I’m still slogging up to the crush pad to punch down the fermenting grapes and take readings three times a day. Which gives me lots of opportunities to think about workflow and processes. One thing that’s been driving me crazy — Andy’s haphazard rodent and fruit fly protection. Since we are doing primary fermentation on an open crush pad in large one ton bins with molded lids that don’t fit very tightly, his system involves stretching plastic sheeting tightly over the top of the bins, then taping them taut. That’s him above doing his thing.
Well, that method is all fine and dandy if you have one bin removed and can walk all around the bin taping, then push the bins together. And it’s hunky dory if you tape it up, drop the lid on it and leave it. But what about the poor “cellar rat” who has to lift up the lid, unstick that tape, roll back the plastic and try to maneouver a large stainless steel paddle into each bin to punch down. And do this when all four bins are jammed into that tight space together. Oh, and repeat this three times a day. Well, I’ll tell you, it doesn’t work. You get plastic punched into grapes and plastic ripped by your punchdown tool.
So I got to thinking to myself, even though I usually let Andy be the master of the Rube Goldberg jury-rigged wine processing systems. “Self”, said I, “there must be a better way.” That’s when I developed what I’m calling the “Tuck and Drape System of Rodent and Fruit Fly Protection for Primary Fermentation Bins”. A patent is pending.
The only problem with this method is that four vats, each holding a ton — and I really mean a ton — of grapes, are jammed into this space. So taping the plastic to the back involves me balancing precariously on that one inch edge while holding plastic sheeting and blue sticky tape. I won’t tell you how many times I came close to a Lucy Ricardo moment with me landing in a vat of Mourvedre or Grenache.
But if you can manage these feats of acrobatics, then you are home free. Just tuck the edges of the plastic around the sides and drape the excess over the front. Hence the “Tuck and Drape Method”. (Maybe I’m living too close to Petaluma, where American Graffiti was filmed, but I can’t help, when I say that name, to see Debbie telling Terry the Toad how much she loves Tuck and Roll upholstery.) Now drop the molded plastic lid over the vat and, Hey Presto, it further holds everything in place.
See how much better tuck and drape (left) is than Andy’s tricky taut taping (right).
Okay, so you aren’t very interested. Some of us who are on site aren’t even interested.
Okay, maybe I have been up in Sonoma a bit too long on my own obsessing about grapes. Not that there’s anything weird with my latest project — building an altar to deflect the rain from our still ripening Cabernet grapes.