As written to friends & family on April 28th, 2011:
“I’m alright – apart from the wet pants.” ~ Dom Maxwell, Head Winemaker
It’s about 9AM and our coworker Amy is already covered head to toe in Pinot Noir. Near constant dampness is just part of the job description. If, as we mentioned previously, winemaking is 90% cleaning, then expect to spend all of that time wet. Not even shuffling around all day in oversize boots and wet gear akin to a heavy duty hazmat suit will keep one dry. (The retained heat inside of the plastic shell is enough to create a rainforest-like interior with corresponding odor.)
However, there are several other creative ways to maintain one’s personal dampness. The simplest method is rinsing a bucket with a high powered hose to send backsplash into one’s face or boots. If you can’t be bothered to douse yourself, walk by a coworker on the back pad, rinsing the destemmer, sorting table or press. If you’re lucky, they just might aim the hose directly at you. If colored moisture is more your thing, stomping down thick-skinned, whole cluster grapes or thick fermentation caps is a great choice. In Amy’s case, opening a valve under high pressure is the fastest method of achieving an overall sense of purple damp. Jesse has also found one of the more creative ways of maintaining personal moisture, by spilling lees – or the leftover yeast cells after a fermentation – down her backside. When you can’t decide on a liquid, shoveling out a fermenter then rinsing the interior, is a great combination of both wine and water damp.
As an actual update, the harvest has been in full swing since our last email, which would explain the relatively long gap in between. When fruit comes in, it’s akin to a fire alarm being rung at the station. The bins must be pulled off the trucks, weighed, and then, depending on the varietal, sorted or tipped. The red grapes; Syrah, Pinotage and Pinot Noir are gently raked from the bin into the hopper of the sorting table, where we remove unripe bunches, leaves, etc. From the table, they fall through the destemmer into a fermenter. The white grapes; Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay, are tipped into the hopper of a waiting press. When the juice has been pressed, it is pumped to a steel tank to settle. Just remember to wash everything in between.
Finally, we’ll include a couple of photos to show that we’re still working the best job in the world!