From the Winery

More Notes from Rebekah on Harvest

October 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 


This is what they call HARVEST.  We had an extra long day today with lunch and breakfast inserted at noon and 6. The last of the fruit came in, the destemmer, press, pumps and crew were working at full capacity. We closed up shop at 1:30a and it felt good.



My friend, the Two Ton Fermenter. Punch-downs are something you hear about if you work in any capacity in the wine industry. This is the task that gives you “harvest arms”- Hulk-like triceps, back and shoulders. It’s the kinda like the “harvest hands” thing, if you got them, it’s a sign that you’ve really worked crush.

Now a friend of mine scoffed at my complaint of having to do two straight hours of these the other night (he had done 6) but really, I think we all get a gold star. And I happen to really like punch-downs. It’s kind of a meditative activity, doing the same laborious movement over and over. You get to tune out. No need to watch hoses or pumps or worry about getting in the way of a forklift. You develop your own technique for punching down the cap too. I’ve found the most effective method for my body is to go straight up the middle first, then spread out left and right from there, up and down, up and down, up and down.


Who ya gonna call? Dr. Morgenstern (not Ghostbusters.) I stayed late tonight to finish up one last project before taking the next day off and I was flying solo for the first time while the boys stopped for dinner. Delastaging is the process of separating the seeds and juice from the skins. We pump the juice out of fermenters and a huge sieve catches the seeds while the juice gets pumped into another holding vessel. The point of this process is to remove the seeds, which if left any longer will create bitterness and harsh tannins in the wine, and also to get a little oxygen into the skins. After 90 minutes, the juice is pumped back over the skins to continue fermenting for a little while longer. All I had to do was get the juice back into the ten one-ton fermenters.

I’d done this before, under supervision and was fairly confident in how it all worked. But things feel a little different around dinnertime, in an empty, locked up winery. It’s a little eerie and it affected my confidence a little. Nonetheless, I set everything up as I had learned, put a weight on the end of my hose and let her rip. The end of the hose went flying into the air (despite the weight) and as I ran to shut off the pump, it shot juice* all over the floor! Yikes.

I’m frantic and tired and cursing at having dirtied the floor that I had just Zambonied (cleaned) and am making an even bigger mess trying to hose it all down the drain and everything is pooling under the fermenters that I can’t move and where’s the mop when you need it? Problem is, I need a very big mop. This is when I call on Dr. Morganstern. Despite wearing a royal blue puffy vest most of the time while in the cellar, Deven is cool as a cucumber and has a way of making everything okay. After talking me down, I realized that my mess was no biggie and my squeegee method of cleaning it up was what DM would have done. Whew. Thank you once again, Dr. Morganstern, for your sound judgment, advice and expertise.

*Don’t be concerned, the amount of juice loss was not substantial. We will still have lots of wine for you.



Slowing it down while ramping it up. The fruit is in, the Clowns and volunteers are slowing trickling back into their day jobs and Erick, Deven and Erin and I are still here. We’re alternating taking two days off in a row now, our lunches are leaving us with more leftovers and the work days are getting a little shorter. This is the time when we really start to get to know our individual lots of wine- we’re seeing them go through fermentation, we’re delestaging, we’re draining juice and pressing skins, we’re punching down and barreling down. We also continue to taste everything (the pinots are beautiful right now) and prepping for them to go through their next stage in life- malolactic fermentation. This is when the apple-tart acid still present in the wines turn into the soft, luscious, smooth lactic acid that we are familiar with in the final product. This whole “chemistry of fermenting grapes” thing (winemaking) is a really interesting thing to witness- first we taste the fresh fruit, then the sweet, fizzy fermenting juice and skins, then the dry wines before ML, and still to come, the wines after ML but still in barrel, and finally the finished product in bottle. The evolution is quite spectacular. Kudos to you, makers of wine!

Now, as for ramping it up, our forklift skills are going through the roof. Thanks to slower days and fewer bodies, we novice certified fork lifters are getting in on the action. We got to dump skins from two-ton fermenters into the press, a high and mighty feat.



« « The continued adventures of Rebekah the harvest intern | Short Summary of 2012 R.Stuart & Co. Oregon Harvest » »

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