So many things can and do go wrong on a bottling. Monday was a great example because nothing went so wrong that it would be embarrassing to mention, but we did have a few pretty classic glitches that nicely illustrate why no one likes bottling.
Is it its own special form of hell or the kind of thing that induces nightmares? No, but a good old fashioned bout of insomnia isn’t out of the question.
Late in a wine’s life, oxygen is a bad thing. It turns the wine to vinegar or at least starts it on that journey. So we try to create oxygen free environments with nitrogen, a gas that doesn’t bond with anything in the wine and takes up space that oxygen would’ve otherwise occupied.
If, however, your nitrogen supplier leaves the nitrogen tank at your facility the night before with the inner tank pressure on high, the release valve lets off most of the gas before you even start your day. So there’s that. We had more delivered mid-morning, but we could have done without the stress.
Then there was the heat. To beat the heat, we started at 6, which meant that a bunch of poor, innocent souls also had to be there, and not in bed, at 6. We appreciate the extra effort put forth to roll out of bed this early.
The fluctuation between the inside cold air, the cold wine, the insulated hoses and the filling of the warm, empty glass botttles in the warm truck, created condensation problems on the bottles. This doesn’t affect the wine greatly in such quick intervals, especially the way we had the hoses set up, but it does affect the label adhesion. This problem was resolved by pumping up the AC in the bottling truck to a maximum.
It was a short bottling- we only bottled 650 cases, all Flying Trout, all 2013s, all successfully, and we were done by noon.
We had one of the best crews ever and I want to take a second to showcase who some of our “family” members are:
LeaAnn Hughes helped do a lot of case loading and case labeling. She owns, farms, runs and is, Patina Vineyard. We buy Syrah from LeaAnn for the Waters label (think last month’s sold out rose and some future Waters Syrahs) She is a pro on the bottling truck.
Janie Millgard helped do the same. She helps us organize some of our Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival Concert Series at TERO Estates and Windrow Vineyard and helps us in the tasting room downtown in a pinch. She is also practically the sole cause for my children being well-read.
Steve Ward did one of the most labor intensive jobs of the day- dumping empty glass bottles case by case onto the conveyor belt. He is one of our wine club members and is an avid TERO/Trout/Waters party-goer. He lives in Seattle and works in banking when he isn’t succumbing to back-breaking wine labor at 6 am. We love him.
Howard Higgen has bottled more wines with me than almost anyone. Since we were out of a garage and working with a leaky 4 spout filler, hand cranking corks and hand spinning labels- this man has helped me do everything the hard way and is one of the few souls who can appreciate, as much as I do, the beauty of the machine. He and his lovely wife Sue moved to Walla Walla in their retirement and Howard never got the memo- thank goodness.
Jason Fox is an all around wine worker-bee. He is the winemaker for Locati and recently started his own brand, Lagana Cellars: http://www.laganacellars.com/ I do believe he was the valedictorian of his Enology and Viticulture program. He has helped a number of different small producers here in the valley and we are so excited to see what he’ll do with his own and new platform. Congratulations Jason.
Our in house crew- Doug, Chad and Jose were seamless in keeping tanks moving, hoses transferring, forklifts lifting, cases cold, the list goes on.
Thanks also to the bottling truck crew- Matt and Marty who are just so good at what they do.
The only way to make a bottling pleasant is through the people. We are blessed to have an amazing crew on days like Monday.