Harvest 2011 has begun!

September 20, 2011

This is it, the crush is underway! The workers out at the Belli ranch started picking Chardonnay at daybreak, and the fruit rolled in at the winery just before 10 AM. It’s a good idea to get the fruit to the winery as early in the day as possible, so that it stays cool. The reason for keeping the fruit and juice cool all through the crushing process is that it helps to prevent damage from oxidative enzymes, which could cause browning and a host of other sensory problems.

The fruit came in four bins, each of which held about a thousand pounds of grapes.

As we mentioned last week, this fruit came from block 3, which was cropped very lightly with Rued clone. To fill out the last bin today, we picked a little bit of block 5, which is continuous with block 3 but is planted to Dijon clone instead.

This picture was taken from the top of the hill at Belli ranch, standing at the edge of block 3. Block 5 begins near the bottom of the hill, towards the edge of the picture.

As soon as we had the fruit off the truck, we loaded it into the hopper, which then gently slid it into the press. We chose to press this Chardonnay ‘whole-cluster’, meaning that we did not separate the berries from the stems before loading the press. This not only gives us a better yield of juice, it allows us to extract a higher quality of juice because the grapes do not have to get beaten up in a destemmer.

Crushing whole-cluster has one drawback - the fruit ends up taking a lot more space in the press because of the mass of the stems and all of the space between the berries and clusters. The result is that we really have to load the press to the top every time to make sure we can get it done in the fewest number of press cycles possible

 Once the press was loaded, we let it go to work. When you’re pressing, someone has to stand and watch the juice tray, periodically draining it into the receiving tank. Our little press can only handle about one ton of grapes at a time, and one pressload takes about two hours to complete, so we spent about four hours running the press today.

Chardonnay juice usually has a slightly brown color when it has just been pressed, this comes from the grape solids that make it through with the juice. It will disappear after settling and fermentation.

Once the juice was in tank, we turned on the glycol jackets and cooled it way down.

We also add a little bit of dry ice, this mixes the tank so we can get a good sample for analysis in our lab, and it forms a gas blanket over the surface of the juice to protect it from the air.

After that, all that was left was to clean up and head home. We’ll be crushing again tomorrow, so be sure to check back to see what we’re up to!


S'aright? S'aright. S'aright? S'aright.

To view the Amapola Creek Winery Main site, please click here.


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