Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bin to Bottle

Grapes are harvested once a year (per hemisphere), but that doesn’t mean that we sit around twiddling our thumbs the other eight months out of the year. After harvest winds down at the end of the year for us here in Napa, we take a deep breath and then return our gaze to the wines that are aging in barrel.

Many natural elements conspire against the making of a great wine so we must always remain vigilant. It’s important to keep barrels full with no headspace so that excess oxygen is not introduced. It’s also vital to taste the wines to see where they are in their evolution. We strive to blend and/or bottle at just the right moment to protect all those prized flavors and aromas. Spoiler alert: the 2010’s taste amazing! But, we’re still going to keep them in barrel a little while longer.

As harvest looms in a couple of months, June is the perfect window to get some wine in the bottle. The wines have seen enough oak, and what better time to make some room in the cellar for the upcoming vintage than right now? So on a recent June morning we set off to check in with our wares. We were bottling few of our 2009’s and our 2010’s were ready for a preliminary run through tasting from barrel – a “well baby check up” as it were. Gus Rivers, Weatherby and Tin Star were making their journey from barrel to bottle and we wanted to see it go off without a hitch.

With the logistical nightmare that is bottling (and all that can go wrong in the blink of an eye) it’s easy to understand why this can be one of the most stress-inducing times for a winemaking team. Fortunately we had the experts on deck. Our Winemaker Tim Milos, Wine Director, Rhett Gadke and Bin to Bottle’s General Manager, Adam Braunstein stood at the ready. All the while a few highly skilled bottling line employees worked their magic shoulder to shoulder with and the incredible Bin to Bottle staff. Pumps whirling, hoses snaking across the floor, and forklifts singing with their customary reverse warning beeps. The senses are fully accosted and on overload. At first glimpse it looks like barely organized chaos, but after a few moments of peering around (and avoiding being struck by said forklift) a sense of order emerges; this is a carefully choreographed ballet.

Movement abounds all around, fast-paced and precise with no room for error. Wine chugs through hoses from tank to the bottling line. Empty glass bottles are shuttled to the end of the bottling line. Here, wine meets bottle. Workers guide the glass through the various stages of filling, labeling, corking and foiling in mere seconds. The bottles exit the line filled with intoxicating ruby liquid. Finally the bottles are carefully packed into boxes and stacked on palates then wrapped in cellophane. They are then whisked away to a cool room where they will remain until we deem them ready to pop the cork and start the party. It’s just other ho-hum day in Wine Country.

Katy Long
Content Manager

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