point, pump-over now officially begins.

Water first, grapes next

Water first, grapes next

Breaking the cap By Hand

Breaking the cap By Hand

 So now you are educated… it wasnt that bad was it?? I hope you were taking notes, as this material WILL be showing up on the final exam!

Pump Overs and Falling Asleep by Crush Crusader
September 8, 2008, 8:36 pm
Filed under: Harvest Adventures
By hand pump-over

By hand pump-over

The last two days have been filled with Pump-Overs (pumping juice from the bottom to the top of the tank to mix the juice and give red grapes color) and falling asleep. I say that because there are two ways of doing this. One is by device and the other by hand. By hand can be exhausting due to the fact that you are hurrying up just to wait 30 to 45 to 60 minutes until pump over is done. The device is really nice because it frees up an extra body to do other things.

Device in action

Device in action

Device Arm

Device Arm

We would pump-over a tank three times a day. And when you’ve got 6-7 tanks going, it still takes a long time to complete. The first day it took 11hrs, even with 4-5 devices running. Sorta shatters the idea of an 8hr workday…

Long Day by Crush Crusader
September 5, 2008, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Harvest Adventures

Too tired today to write anything more than two sentences. Long day to say the least, goodnight.

Heat, Hydration & Hydrometers by Crush Crusader
September 4, 2008, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Harvest Adventures | Tags: , , , , , , ,

DAY 5:  Today was very hot, about 100 degrees to be exact. And it felt like a sauna, believe me. We had to make sure we were all very well hydrated especially since we were in the middle of crushing sauvignon blanc and zinfandel and running around everywhere. Yup, I believe we received something like 50-60 tons of sauvignon blanc and 40-50 tons of zinfandel. That’s over 100 tons of grapes to crush, in over 100 degree heat… and the weather forecast is calling for more extreme highs! Ah yes, all just a day in the life of a harvest intern.

In between crush sessions, I also started learning how to take wine samples and record the brix (sugar measurment) and temp levels. The winemaking team likes to be able to watch how the sugar levels are moving along during fermentation. First, wine samples are taken from the tank or barrel and put into a tall cylinder. The wine at this point is still fermenting, so there can be some foam present, making it difficult to get an accurate reading. Second, I dropped the hydrometer in the cylinder and waited till it leveled out. Finally, I recorded the temp and added the appropriate amount to the brix level according to the temp. It’s all part of the process, and I’m learning something new every day.

Longer day today. Day 5, done at 5:30 pm. 12hr day… time for rest.

The Juicy Details of My First Crush by Crush Crusader
September 2, 2008, 6:06 pm
Filed under: Harvest Adventures

I got to work my first crush this afternoon. The first of MANY more to come over the next few months. About 6 tons of Semillon showed up in half-ton bins that were dumped into the hopper. The grape clusters were crushed and destemmed then sent into the large 25-ton bladder press. Free run juice was collected and sent immediately to a separate tank from the hard press. This happened very quickly, but it was like organized chaos.

Next, a truck full (25-28 tons) showed up with Sauvignon Blanc ready to be received. Same thing with this grape… crushed, destemmed, pressed, and pumped into tanks. Then once all the grapes passed through into the press, I began to rinse all the equipment down thoroughly. This took a long time. We couldn’t allow even the smallest grape or stem left over in/on any of the equipment. I had no idea that cleanliness was such a huge part of the winemaking process, but I have a feeling the hose and I will become quite familiar with each other.

So that’s what happened today, not too fast paced yet but I’m okay with that. I hear that this week is going to get very busy, very quickly as the grapes in the vineyard become ripe for harvesting. I’ve got the ibuprofen ready…

Day 3, done at 2pm. Time to rest.

Ferment Ferment by Crush Crusader
September 1, 2008, 5:41 pm
Filed under: Harvest Adventures

Alright, DAY TWO! Today was a hands-on job kinda day. We had a ‘work order’ to complete which instructed us to rack Sauvignon Blanc off the lees (sediment collected at the bottom of the tank) into another tank 70-80 yards away. One of my first tastes of the actual “winemaking” process…

So we began with locating the correct hose, fittings, pump, and the tank to rack the juice into. Next, was the task of sanitizing the hose to avoid any negative bacterial affects onto the juice. After sanitizing and rinsing, we began to pump juice from one tank to the other, leaving the lees behind.

Once some of the juice was in the other tank, yeast was added. But first, the yeast needed to be “charged up” and prepared to do its job. So in a bucket we added yeast and warm-to-hot water along with some sugary juice. Right away I saw the juice begin to bubble (this is where all the magic happens). The yeast was turning the sugars in the juice into alcohol and releasing CO2 and heat in the process… fermentation had begun! We added it right into the tank and continued to pump juice.

Today was a great learning experience and gave me a little preview of how the rest of harvest is going to feel.

First Day… Barrel Day by Crush Crusader
September 1, 2008, 1:45 pm
Filed under: Harvest Adventures | Tags: , , ,

Waking up at 3:30am on my first day as a harvest intern was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Staying awake for the drive was a little harder though. Loaded up on Rockstar and coffee, I arrived at the winery and met my fellow cellar rats and immediately began working at 5am in the cool barrel room. Everyone that I met was very friendly as they showed me around and gave me pointers and advice.

My first and only tasks during the day were to label new oak barrels that will soon be filled with wine….only 230. Not bad right? Oh it gets better. After the labeling, it was time to move the 230 barrels (80-100lbs each) onto racks…one at a time. Needless to say, my back, legs, forearms, and fingers hurt, however, I’d rather have that pain and in the cool temp. barrel room than have to be working outside in the 100+ degree heat for the entire day.

Got to go home early today though! Punched out at 2pm, 9 hours in the book, time for rest.


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