cleaning fermentation tanksJust because I told you that all the grapes have been harvested, crushed, shepherded through primary fermentation and finally pressed and put into steel tanks, doesn’t mean the work is over. At this point, there is an important stage of winemaking we know as “Wine Shuffle Madness”. Okay, it’s actually called Racking. But Wine Shuffle Madness is more descriptive. Folks, it’s all done with pumps and hoses. And the object is to take this wine out of this tank and pump it into that tank, then maybe change your mind and pump it into another tank. Or even combine a few single varietals into a blend and then pump it into yet another tank. There actually is a point to all this. In these early stages of fermentation, dead yeast is accumulating at the bottom of every tank and you want to get your wine off that icky stuff and into a clean tank so that more dead yeast can fall to the bottom of that new tank and you can do the process all over again. Then there is the other problem of not quite having enough tanks at this point when you are enthusiastic but quite amateur winemakers. Did I also just mention the word “clean”? Yes, clean is a very important concept. As every hose, every tank, every implement that will touch the wine — including your hands — will have to be cleaned and recleaned and cleaned again by sluicing it all in a sulfite solution. But let’s get to the visual portion of our program.

The stuff we dumped? From last year and it was just an experiment. No biggie to sacrifice it.

But that was only after we'd shifted most of the contents of the other tanks you see here in the Wine Lab back and forth.

dead yeast residue in fermenting wine

So here's that dead yeast I was talking about. It's worst in tanks that are holding very new wine. We usually rack each wine at least three or four times in its life.

cleaning barrels

So that's why there is so much barrel cleaning at this stage.

testing the Cabernet

At least there is a lot of drinking. Because you have to taste everything to see how it's doing. Most of our blends and the Cab are doing surprisingly well.

Anyway, I kind of lost track, but I think we racked two tanks of Cabernet into one larger tank, then did the same with two tanks of Mourvedre. And racked Mourvedre Rosé and Grenache Rosé each into new separate tanks. And moved Grenache from one tank into another. Oh, and moved the Cinsault from a larger tank it only half filled into a smaller one. It was quite a roundelay as we were kind of playing musical wine tanks. But somehow we ended up with one empty one where they’d all been filled before. I’m not quite sure how that happened. Then there was science stuff like pH testing and specific gravity testing and adding more stuff to aid malolactic fermentation.

racking wine in Dr. Frankenwine's lab

Anyway, it went on until well after dark.

sunset in sonoma

There was a lovely sunset that night.

tasting wine

Did I mention how much tasting is required at this stage?