Flowering Time

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user 38734

Senior Member
Mar 10, 2018
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Some pictures of vineyards in my neighborhood around the SLO / Edna Valley / Arroyo Grande area from today show that flower season is here and that the hermaphrodites will soon be self-pollinating.


Here is a google earth screen shot of just a very small area of West Paso Robles – lots of grapes and wine makers here.

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Something else that’s growing here are the number of custom crush facilities. These can be either wine making facilities dedicated to making wine strictly for others, or vineyard / wineries with excess capacity that offer their services to others. They offer everything from destem, crush, ferment, age, blend, RO, cross flow, VA reduction, taint removal, ionic resin exchange, Velcorin, any-and-all-interventions, bottling, reg compliance, etc. etc. A typical user of these facilities would be:
  • “Estateless wineries” who own no land but simply buy their grapes directly from the growers and make their wines at a custom crush facility. There are seemingly hundreds of these around here, and they make some very good (and expensive) wines. Some have small tasting room / retail space / wholesale rev in the area, but some are also literally one-man wine makers who only sell DTC via online / email / shipping.
  • Estate wineries which lack the capacity to process all of their fruit and don’t want to or can’t outlay the capital costs to expand.
  • Growers who can’t sell all of their harvest and don’t want to plow it under will often make wine to sell on the bulk market. This is usually a money losing move (on a GAAP basis) but less so than a total loss.
I’m sure there are other circumstances or customers who use custom crush services – I am by no means an expert in any of this.

I’ve heard prices from $2,000/T to super stupid. But again – no expert here.

Here is a link to a Napa custom crush facility being used by a one-man wine maker whose wine is, last time I checked, in the $150 range.

Notice the process does not include crushing (for reds), only whole berry ferments are used. This is the norm here for upper end wines – either whole berries from machine harvesters or optical sorters. After one season of learning, last season I only used my crusher for the no-skins-time Rose and whole berry fermented all of my reds – I’ll never crush reds again. This would be difficult to do if I processed say more than 250 or 500 lbs. at a time unless I had a 6 man crew, which I do but can’t count on for any given random last minute harvest call.

Over the years I’ve worked (weaseled) my way into access to some very good grapes, but only 125 or 250 lbs per vineyard. I don’t want any more than that, and that helps get me in (along with fresh vegetables, cured meats, venison, Alaskan salmon/halibut/prawns/crab, etc.). So I end up with multiple varietals from multiple vineyards on multiple harvest days. This is an ongoing process – upgrading your grape access.

Two hundred fifty pounds of grapes (in two 32 gallon Brutes) can be hand destemmed and meticulously sorted by two people in 4 hours. After a thorough sorting and and a very soft press, I need to start with 125 lbs to bottle a full 5 gal carboy – not what seems to be the usual 100 lbs.

Here is a link to another example of whole berry sorting and (barrel) fermentation.

Make your wines your way and enjoy the hell out of them!