Bottling Up Canyon Wind Wines: Part 2
This is a continuation of my earlier post on preparing for wine bottling at Canyon Wind Cellars. Now to describe the process of putting wine in bottles for ease of use. As enjoyable as it is to pull wine from a barrel with a thief, it’s not exactly convenient when you’re sitting down to a meal!
Bottling Days: Jay, Jennifer, and their faithful dog Finley arrive at the winery at about 5:30 AM on bottling days. For the record, Finley is not a morning dog! So Finley goes up to his office to sleep in a little more, while Jay and Jennifer spend two and a half hours sanitizing the bottling line and hoses with extra-hot water, making sure all the bottling materials are ready to go, and doing a final check of bottling line functionality. We usually start bottling at 8:00 AM, so employees and volunteers arrive then.
Pallets of empty 47-Ten Red case boxes that are labeled and ready for bottling.
Everyone finds a place to work—we have people labeling case boxes, loading bottles onto the start of the bottling line, putting foils on each bottle, removing bottles from the end of the line, putting bottles back into case boxes and taping them shut, moving the full cases onto pallets, moving the full pallets into the warehouse, and moving pallets of empty and labeled cases into the winery for bottling. This is done cyclically throughout the day until all the wine is bottled. As I said in Part 1, our winemakers like to say that winemaking is 80% cleaning, 19% moving heavy things, and 1% drinking cold beer. Now maybe you’re seeing where some of that 19% heavy lifting comes in? The winery becomes a somewhat Zen-like factory on bottling days. A very delicious-smelling factory.
Meanwhile Jay and Jennifer are running around checking and refilling the cork hopper, monitoring gas levels, making sure the negative pressure in bottles is right, bringing in new boxes of foils as needed, changing out label rolls, moving pallets of wine, and trouble-shooting the bottling line.
The Bottling Line: Here is a rundown of the steps each bottle of wine goes through in the bottling line: the bottle is fed into the machine, carbon dioxide gas is used to sparge the bottle to displace any oxygen there, wine is pumped to the machine and passes through a final membrane filter, the bottle is filled with wine, nitrogen gas is shot into the top of the bottle to level the wine and again remove oxygen, a cork drops down from a hopper and is popped into the top of the bottle under vacuum, a foil is put onto the top of the bottle, the foil is stretched onto the top of the bottle with rapidly spinning rollers, the label is applied to the bottle from a spool that spins at a rate in time with the rate the bottles are passing through the machine, and then the bottle is removed from the end of the line by people who package them in case boxes. Whew!
A bottling crew hard at work on the line! Bottles ready to be filled.
For each wine bottled, random bottles are pulled from the line and sent to a lab for testing to ensure that the wine was sterile bottled and for the wine’s final chemical analysis. This is not required, but our winemakers consider it an important step to ensure quality control with all of our wine.
We bottle our wine a total of about 6 to 8 days over the course of each year. In 2014 we bottled about 6000 cases of wine. This year we expect to be our biggest production year yet, with 7000 or more cases planned. We recently bottled our 2014 47-Ten Red, 2013 Petit Verdot, and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (not yet released). And now you will know how they came to be in their bottles!
To volunteer during a bottling day at Canyon Wind, send an email to email@example.com and ask to be added to our volunteer list! You will then receive emails when volunteers are needed!