Sunday, December 10, 2006

Early Christmas at the Little Winery in the Back

Yes, Christmas came early for the Little Winery.

I started off with a rental, wooden basket press. You have seen them or used them yourself. A basket of wooden staves, a large crank at the top that compresses the grapes and then the juice runs out through the sides. It was a lot of work and time, but that isn't their main problem.

Being that I rented the press, I never new what the person before me had used it on. He may have used it to press grapes that had who knows what type of wild bret yeast. Or she may have pressed their must after adding a MaloLactic bacteria, which is not unusual. However, I may not want these little critters in my wine. At least not without my choice to put them there. How well did he clean it before returning it. And, being wood, how clean could they actually clean it.

The last few times that I rented a press, I rented a bladder press with a stainless steel basket. The basic configuration of the two types of presses is very similar. You essentially have a large, vertical cylinder mounted on a base that has a spout at one spot. The grapes are loaded in the top and a top plate is attached. But, instead of a large crank that presses the grapes from the top, there is a large, cylindrical rubber bladder in the center.

The bladder is filled through a valve with water from a garden hose. The bladder fills, enlarges and presses the grapes gently and evenly against the sides of the stainless steel basket that has been perforated with small holes to make a screen. After about 45 minutes (half the time of a traditional basket press) the grape must has been pressed into juice or wine. Since the basket is stainless steel, it is easy to clean and sanitize.

At the end of this last season, the wine shop that I rent from told me that they were going to sell their rental press. Now it is mine! Isn't it a beauty? No more planning my pressing around ever other renter at the shop, no more worrying about kind of nasty critter may be left on it from someone else.

I look forward to many, many pressings ahead. And, I will tell you about them as they happen.



Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Winter in the Back Yard Vineyard

The grapes have all gone dormant for the winter, and just in time too. First frost has been hitting northern California and the vineyard has completely shut down. I expect to do a first round of pruning in a couple weeks, just to make walking though it and weeding easier.

Around the first of they year I will put the new trellis in for the new vines and a high wire for vertical shoot positioning.

On the equipment side, I just got may new bladder press.

Lots of fun ahead