Just realized it’s been more than ten days since I updated this blog. People who don’t keep their blogs current shouldn’t even be allowed to have blogs!

It’s not that lots hasn’t happened. It’s just laziness I guess. So let me bring you up to speed on all the frantic preparations at Two Terrier Vineyards as our first grape harvest comes looming on the horizon.

Yes, we’ve made wine for two seasons, but that was with purchased grapes. You see, when you are learning, and you make a batch of horrible wine from grapes you’ve lovingly nurtured through the year. Well, then you’d just have to slit your wrists. Better to make all your mistakes on purchased grapes. And we’ve made ALL the mistakes. But now our vines are three years old and ready for their first harvest, although we’ve been warned that the juice from the first harvest is pretty thin. Takes about to the fourth or fifth year to really get something good.

But back to the workflow, we’re scrambling to get all systems ready since the warm, dry spring and summer are threatening to cause a very early harvest. Grapes are ripening a good three weeks early. Andy’s new refractometer measured the Brix level of the grapes between 20 and 23. (If you want the science on Brix level, check it here.) Our varieties of grapes are best harvested at Brix level 24 or 25. Which could happen in a day or two with really hot weather.

Heres the juice of one of our grapes being tested for Brix level.

Here’s the juice of one of our grapes being tested for Brix level.

The new refractometer says the Brix is about 20 to 23. Things are happening fast!

The new refractometer says the Brix is about 21 to 23. Things are happening fast!

The new fermenting vats are ready and the old barrels have been brought out and cleaned.

The new fermenting vats are ready and the old barrels have been brought out and cleaned.

We have some new equipment, like the new bladder press below. NO it doesn’t press your bladder. (Although too much wine will press against your bladder!) It has this neat little inflatable bladder inside that a pump blows up so it crushes the grapes against the perforated side of the press, squeezing out the juice while leaving the skins behind.

After our grapes ferment with the skins in the white vats above, theyll be squeezed through the new bladder press.

After our grapes ferment with the skins in the white vats above, they’ll be squeezed through the new bladder press.

The bladder press is certainly a big improvement over this old antique (below) which had to be cranked by hand, slowly and laboriously.

Lucy says, Goodbye and good riddance to the old style press.

Lucy says, “Goodbye and good riddance” to the old style press.

The most exciting improvement is the new Crush Pad, which is a fancy name for a big concrete slab conveniently placed so that we can get grapes from the hilltop vineyard, sort and crush and process all on one easily hosed-off surface.

Grapes will be trucked (or ATVed) down from the hill, dumped into a small conveyor belt over this wall and sorted on a table where Andy is standing.

Grapes will be trucked (or ATV’ed) down from the hill, dumped into a small conveyor belt over this wall and sorted on a table where Andy is standing.

After sorting at this point, the grapes will be run through the crusher/destemmer. Then run through a large hose into the small shed behind Andy where they will experience the primary fermentation in those large white bins inside the Fermenting Shed.

Andy explains to Oscar and Lucy that the fermenting shed will be lined with waterproof tile, so I can just hose it down after the messy job of primary fermentation.

Andy explains to Oscar and Lucy that the fermenting shed will be lined with waterproof tile, so I can just hose it down after the messy job of primary fermentation.

After the primary fermentation, the mash is piped back out to the crush pad and run through the Bladder Press to press the juice out from the skins. Then that juice (or young wine at this stage) is piped into large steel secondary fermentation tanks to continue fermenting on the crush pad.

Andy shows where the secondary fermentation tanks will go. Theyll be THIS tall.

Andy shows where the secondary fermentation tanks will go. They’ll be THIS tall.

It’s way too early to start talking about oak. The wine doesn’t go into oak for months after this point. But we’ve got our new recooped French barrels standing at the ready in the wine cave.

Roll out the barrels and well have a barrel of fun.

Roll out the barrels and we’ll have a barrel of fun.

Okay, so now you know our new, improved workflow. If it sounds like grapes, juice and wine are being piped back and forth and hither and yon, you are correct, Sir. But think of the difference between piping the juice of a ton or two of grapes versus ME carrying them from one place to another by hand or pushing wheeled vats full of the stuff. I think you can see why I’m excited.

Things are looking up. With the new crushpad, fermenting shed and workflow, we’ve moved beyond the era of “Brute Force and Ignorance”.

Looking ahead to a brighter, easier wine processing system.

Looking ahead to a brighter, easier wine processing system.

Oh, and stand by the phone. When we get word that the grapes are ready, it’s all hands on board. You may be asked to come up and man a sorting table or hold a hose or keep terriers out of the juice.

See all the workflow and process pictures here.

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