When the harvested grapes are put into our hopper, they go through our crusher/de-stemmer and the grapes and the juice from the grapes go into our Rotary Press/Rotary Fermenter.
Rotary Press/Rotary Fermenter
The ability for these presses/fermenters to rotate makes them unique and this plays an important role in making high quality wines. The rotation enables the juice of the grapes to be extracted gently, non-abrasively, as the juice is extracted simply by the grapes slowly falling on each other. This method of extracting the juice produces what we call “free run juice” and this is the highest quality portion of the juice we get from the grapes. We ferment this just by itself exclusively.
The more grapes are pressed to extract the juice the more tannin there is in the juice as tannin comes from the grapes seeds and skins.
After the “free run juice” is removed we send white grapes to the next pressing stage and the reds we can leave in this rotary press to ferment, essentially transforming this equipment into a rotary fermenter, or transferred with their skins to another fermentation tank. Wine gets its color from the grape’s skin. Almost all wine grape’s pulp is clear in color, though there are a few exceptions. The longer the grape juice is in contact with its skin, the more color it will extract.
After the “free run juice” is extracted and moved to a fermentation tank, the rest of the grapes, juice and skins of the white grapes go to our Vinamatic presses. These presses also play an important role in quality wine making. They do so because they enable us to be variable in the pressing process. Thus, we can control the amount of pressure we employ at each stage to extract the juice. At first, we employ a very light amount of pressure. We call the juice extracted at this stage, P1. This juice is of good quality and it goes to a fermentation tank where it will ferment exclusively.
Then we apply more pressure and the juice extracted at this stage we call P2. We ferment this juice by itself, or exclusively.
In the last stage, we apply more pressure to extract the final amounts of the juice that we will accept for making wine, called P3, and ferment this juice by exclusively. There is less juice extracted at this stage and what is extracted is higher in tannins as the juice has more contact with seeds and skins.
The value of separating the juice extracted at each stage enables us control in making final wine blends as we put the parts back together at the level we want for each wine. For example, P3 juice may not be included in many wines but it could become an important part of a final wine that we find lacking in structure. We make our wine using many variations of juice extracted by these levels. We have no absolute rule for any wine we make as the goal is to make the best wine we can and therefore the percentages used from each extraction stage change. We make some wines, for example, only using the “free run juice,” which we extract in the first stage.
Fermentation creates three things: alcohol, CO2 and heat. Therefore, fermentation tanks must be unique from wine storage, blending or bottling tanks. Fermentation tanks can be used for storage, aging or blending but basic storage, aging and blending tanks cannot be used for fermenting.
Our fermentation tanks have two unique attributes that sets them apart from our normal storage, aging, blending and bottling tanks—they are equipped with a mechanism to release CO2 created from fermentation and all our fermentation tanks can be cooled. The first attribute is key so that we avoid explosions that could result from trapped CO2; and the second is important because by controlling the temperature of the tank and, thus the juice that is becoming wine in the tank, we are able to lengthen and control the time of the fermentation process for slower fermentations that equate to better flavor and, in reds, color extraction. Also, this enables us to avoid what we call “stuck fermentations” which can be caused by several things like high temperatures that kill the yeast early before they consume the sugars that are available to them. This would result in a low alcohol, sweet wine that tastes undeveloped or unfinished.
After red wines finish fermentation, the initial juice is removed from the fermentation tank that has separated from its skins and seeds, this is “free run wine” and is stored exclusively and the remaining juice, skins and seeds go to our Vinamatic presses to go through the process that white grapes did before they were fermented.
When a wine is finished fermenting, we send it to storage tanks. We have many different sizes of storage tanks, which is important as this allows us to keep wines that are distinct separated and it gives us the ability to blend them together in any variation we want to make our desired final wine.
We also use these storage tanks as blending tanks where we marry two or more wines, i.e. wines that were harvested in different locations in our vineyard, pressed differently and/or fermented differently.
Cross Flow Filtration
Once our final blend is made, we then filter the wine. We use a very high end modern piece of equipment to do this called a “cross flow filter.” This filter does a fantastic job of removing many of the natural elements still in the wine after it has been fermented and thus cleans the wine to get it closer to bottle ready.
Pre-bottling and Bottling Tanks
One or two days before we bottle, we send the wine from the cross flow filter to a pre-bottling tank or a bottling tank.
We have two bottling lines. One for bottling our 1.5L size and another for our 750ml and 187ml sizes. The bottling process is complex and has many stages. Sterilization of the lines before bottling is key and the coordination from bottle rinser, filler, corker or screw cap application, capsule application, labeling, case packing and palletizing is critical.