Winery Work


WINE WALK by Ron Saikowski

The allure of being a winemaker centers around the romance and the sharing of those wines with friends. However, there is a lot of work that goes into making wines that many people do not realize. The harvesting of the grapes begins early in the morning and is done by hand with grape pickers carrying 40-50 totes of freshly harvested grapes to the bins on trailers which are hauled to the wineries for CRUSH and processing. White grapes are de-stemmed, crushed, and pressed with the skins and seeds hauled out for composting.

However, the really HARD work centers around the making of red wines where the skins and seeds are fermented with the red juice. The yeast produces a lot of carbon dioxide gas which floats to the top of the fermenting vat pushing the grapes skins and seeds up to the top of the juice. This is particularly evident in the Black Spanish/Lenoir grapes since the skins are so thick. I had the opportunity over the last several years to work with these red fermenting wines. The floating grape skins/seeds densify into a 12-16 inch thick mass of skins/seeds which can literally support a person like me for a short period of time when the grape cap starts to rupture allowing the fermenting grape juice’s carbon dioxide gas to escape. It is important to keep those skins in contact with the juice for extraction of much of the wine’s fruits and essence. Punching down the cap requires about twenty minutes per tank of hard manual labor. Once the wine is fermented, the skins and seeds are manually removed from the tank via good hard labor.

In order to keep this regime up, winemakers must be super athletes. If you want to experience the good, hard labor of grape harvesting, CRUSH, and cap punch-downs, please let me know. I know of several winemakers who will be glad to teach you how to experience these labors!