This is our Pollenc stemmer from France. There are very few in the valley.
The grapes are gently seperated from their stems and as they pass over the rollers fall through the spaces between to a moving conveyor belt while the stems ride above to a tray at the end where an augur pushes them into a picking box.
It is important not to damage the skins – they give color, tannin and more to the wine but it is equally important not to damage the stems as the flavors that might be extracted are not good – on the green side. Bite into one and you can imagine.
In order not to damage the grapes by pumping we circulate the wine by draining into a picking box and then lifting it into the tank. The wine is not yet fully fermenting, in fact it is mostly juice, and has not developed a cap which can be punched down to give the juice contact with the skins.
These images show both hand and machine picking. Because of the unusually large harvest and the quick ripening grapes we felt the need to use one or two nights of machine picking. It so happens, on this one night, the pickers kicked a.. and beat the machine.
The picking machine, or harvester, has the same gentle Pollenc de-stemmer that we use, the difference is that the grapes come to the winery de-stemmed. I am not sure if we will use the harvester again, at the moment all tanks are full and grapes need to be pressed.
We are processing Pinot Noir and it looks to be a substantial harvest. Difficult to explain because after 2 years of drought you might assume that the harvest would be small.
The images show a new configuration of our grape handling process. The grapes picked at night are nice and cool despite warm days. They are de-stemmed in our ‘Pollenc’ machine which is incredibly gentle in seperating the grapes from the stem. The grapes pass through two conveyors where all extraneous material is removed. From the second conveyor they fall into an augur which pushes the grapes to the pump from where they go directly to the fermenting.
The whole process is very gentle and the secret is not to damage the skins. The skins give the wine its color and damaged skins can also give undesired flavors.
Older barrels, 4-5 years old, lose their ability to transmit the subtle oak flavors we look for in wine. Every year at the beginning of harvest this expert crew comes to the winery and in a matter of minutes install inner oak staves in older barrels.
Pinot Noir Grapes picked Wednesday night from 8:00pm to 12:00am. No Champagne we celebrated with coffee.
Getting ready for harvest. Maintenance and Winemaker Bruce McGuire testing Pinot Noir at Lafond Winery in the Santa Rita Hills.
Veraison, a French term for when the color of the grapes turn from green to red or green to yellow in the case of white grapes. From experience, the harvest usually begins 6 weeks from the beginning of veraison. This year harvest is expected to begin in the third week of August, earlier than normal which is usually at the beginning of September. We have not had much rain this year but it seems to have come at a good time and the weather is ideal, warm days, not too warm and cool nights. The canopies are excellent and the harvest looks to be excellent.
Water we use for cleaning barrels, tanks and machinery is drained by gravity to this old tanker and tractor. When the tanker is full it is distibuted over the vineyard. Both the tanker and tractor are over 30 years old.
A Grenache Clone, selected by Winemaker Bruce McGuire, is grafted onto a root stock, grown one year in a nursey before being planted in the Vineyard.
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