Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Day In The Life...

N.B.  The following is an hour-by-hour account by winemaker Peter Bell of how this past Saturday, September 19th progressed at the Fox Run Winery.  As you can see, we're certainly busy at the intersection of the start of vintage and the end of bottling season:
  • 6:15 am: Peter Bell arrives in time to see a beautiful, monochromatic, mist-infused sunrise unfolding over the east side of Seneca Lake. But it’s time to defuse the tangle of hoses, pumps and filters that were left from yesterday’s marathon of juice racking, chaptalization, inoculation and overall chaos that is typical of the opening days of vintage. We’d gotten out of the winery a bare ten hours earlier.
From the Night Before
It's always good to know where your gloves are during vintage.
  • 7 am: Time to start sanitizing the bottling line. Like many other local wineries, Fox Run still has several tanks of 2009-vintage wine that are ready and willing to get bottled. The tasting room staff are crying out for Ruby Vixen and Fox Trot Red, two of our customers’ perennial favorites, while the winery staff are more motivated by a longing for empty tanks. More grapes are due to be picked in a few days, and the juice has to go somewhere.
  • 7:30 am: Peter Howe pulls in, and revs up the forklift to get all the glass into place for the long day of bottling. He spent the last hours of Friday getting the rolls of labels in place on the labeler, adjusting the bottling line to the right bottle size, and making room in the warehouse for today’s onslaught of bottled wine. It’s a good thing that no rain’s been in the forecast, because our ‘second’ warehouse is the concrete pad outdoors.
  • 8 am: Kelby and MacKenzie arrive, and barely have time to put in earplugs before setting to work. Today’s major task: bottling about 1000 cases of three different wines. Other jobs await those who aren’t assigned bottling line duty.
  • 8:30 am: The membrane filter, our last line of defense against microbes that might wreak havoc on the finished wine, has the good taste to plug up, rendering it eminently disposable. Peter comes to blame the well water that was used in the sterilization process: heavy water use at this time of the year often sucks up subterranean sediment. Kelby and MacKenzie stay busy, since it’s time to add yeast nutrients to one of the tanks of Cayuga juice.
  • 9 am: A new membrane ($230.00) is installed, sterilized and checked for integrity. Bottling begins in earnest. Peter racks a tank of Chardonnay juice for a custom winemaking client, stays in touch with the bottling crew, and makes a cup of coffee. 
  • 12:30 pm: The bottling crew breaks for lunch. Assistant winemaker Tricia arrives after delivering her older daughter to riding lessons. She gets busy with cellar tracking records, then dives into a barrel-to-barrel evaluation of our 2009 Pinot noir wines. These wines are looking spectacular, what with their sweet raspberry and spice aromas and mouth-filling sweetness. They wait for further attention in November. This is also an opportunity to assess individual barrels, with an eye on which coopers’ products have performed well with our fruit.
  • 2:45 pm: Peter chats with a visiting Chilean vineyard owner while keeping an eye on the almost-empty bottling tank. We move on to our second wine of the day, Ruby Vixen. 
  • 4:30: Mackenzie departs, promising to be back dark and early on Monday for more bottling. Former cellar hand Stephen Hickman, now a Harvard nanotechnologist, is pressed into service helping to bottle our third wine of the day, Classic Chardonnay. Tricia and Peter clean tanks, take a steady stream of phone calls, and try to plot out the next week’s work.
Tricia Substitutes in at the Bottling Line
It takes someone special to keep smiling during a long bottling day!
  • 6:30: Tricia subs for Kelby on the line, to give Kelby the opportunity to fire up the Weber grill. A talented cook, he is determined to keep his co-workers happy and well fed. He’d stopped at Wegman’s on the way to work to load up on dinner ingredients. Winery cleanup continues  -- “winemaking is 49% cleaning s***, 49% moving heavy s*** around, and 2% drinking beer” according to this spoof:

  • 7:45: Over one thousand cases of wine have been bottled. We shut down the line and sit down to a meal of corn on the cob, fennel and fish, all grilled over charcoal. At least one bottle of wine finds its way down our throats.
Starting the Grill
Food and friends are crucial after a long day of work, but so is music (see below).
Our lovely dining music by the man, the myth, and the legend.
  • 8:30: The bottling line is sterilized with hot water, some sense is made of the warehouse, and temperatures of juices and fermenting wines checked. Some of the mess will have to wait till tomorrow.
  • 10:00: Lights out at the winery.

Music of the Day:

Support Artists, buy the music you like!

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