Just back from Burgundy, and I feel such a relief knowing that my wines are under my own roof. Everything just seemed to fall right into place. The day of the move, I received my long awaited negociant license allowing me to move my wines to my own facility. Within two hours, I had rented a truck, found some friends to lend me the use of their forklifts and threw myself into the moment without taking time to think too much. Thankfully, this tactic didn’t bite me on the butt…too much.
With six of my barrels loaded up on the flatbed truck, silicon bungs in place, I headed out from Saint Aubin making my way to Nuits-Saint-Georges. Shortly after making a left around Puligny-Montrachet, I looked in the rearview mirror to spot wine spouting upwards and out of the barrel due to an escaped bung. Looking inside the barrel and on the floor of the flatbed, just a small amount managed to get out the barrel. Coming to a quick stop, I checked for the bung coming up empty handed. I was lucky enough to have a fresh dress shirt I had planned to wear after working. Today, it worked as an emergency bung until I got to a winery equipment shop in Meursault. I replaced all the silicon bungs with wooden bungs. These bungs are used along with a piece of burlap which sits between the wooden bung and the bung of the barrel. I pushed on toward Nuits, realizing that at any moment my move was being put in danger.
Arriving in Nuits, I picked up the forklift of a friend and went to work. It was quite an experience having my new neighbors stand outside the door to my courtyard watching, waiting for the new guy to mess up. Well, never to let anyone down I did just that. Luckily, no one was watching. Getting off the first two racks went quickly. The last was where things went pear shaped. I ended up driving too deep onto the dirt near my courtyard. Due to the recent snow and rain (you can see where this is going…) the dirt was now mud in some spots. I ended up digging the right side wheels deep into the mud, causing the drive wheel to be raised off the ground. I tried all sorts of ways to get the wheel down, at times just managing to burn rubber on the ground. Due to this delay, I was unable to make another trip that night. My friend came by later that night and helped free the forklift. He had a rope and I basically used the truck to drag the forklift in a downward motion which gave him traction to be freed.
The next day, my last of the trip, I started out at 6am. Two trips were made bringing the barrels over. I had made the choice of foregoing pumps early on which left just a few options. I could find a way to bring the barrels down my cave stairs full or siphon out using a tube. I chose the tube method. Placing empty barrels in the cave on the mares (runners) went without a hitch. Full barrels were placed at the top of the stairs with a food grade silicon tube measuring 15 meters stretching from the cave entrance to the placed empty barrels inside the cave. My friend was there to help siphon the first three barrels with me. At around 11:30pm, my friend noted how it would be impossible to finish that night. I said I would continue on, though I had a 5:30am. After he left, I just went about it knowing I had to finish up.
The empty barrels were easy to bring down. I placed them horizontally, wrapping my arms on each side. Walking backwards I would make the trip down the stairs without stopping. If I needed to rest, I’d place the barrel on the closest step above me. Once the process was in motion, the last barrel drained was left with it’s lees (I did cuvee by cuvee) so I had to be sure to carry the barrel, bung side up. Of note, when the temp dropped below freezing, all of the water that I sprayed at the top of the stairs turned to ice. A bit more dangerous. But, things still went rather quickly and efficiently.
By 5:30am I had completed the last eight barrels without issue, leaving just one barrel of Morey Saint Denis – Les Chaffots to be siphoned. My friend had offered to finish up whatever I left. And, with a 5:30am cab, 6:31am TGV in Dijon and a 1pm flight from Paris, I needed to get going. Just as I was about t close my eyes on the TGV my other friend called me up asking if I needed help. Within an hour, the last barrel was siphoned. With all the Maison Ilan wines finally under my roof I could rest. I can say that I have never slept that good before.
Filled Grand Crus – Charmes-Chambertin ‘Aux Charmes’ and Le Chambertin
Two full sized barrels and one 1/2 sized barrel of Le Chambertin
Looking into a barrel of Morey Saint Denis ‘Les Chaffots’ 1er Cru to check fill level
Setup for filling Le Chambertin half barrel (two fill points)
View to bottle storage room from center racks in chais
Hammering wooden bungs (with berlap piece) for transport use (note: silicon bung in background)
Truck filled with barrels in my courtyard