Small wineries don’t have the luxury of large staffs to do multiple things every day.
While everyone can probably understand an organization comes together fully at a busy time like harvest, at a small winery the rest of the year is more of a juggle. When a pandemic removes all staff and volunteers, it can really become a stretch. With no tasting room to staff, for the time being, Wendy & I turn our attention to racking and bottling.
Every winery session begins with two things. Cleaning…
Then the tests begin again.
Racking is testing, fining, and moving the wine around in tanks to prepare it for bottling or long term aging.
Some wine is meant to age years. Some wine is not. Our light white wines without oak often taste fresher when they are young, and thus sell better. We also have the problem of not being able to store wine indefinitely without spending a fortune on more stainless steel tanks or forcing the wine into oak exposure whether we wish that flavor accent or not. The next harvest will fill the tanks again, so we have to do something in a timely way.
With the 2020 spring shutdown of the tasting room, along with an uncertain economic outlook for a summer-profit, tourist-driven resort lake, we had to make some tough choices and get things bottled. Cash flow or not.
Bottling days in the new normal.
Just Wendy & I for most of them, and 1/3 the usual number of bottles. We couldn’t afford more new blue bottles for our Mist, so we’ve pressed spare amber Bordeaux into use. This is how we’ll make it through the spring of 2020.
Breaking up a typical 8 person, 1200 full bottling day into multiple days for only 2 people helps keep the work manageable.
As the month progresses, the extended family comes together to get us past the bottling hump.
Last but never least is cleanup. Always. Dishwashing is not the glamorous side of wine-making that some folks dream about, but it is the bulk of wine-making’s tasks.
All these tasks have been repeated for thousands of years in wine-making. Gentle pumps replaced gravity for the most part, though some wineries still rely on gravity rackings. Obviously, cleanliness has improved dramatically in the last one-hundred, and bottles have only been around for the past three-hundred, but the racking process has actually changed little. Testing equipment can ensure a more consistent wine, but it is amazing how many wine decisions still come back to an experienced winemaker’s tastebuds and good judgment. 2020 even took away many of our reliable taste-testers who help sample our young wines and give their opinions before bottling.