The cave at Freeman Winery
Here it is, a nice Saturday evening after another long six day week in lovely wine country. Tired? Sure. Muscles aching and all other bits considered, I feel great! We’ve been busy lately with a bunch of things. We start the day punching down the grapes that are cold soaking, prior to fermentation. These punchdowns consist of a using a pole (wooden or stainless steel) with a flat disc-like bottom end used to punch or push down the grape skins, clusters and other bits that have risen to the top of the fermentation tanks (or T-bins when in use)… while standing atop a wooden plank. Backbreaking work this stuff! Add to that the possibility that you might press down too hard and risk falling into the tank below. Forget the romantic idea of placing your feet in, and laughing the day away. This is an intimate and necessary step. Some tanks get one punchdown a day, with the tanks that are further along receiving attention twice a day. After the cap (imagine a crumbly caked up mass of skins and stems) has been broken up well, the wine is less protected. A good shot of CO2 does a good job of this.
After our daily operations, we’ve had fruit come in. We’ve had a few vineyard sources come in already at this point. This last week, we were busy on several days with Keefer Ranch pinot noir. Keefer Ranch is the only vineyard designate we offer at Freeman Winery. Craig Strelow (Marcy Keefer’s son) handles the vineyard operations at his family’s ranch as well as making their wines at the Freeman’s cave.
Here’s a picture of Ed Kurtzman pulling the must from the tank before they go into the press.
During all the sorting, punchdowns, cleaning, and everything else, we need to periodically check the brix and temperature levels on the different tanks and t-bins (1 ton). We use a hydrometer to meaure the SG (specific gravity) of the must. Simply put, we place this thermometer looking device into a tank sample which tells us what degree of brix we are currently at for each sample. Here’s a few pics to show what goes on.
First, we pull a sample from a tank or t-bin. In the case of a tank, we believe that sugars might get hung up on the inside of the valve, resulting in an inaccurate sample. So, the first pitcher gets dumped back up top. The second sampled pulled is what we use for readings. Next, we check the temperature and brix. The brix will be adjusted to account for the temperatue. Meaning initial brix readings may be 25.3, however, the temp will let us know how much to adjust for to get the final reading. A temp of 12* c will give us a final brix of 25. Once the brix shows around -2, the must is ‘dry’ and is now a wine ready for moving into barrels.
It all moves very fast. This last week, I had to crawl into the press to clean out all the skins after the must was dumped in, pressed and moved to barrels. You go in, get really wet while trying to get every last seed and skin you can. Messy and wet job, but, that’s the job. The press we use looks like a giant tumbler. Inside, it has a bladder and air compresser that squeeze the must thats dumped in, pouring out mass amounts of wine ready for barrels.