2017... Sheeeeeeesh!

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JohnT

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Crush Day Eve

Another crush day has come and gone. I say this every year, but the experience just keeps getting better and better!

What made this crush extra special is that we had a new member of the family attending her first crush, little Lexi who is of the ripe old age of four weeks. The mother, my favorite niece, lives in Florida. She decided to make the trip for crush. Since the whole family is gathered together anyway, she also decided to have Lexi baptized.

Another thing that made this crush special was my new apprentices, my Niece and Nephew-in-Law. I have hopes that they one day will take over the winemaking for the family. The older I get, the more I realize that I cannot keep doing this forever. It was nice handing off some of the responsibility and to see them enjoy more involvement.

Crush really began on Friday. This was the day where we rented the truck and picked up the grapes. This is a part of the crush that some folks like being a part of, so we had 6 people heading down to the supplier, two in the truck and 4 in a “chase car”.

We got to the suppliers at 10am and I immediately knew that something was wrong when I was greeted with an “I’m sorry”. Turns out that my yeast order was due to be delivered (they were having it FEDEXed), but hadn’t arrived yet. There was a day when something like this would send me into orbit, but I stayed calm. After all, I could always pick up the yeast on Sunday.

This year, I decided to rent a smaller truck. Instead of the usual 22 footer, I opted for the smaller and far less expensive 16 footer. Although we still had plenty of room, and the truck did handle much better on the road, loading the grapes was quite an ordeal. Thank God that the truck had a lift gate that could handle an entire pallet of grapes! Despite the savings, I think that I might go back to the larger truck next year.

Once loaded, I paid the bill. Each year, I always say to them that they should offer me a shot of some hard stuff before ringing up the final total. This would help soften the blow. Although it was always a joke, this year he did actually offer me a shot. After I stopped laughing, I gratefully accepted.

Once I was all paid up, we all took a walk across the street to the Italian Market where we loaded up on bread, cheeses, various types of sopressata, olives (some stuffed with blue cheese and some stuffed with sun dried tomatoes), and cherry peppers stuffed with provolone and parma ham. On our way back to the truck, I got flagged down by the supplier. She came running out yelling that the yeast had arrived. Yoooohoooo!

The rest of the day went rather smoothly. We arrived back at the ranch around noon, backed the truck into position and then spread out all of our goodies from the Italian market. I pulled a couple of corks and we sipped and ate in the beautiful sunshine. After lunch, the crew helped setting up everything. WOW! This is a job I usually do myself and, with all the help, this year it only took about 2 hours. We had everything all set up and it was only 3pm! I asked them “what should we do now?”. I was answered with glaring laughter. In short order, we were back on the deck to pull more corks.

About 5pm, they all had departed. Just 20 minutes later, other folks stopped by to see if I needed any help. With nothing left to be done, I ended pulling even more corks. My wife went out and picked up several pizzas and we had another great time. By 11pm, I was in bed and actually got some sleep.
 

JohnT

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Crush Day!

I woke up Saturday at 5am. I have to admit that I did need to shake off some cob-webs after last night’s sipping.A cup of coffee did the trick.

I then set up the party size coffee urn, set out the breakfast pastries, and simply enjoyed the peace and quiet. By 7am, folks started arriving.We had folks from all over!Georgia, New Orleans, Florida, Virginia, and Baltimore to name a few and they were all very eager to help.In total I would guess that we had 50 or 60 people attend this year, each taking turns doing various jobs.The entire process went like this…

My nephew-in-law took charge of the order and amount of each type of grape to be crushed. I had provided him a list detailing the grape, number of lugs, and destination (which primary fermenter).He did a great job and had the truck running like clockwork.

Then a crew of sorters would pick through each crate and remove leaves, stems, and any other debris, then dump their lugs into the crusher/destemmer. At any time we would have 6 or 8 sorters working away.The Nephew-in-law saw to it that no one person had to spend more than 1 hour sorting grapes at a time.Breaks were often and frequent.

As usual, my cousin brought 2 sixtles of beer. This time he made a fantastic American IPA.It was creamy and crisp and (thankfully) low octane.This beer was a welcome sight when the crew took a break.


This year we purchased a new crusher/destemmer. Our old c/d was purchased in 1995 and has crushed WAY more grapes that I think it was ever designed for.During Chilean crush, the motor kept popping the circuit breaker and it was a real chore to get the grapes crushed.It was definitely time for a new one.

When we started up the new c/d we were all amazed at how smooth and quiet it was. It was like going from a 1972 pickup truck to a BMW.It was outstanding how it functioned!We like to place the c/d at the back of the truck.Last year, the noise from the old c/d would bounce around in the truck and give the sorters headaches.This year, the c/d was whisper-quiet and the sorters were much happier.

Once crushed, the grapes were humped into the winery. This year we had a good crew of young, twenty-something guys for this job.Normally, we would crush 3 lugs (108 lbs) into a brute.The brute is then carried to the winery and is dumped into a primary fermentation vat.I find that 108 pounds at a time is manageable, but the “Young Bucks” disagreed.They were humping 5 or 6 lugs at a time!It hurt my back just watching them.

All said and done, we were finished crushing by 1pm, just in time for lunch.

As I have written before, we had a nice spread….

Lasagna
Sausage N Pepers,
Meatballs
Goulash with spatzels
Chicken Paprikash
Eggplant parm
Jumbalaya
3 or 4 different salads,
Various desserts (including warm bread pudding with burbon sauce and a killer apple strudel)

After lunch, we all got to work cleaning up. Many hands made light work and we were all cleaned up within an hour.

Then the real fun began. We all gathered under the tent and I pulled out several bottles of a nice old vintage, a 1998 sangiovesse. After all glasses were filled, I made a tearful toast to my father who had passed in early July.After the toast, it was time for some laughs.

Each year, welcome a new member into the “Purple Foot Club”. This was a tradition started a while back where we collect those last few grapes that roll around at the bottom of each sorted lug.We then select a person to crush them the old fashioned way…Yup, a good old foot stop.

This year’s member was my brother’s MIL. She was a great sport and was all smiles.I remember yelling “Hey brother, if she offers you a glass of wine, just say “NO”!We were in stitches! Then we brought out a small tiny bucket of the grapes so that little Lexi could also stomp some.It was very meaningful to watch great grandmother and great granddaughter both stomp grapes, but when Lexi ‘s tiny baby feet hit those cold grapes, we all found out that she had a very healthy set of lungs!

After a while, and after a number of photos, my SIL brought out the guitar and the singing started. More food was brought out for dinner and people sipped and ate at their leisure.

The party kept going well after sundown until it got too cold. We then moved inside.By the end of the evening, the last few diehards were playing charades until, finally, we all turned in.Slept like a baby!

Made this year:
Merlot – 90% merlot, 10% cab franc
Cabernet – 90 % cabernet, 10 % cab franc
barrel Reserve – 80% cab franc, 10 % merlot, 10% cabernet
super-cab (greek)
Small Batch (1-54LDJ) of Passo Robles Cabernet
Small batch (1-54LDJ) of Spanish Tempranillo


The next day, Sunday, we all went to church for Lexi’s baptism. We then gathered at my brother’s house for crush-day leftovers that we had brought with us.

Here are some pics---

1- Those that remained after dinner.
2- Crushing off the back of the truck
3- one of the fermentation vats
4 - Little Lexi and Mom.

crush 2017 415.jpg

crush 2017 062.jpg

crush 2017 127.jpg

IMG_20171002_114131161[1].jpg
 

JohnT

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GOSH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SOUND!!!!!

We are at the peak of fermentation. I just love the sound of the large vats fermenting. It is like listening to Paul Bunyan's morning bowl of Rice Crispies!
 

Ajmassa

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GOSH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SOUND!!!!!

We are at the peak of fermentation. I just love the sound of the large vats fermenting. It is like listening to Paul Bunyan's morning bowl of Rice Crispies!


It really is quite satisfying. Even more so for me is the smell that permeates out of the basement. You don't notice after being in the house for a bit. But walking in after being out for a while? My favorite. And also triggers childhood memories of my great grandfathers basement- which to me smelled of fermentation all year long.
 

JohnT

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It really is quite satisfying. Even more so for me is the smell that permeates out of the basement. You don't notice after being in the house for a bit. But walking in after being out for a while? My favorite. And also triggers childhood memories of my great grandfathers basement- which to me smelled of fermentation all year long.

I think that the folks at GLADE should offer "fermenting grape" as one of their air fresher scents!!!!
 

Kraffty

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I love reading your crush story every year, hope one day for mine to grow like that (a much smaller scale though). How many years have you been at it? How many lbs. total this year?
Mike
 

JohnT

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I have been at it for 27 years.
 

Alan tate

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Bottling ended about a month ago. I like to get the tanks clean but there is still some staining and some wine diamonds stuck to the sides. I don't bother going nuts cleaning the tank after bottling because I only have to clean it again prior to crush.

A wise man once said that winemaking is a purely custodial action. I truly believe this after all the scrubbing and rinsing and scrubbing again that I've done over the last 24 hours.
 

Alan tate

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I know what you mean when i worked in the wine industry in england i had to crawl inti a 30,000 gal tank to clean once cleaned and rinsed then the steam went to it.after 30mins it was sterile and ready for wine
 

JohnT

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epilogue - not wanting to resurrect this post. just have a few last words

The wine has been crushed, pressed, racked, and is sleepily aging on XOV oak staves (for the main wine in the VCSS tanks) and in the barrel (two 60 gallon barrels). Next racking will be in the spring (once the weather warms up enough).

MLF is complete (using ch16) and, finally, the winery is once again stupid clean, with not even a single surviving fruit fly. I know it is clean when I bring Mrs johnT into the winery and she can not smell even a hint of wine.

I have to admit that I have a major problem. After all of this, after all of the work, I am ready to start it all again tomorrow! You can imagine Mrs johnT's reaction to my say that.. Most of it would be bleeped out, lol.

Thanks everyone for indulging me. I know that I have been very wordy and may have (at times) seemed like I was bragging. I come off that way some times when I am experiencing joy and happiness.

I am truly lucky to have you folks to share my passion with. Thanks for reading/listening.
May God bless you all..

P.S. May we all be sipping this year's vintage twenty years from now!


johnT.
 

JohnT

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Now that MLF is complete, Yesterday I did a final measure of the PH and adjusted the SO2 accordingly. I did some QC (tasted the wine) and they all are coming along nicely. The merlot is going to be my real winner.
 
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