Stacey, Retail Sales & Wine Club Director
February 5, 2016 | Terroir Tidbits | Stacey, Retail Sales & Wine Club Director

Crushing It At Canyon Wind Cellars


Harvest is the busiest season at Canyon Wind Cellars, and our main harvest months are September and October. My previous blog entry detailed the work that goes into determining when the grapes are ready to harvest, including taking samples and performing tests in our winery’s lab. Once winemakers Jay and Jennifer Christianson give the green light to harvest a particular part of the vineyard based on grape chemistry and taste, they communicate with our vineyard manager, Juan Adan Diaz, to schedule the harvest crew. Juan has been the steward of Canyon Wind Cellars vines for nearly 20 years now!


Canyon Wind Cellars Vineyard Manager, Juan, overseeing Syrah harvest in 2015 (left). The harvest crew picking grapes in our Cliffiside Vineyard in 2015 (right).

Grape harvest in our vineyard is done entirely by hand, and it is hard work. Harvesting the grapes requires a lot of bending and reaching because the fruiting zone of the vines is about waist height, by the old vine growth that remains year-round. From my experience helping harvest one day, here is the process: work your way from one end of a row to the other, identify where the grape clusters are on the vine, grasp a cluster, cut the top stem with small pruners (or sometimes you can twist the cluster off), put the grapes in a 5-gallon bucket you have on hand, repeat.  Usually there is someone working on each side of a vine row, with a harvest crew of up to a few dozen people working at once. As buckets fill with grapes, they are gathered by a crew member who empties the buckets into a bin on a trailer pulled by our tractor. Once that bin is full, he drives the tractor to the crush pad (the covered area between our winery and warehouse buildings). Being an estate winery and using our own grapes grown on site, we are able to immediately crush the grapes after harvest.


Emptying 5-gallon buckets of Syrah grapes into bins, ready to be moved to the crush pad (left). CWC Owner/Winemaker Jennifer Christianson preparing to crush Chardonnay in the wine press (right).

We have 35 acres of grapevines planted, which can give us about 125-150 tons of grapes each year. Some grapes we sell in bulk to other wineries, but we keep most to make our wine. Believe it or not, we do not crush over 100 tons of grapes with our feet! Winemakers have been using much more efficient tools to crush wine grapes for thousands of years now. Our crush pad houses modern tools of choice: our wine press and our destemmer-crusher (see pictures).

White wine is the product of the process used to make it rather than the color of the grapes. For example, Pinot Gris (a.k.a. Pinot Grigio) is a dark grayish purple grape. Crushing for white wine involves dumping the whole grape clusters into our wine press. Inside the press are “bladders” that are remote-control operated to move in from the sides of the cylindrical tank and gently press the grape clusters like giant hands. Then the juice alone is drained out of the tank and pumped into stainless steel fermentation tanks.


The wine press in action with Owners/Winemakers Jay and Jennifer Christianson (left). The Christiansons hard at work with the destemmer-crusher (middle). Close-up of the destemmer-crusher used for our red wines, rosés, and some white wines (right).

Grape clusters for our red wines are emptied into a hopper that funnels them into the destemmer-crusher. A spinning rod with smaller perpendicular rods causes the grape berries to separate from the stems, which are spat out into a separate receptacle. The grapes then fall down between two rollers that crush them and into another receptacle with a pump and large hose hooked up to it. The resulting must (slurry of juice, skins, seeds, and pulp) is pumped into fermentation tanks. Red wine gets its color and many elements of its flavor from extended contact with skins during fermentation.

The next blog will get into fermentation, pressing red wines, oak, and racking!


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