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Having a some friends over to bottle, want to make it fun...

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NorCal

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The last time we had a bottling party I brought up to my wife (nicely, but in front of others) that she was slowing the bottling process down. She did not take kindly to me “calling her out” and reflecting on it, I shouldn’t have said anything. I took the production/efficiency too seriously and I don’t want to do that again this time.

I have designed a number of continuous flow production lines in my work and did the same in the bottling process for the wine. We have 6 stations; bottle wash, bottle fill, corking, labeling, capsules and runner. The line does 3 bottles per minute without breaking a sweat. I have a 60 gallon 2017 barrel of Bordeaux to put in the bottle this time, so about 100 minutes worth of time. Given that, and the weather will be nice, there is no reason to be in a hurry.

Some of you have some great work parties, so I’m looking for some ideas. Music, food, wine for sure. Any other ideas to make it a fun time?
 

jgmann67

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Because most of the bottling process is work, I tend to do it alone, spread out over the course of a few days. So, I don’t have any first hand experience in this arena. But, are you thinking ‘all-work’ for 2 hours, then ‘all play’ thereafter? or, ‘work and play’ combined? I would think the latter is a recipe for error. So, pre-game with food and soft beverages, while laying out the production process to your staff, work to music, then wrap up with music, buffet style meal, wines from years past, and group oriented games (horseshoes, corn hole, holyboard, etc.). Maybe some awards (e.g. trophy bottles of wine) after to have a little fun with your friends.

Also, question: will people stay at the same station through the process or will you Chinese fire drill the stations every 20 minutes so everyone gets a flavor for every aspect of the process?

When I start making larger batches of wine (biggest I’ve done is 25 gallons and that’s still in carboys), I’d like to do one of these bottling parties.

[emoji485]
 

Boatboy24

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I like Jim's idea of moving people around. While it costs a little time, it gives people a break and breaks up any monotony of doing the same thing for 2 hours straight. Also like the pre-game idea. A little snack - maybe (one) glass of wine - (perhaps a tasting of what's about to be bottled) you can go over where the grapes were grown, how the wine was made, etc. Then you can review the process and get going. Of course, music and laughter would be part of the day.
 

salcoco

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I used to have bottling parties for up to 400 bottles with many different wines. I usually started at about 900am with a champagne toast either homemade or store bought. took a break at 10 then another at lunch. with various wines the last bottle sometime would not be filled it was used a a community wine tasting. everyone brought food and the wive had a great venison stew for lunch. many great times. had an assembly process as well after a few years of the same people attending they knew what do do and switched places as they desired.
 

mainshipfred

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I don't make enough wine to have a bottling party but I've been involved in 4 house raising parties. Really hard work but so satisfying to see a foundation in the morning and a house under roof by evening. It's a little different of course and with food and non alcoholic drinks throughout the day. There was always enough people that if someone wanted to take a break to eat or get a drink the process wasn't slowed down. So my suggestion would be have a floater or two that jump in if someone gets behind or needs a break. That way the pressure of keeping up with the line would be reduced and probably make it more enjoyable.
 

ibglowin

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Unfortunately the best member that could chime in here @JohnT has taken up his new post career in Sanitation Management somewhere in New Jersey.........
 

JohnT

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For me, a typical party starts around 9am. I assign bringing bagels or muffins to a couple of folks and I provide the coffee to get us started.

On any given party, I have between 7 to 20 people. I like to have a few more people than jobs so folks can swap out and take a break as they want.

Rather a lunch, I provide a lot of finger food (olives, cheese, salami, etc.) To keep people going. While bottling, I encourage folks to sip from the production line. It is cool that they see what they are working on. Also, I feel that having folks working and not allowing them to sip some is just not right.

For music, I have an Alexa in the winery. Lots of fun when folks simply ask for any tune they desire. Some good hearted arguments always happen between the older and younger folks. It is a laugh.

Once finished and all cleaned up we form the chairs in a circle and finish off that bit of wine that did not fill a whole bottle. I then pull past vintages for some pre-dinner sipping.

I provide dinner. This can range from pizza (for the bigger parties) to a formal sit down. After dinner, it is more sipping and perhaps a few cigars.

I find folks do the jobs they want, so I let them decide. If anyone is moving too slowly, I say nothing. This is, after all, a social experience. Who cares if it takes a little longer?

We usually bottle anywhere from 30 to 60 cases per party.
 

jgmann67

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I find folks do the jobs they want, so I let them decide. If anyone is moving too slowly, I say nothing. This is, after all, a social experience. Who cares if it takes a little longer?

We usually bottle anywhere from 30 to 60 cases per party.
Sounds like a well thought out day of bottling. But, what happens when there’s a job that nobody wants to do?
 

JohnT

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That has never happened. Most folks pitch in where needed.
 

buzi

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I like making it an educational social event. For crushing, pressing and bottling parties we always taste what we are making and I usually bring out a few bottles of past vintages so everyone can taste what the juice or young wine will be like in a few years. This past fall I started uncorking a few different wines (same varietal) so we can have a discussion on what flavors we like in each wine and what tools we winemakers can use to bring out that specific flavor. (Sorry a bit of a tangent from the original question )

I usually ask people to bring a dish to share and I make the main course with some cheese and crackers for appetizers. Before starting, I play "cork soakers" from SNL. It is always a good way to start as long as the kids are in the other room! I show everyone how to do their job and then we rotate so everyone gets a chance to experience the fun! If there was a job that no one wanted (which has never happened) I would take it. But usually I am just a floater to help out where needed and to offer suggestions for those who are having difficulty and of course, performing quality audits of the process.
 

NorCal

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Thank you for all the input. Tomorrow is the day. I racked the barrel into available containers and have the line setup to run. Start time is 10:00am, 6 total participants. A ton of food,music and an attitude of flexibility, acceptance of inefficiency is firmly set in my mind.78C4BACE-803F-4A42-ADAF-628A5898700B.jpeg
 

mainshipfred

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Thank you for all the input. Tomorrow is the day. I racked the barrel into available containers and have the line setup to run. Start time is 10:00am, 6 total participants. A ton of food,music and an attitude of flexibility, acceptance of inefficiency is firmly set in my mind.View attachment 53910
Have fun, make sure that attitude of flexibility and acceptance of ineffiency is especially geared toward your wife, for your sake.
 

NorCal

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A successful day! Started at 10:00. I was totally prepped. Line set up, barrel racked, 3 cases on the tree. The line is paced by the filler, which is 20 seconds. So doing the math, 100 minutes, say 2 hours. Well it was a solid 3 and the help didn’t seem eager to leave...but I had a backup plan.
I have 11 cases of Viognier that wasn’t labeled or capsuled. So we did that too!
Fun time. I kept my inner desire to optimize things at bay. The two couples left with a case of wine each.
 

JohnT

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A successful day! Started at 10:00. I was totally prepped. Line set up, barrel racked, 3 cases on the tree. The line is paced by the filler, which is 20 seconds. So doing the math, 100 minutes, say 2 hours. Well it was a solid 3 and the help didn’t seem eager to leave...but I had a backup plan.
I have 11 cases of Viognier that wasn’t labeled or capsuled. So we did that too!
Fun time. I kept my inner desire to optimize things at bay. The two couples left with a case of wine each.
Awesome! Send them home with a case and you may be surprised how eager they are to help you again!
 

jgmillr1

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The line is paced by the filler, which is 20 seconds
I also found myself waiting for the filler when I bottled last week (the labeler used to be our limiting factor). It's a 6 spout filler and we can fly at about a case a minute for quite a while, or at least until the corker runs low on corks, the labeler needs reloading or I need another pallet of bottles.

You've got a nice set up and certainly keeps things going smoothly.
 

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