Folie a Deux Crush Fantasy

A Lot of R&R by The Folie a Deux Harvest Intern
September 29, 2009, 12:22 am
Filed under: Harvest Adventures

My life as an intern at Folie à Deux is packed full of R&R. I’m not talking about rest and relaxation folks. It’s all about rack and return, which isn’t restful or relaxing. It is hard work.

All of this R&R started when our first red grapes came in from the vineyards.  Rack and return is essentially drawing the fermenting must off of the skins and seeds, and sending it into a clean tank. I hook up the intake hose to a bin with a screen to catch skins and seeds and an outtake hose to an empty tank. From here, I drain the tank through the screen and send the juice it to the empty tank. Did I forget to mention that we are dealing with 1000 gallons of juice running through the filter?

Keeping the Screen Open for R&R

Keeping the Screen Clear for R&R

The tank is full of skins and seeds which come out with the juice, all of which needs to be shoveled.  And it is a lot of shoveling.  I literally have to shovel as fast as I can to keep the seeds and skins from clogging the screen. It’s quite the morning workout. My arms look much better than they ever did when I was a kindergarten teacher. The biggest problem I have with this racking is the purple-hands syndrome.

A couple days ago, I picked up my nieces from school and one of my former students said “Teacher Lori, you look like a boy.” I guess the dirty work clothes, cellar boots, stained purple hands, and sun hat  threw him off. Winemaking is not all berets and winemaking clichés. Although, I do feel a bit like Lucy and Ethel while I’m stomping around inside the tanks.

Shoveling Inside the Tank

Shoveling Inside the Tank

I must say, it’s challenging getting up crazy early and shoveling grape skins at five in the morning. What I like about the R&R is when I’m ready to return, it’s just about sunrise. I can go up on the winery catwalk and watch the fog lift while the sun rises over the mountains and vineyards. It makes these 12 hour days worth it!

Greetings, From Inside a Wine Tank!

Greetings, From Inside a Wine Tank!


Slow and Sparkling Start to the Harvest by The Folie a Deux Harvest Intern
September 23, 2009, 12:19 am
Filed under: Harvest Adventures

The harvest season at Folie à Deux is off to a late start. We’ve had white grapes come in, but it’s been slow.  The upside is that we couldn’t be more prepared. The winery is so clean that it sparkles! Every tank has been washed and they are now ready and waiting to be filled with juice. Guess who got to clean all those tanks? The interns, of course.

So, where are all the grapes? Come on California! Give us the heat we need to bring up the sugar levels! The grapes can’t be picked until the sugar level is just right. It’s going to be in 100s this week so hopefully that will give us the heat we need to give us nice sweet grapes.

As our grapes continue to ripen on the vine, our barrel rooms and tanks are seeing all the action. Right now, we have some of our 2009 whites in the tanks and some of the 2008 wines are starting to make their journey to the barrels. Also, wines that are currently in the barrels are getting ready for bottling. It’s like musical chairs for all the different wines as they start to move around the winery. I’m getting the feeling it’s all about timing and making sure no grapes are left without a chair when the music stops!

For people who are new to winemaking, I thought I’d give a very quick overview of the first steps of the winemaking process…and I mean very quick, because the entire winemaking process takes several months to a couple of years to complete.

When the grapes (which I’ve learned are called berries) first arrive at the winery they are put into big silver bins called hoppers.

Sneaking Berries out of the Hopper

Sneaking Berries Out of the Hopper

The berries are then pushed by an auger—which looks like a giant corkscrew—into the de-stemmer. The de-stemmer separates the berries from the stems before they go into the crusher. The crusher gently presses the berries and then the skins and juice are pumped into a tank. As you can see, the equipment has self-explanatory names: the de-stemmer, the crusher, etc. It sure makes it easier for the interns to remember which equipment does each function.

The juice is later pressed and all of the skins are removed before fermentation. (White wines generally go straight to press or shortly thereafter destemming.) The wines begin fermentation in stainless steel tanks and then some of the wine varieties will be moved to barrels. This is where Joe Shirley, our winemaker, works his magic as small changes are made to make each wine unique.

Since we’re still in the beginning stages of the winemaking process, I’ll stop here. More details soon.

Harvest Blog 2009 – #1! by The Folie a Deux Harvest Intern
September 18, 2009, 3:33 am
Filed under: Harvest Adventures

Welcome to the Folie à Deux Harvest Blog for 2009!

Harvest is really getting started here at Folie à Deux, which is incredibly exciting since the last couple of weeks have been full of anticipation.

My first day on the job, I was a bit nervous with not knowing what to expect. That feeling was soon forgotten the moment I met the harvest crew. What an amazing group of guys and they are as friendly as family!

Here’s a short introduction of some of my Folie à Deux co-workers:

Vince a.k.a my boss. He calls the shots with a smile. J

Jordan, Jeorge, Ron, Pelon, Milo and Andy are some of my coworkers. They were so welcoming to the new interns and I’m incredibly impressed with their patience as they train us! I can already tell that there is a great closeness that can only come with a small cellar crew.

Joe Shirley—He’s the winemaker here at Folie à Deux. Since 2007, Joe’s been making Folie à Deux and before that he worked for the Trinchero Family and Sonoma Cutrer. I’m looking forward to spending some more time with Joe; he’s incredibly passionate about making wine and he’s a Napa Valley native like me.

Harvest has been late this year. August 30th brought our first load of grapes to the winery: Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc grapes are typically the first grapes that come into the winery during harvest because they are grown in warmer regions and ripen the fastest. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes are picked at about 22 Brix (sugar-to-water mass ratio) or lower, which makes the wine young and crisp. On the other hand, Chardonnay is picked at approximately 24 o4 25 Brix and is grown in cooler areas, so it comes into the winery later. I could really feel the buzz in the air when the call came that the truck was on its way. Everyone headed to the hopper, awaiting the grapes arrival. I have never seen so many clusters of grapes in all my life. Joe Shirley was there to make sure the grapes were up to standard. A cup of fresh grape juice from the press was passed around for all of us to taste….delicious!

Outside Folie a Deux with the dancers

Outside Folie a Deux, my new job for havest 2009