Using my head, finally!

LED headlamp for barrel filling and press cleaning!

LED headlamp for barrel filling and cleaning equipment after dark!

As the temperatures drop and the days shrink, we still have Barbera and Primitivo to bring into Locati Cellars; Barbera is anticipated this coming Wednesday.  Although we know there isn’t as much Barbera as there was Sangiovese (that would have been 20.1 tons two weeks ago) we aren’t sure what time the fruit will come into the winery making it difficult to predict when we will be cleaning up.  The large light that fills the parking area and illuminates the front of another building completely misses the crush pad.  Today, on a quick trip to Costco with the aim of picking up cat food for our resident feline, we passed a display of LED headlamps right by the large screen tv’s and stereos.  The photos showed fit bicyclists, a runner and a guy in a garage peering into a machine (car?).  But I wouldn’t be caught running by day, never mind by night, and I don’t think biking at night will be something I have to consider… filling barrels, cleaning the press and crusher after dark and a myriad of other uses came to me in an instant.  My partner in wine had similar thoughts, grinning as I grabbed one of the two packs before we navigated to the cat food at the far corner of the store.

Now one of the two headlamps resides in the garage where it will be useful for rare trips into the attic, under the house and while putzing on various vehicles.  The other is going into my bag to go with me to work for the above mentioned uses.  During the spring and summer there will be camping trips to exciting places and in the garden for slug hunting expeditions (gross but necessary) to reduce the numbers of these slimy pests.

Cheers!

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2014 Mid-Harvest

A few photos for you to consider…

Freerun wine.

Free run wine

A lady beetle helping with inoculation.

A helpful lady beetle

 

Pumpkins and other winter squash are being harvested now too.

Pumpkin harvest too

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Hydrating Oak Barrels

Ready for wine!

Ready for wine!

With the red grapes finishing their ferments in the open top bins we have been preparing oak barrels to store the pressed wine in.  Most of them have already been used, have been sitting empty and are dried out in our low humidity environment.  Have you had an old piece of furniture, say a chair, that gets wiggly and unstable?  Same concept at work here; but we can’t use furniture polish or oils on the barrels.

Sometimes barrels dry out while they sit empty; using water to rehydrate them is more efficient than losing wine for that purpose.

Sometimes barrels dry out while they sit empty; using water to rehydrate them is more efficient than losing wine for that purpose.

During the last week there have been barrels that have dribbled a few drops of water and sealed up nicely and there have been a couple that would have made stunning fountains in the right place they were so dry.  There is the option of having a cooper rework the barrels (long before we needed them) or tamping the rings a smudge tighter, but it was only the two worst barrels that would have benefited from that work.  Each of them took two or three days to seal.  Steam, hot water (until the hot water heater runs out), soaking the outside of the barrel head (the end of the barrel) and just running water through them until they finally seal again was required.

We have a few new barrels, only one had a few small leaks when we filled it.

Here’s to delicious oak characteristics that we love in our wine! Cheers!

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Exciting news in the midst of chaos

When you face a day that seems to require double the 24 hours allotted just to get through what needs to be done a little good news goes a long way; Friday was such a day.

Two wineries, at opposite ends of Walla Walla, requiring action for fruit that was already in or coming in.  I was taking care of Locati Cellars punch downs, all of the Sangiovese that had come in on Tuesday then driving across town to help him press Syrah and crush Pinot Noir in between.  The punching down of the sixteen bins took a while, the drive each way took a while and I ended up being very little help for Lagana Cellars that day.  Later in the afternoon, when I was stomping a bin of whole cluster Pinot Noir grapes, Jason was made aware of the November 2014 edition of Wine Enthusiast’s Best Buy section for Washington Whites containing both his 2013 Sagemoor Riesling (page 192)  and 2013 Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc (page 193)!

Lagana Cellars has been in business for about 18 months; 2013 was his first vintage.  The two 2013 red wines he has are still in barrel; the only two wines he has bottled are on this list!  Jason graduated from the WWCC EV; program that I am presently working on.  During his time at College Cellars he helped make award-winning wines; looks like the lessons were learned well.  Congratulations, Jason and best wishes for many more accolades to come!

Lagana Cellars 2013 Sagemoor Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc wines are 'Best Buy' wines in Wine Enthusiast November 2014!

Lagana Cellars 2013 Sagemoor Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc wines are ‘Best Buy’ wines in Wine Enthusiast November 2014!

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So many grapes, so little time

Locati Cellars Sangiovese from Mission Hills Vineyard well on its way to becoming wine.

Locati Cellars Sangiovese from Mission Hills Vineyard well on its way to becoming wine.

The Sangiovese is inoculated and happy, the Dolcetto is barreled, the Cabernet Sauvignon is scheduled to be pressed on Saturday morning; Locati Cellars has been a busy place.  We are about 75% complete here; Barbera and Primitivo are still hanging.

Thankful for the tractor with forks in the Breezy Slope Vineyard - we didn't have to carry the bins by hand.

Thankful for the tractor with forks in the Breezy Slope Vineyard – we didn’t have to carry the bins by hand.

Locati isn’t the only place we work, Lagana Cellars has not been idle during this time. This afternoon we delivered bins to Breezy Slope Vineyard and hydrated barrels that had been sitting empty to ensure no leaking when the wine is pumped into them.  The Syrah we brought in on the first of October is ready to be pressed in the morning and three tons of Pinot Noir crushed into the cleaned bins.  This is the last  of the Lagana fruit this season – it is amazing to think that all fruit is in-house before the middle of October.  (At this rate we will have it all barreled before Halloween!)

Hydrating barrels at Lagana Cellars to seal any leaks.

Hydrating barrels at Lagana Cellars to seal any leaks.

Pinot Noir from Breezy Slope Vineyard coming in Friday morning for Lagana Cellars.

Pinot Noir from Breezy Slope Vineyard coming in Friday morning for Lagana Cellars.

Cheers!

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20.2 Tons Sangiovese in 11.5 hours

Locati Cellars is a small winery, we do the best we can with what we have – but some days we are smoking’ hot!  The new crusher/destemmer, a couple of forklifts, Jason, Pam & I accomplished this very task.  The results:

20.2 tons of Mission Hills Estate Vineyard Sangiovese in 14 bins crushed in 11.5 Hours.

20.2 tons of Mission Hills Estate Vineyard Sangiovese in 14 bins crushed in 11.5 Hours.

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Punch downs, 3X a day

Dolcetto with gas bubbles from the yeast consuming the sugars below the cap.

Dolcetto with gas bubbles from the yeast consuming the sugars below the cap.

It is the first week of October, my Autumn decorations are out and we have mid-80’s temperatures during the day early this week; excellent weather for Harvest.

Now that we have the first of the red grapes crushed we have to monitor them frequently and push the solid part back into the juice to extract the lovely color, aromas & flavors – we have to do ‘punch downs’.  The Dolcetto we have has a pretty dense cap:

The cap goes from the light top of the photo to the juice at the bottom.

The cap goes from the light top of the photo to the juice at the bottom.

There are other methods to ensure contact between the juice and the solids, but we only use punch downs. You tube already has lots of videos on doing punch downs and various other methods for the curious.  All of wine making seems to require heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, and for those that do their own sampling in the vineyard hiking.  Several of my peers and I have dubbed Crush, ‘Body by Wine’.  It is a satisfying workout, and the results of the effort are worth it!

Cheers!

Punch down tool; where there is foam the punch down has been completed.

Punch down tool; where there is foam the punch down has been completed.

Punch down tool in action.

Punch down tool in action.

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Cabernet Sauvignon processing

Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, just over two tons in the house!

Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, just over two tons in the house!

This morning just over two tons of Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon came into the Locati Cellars winery.  Jason and I got on it right away; it took longer to clean the machine than it did to crush the fruit.  But beautiful fruit it was, clean with minimal leaves to pick out.

Cheers!

Inside the destemmer, from the top hopper, the grapes fall through the holes and the stems get caught up and pushed out of the end I am looking into.

Inside the destemmer; from the top hopper, the clusters come down the far side, the grapes fall through the holes and the stems get caught up and pushed out of the end I am looking into.

Through the destemmer and crusher, into the fermenting bin.

Through the destemmer and crusher, into the fermenting bin.

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Seeing Red

Last of the Riesling is pressed and fermenting; whites are all in house for 2014.

Last of the Riesling is pressed and fermenting; whites are all in-house for 2014.

Minnick Syrah, Lagana Cellars first red of 2014.

Minnick Syrah, Lagana Cellars first red of 2014.

September is behind us, Saturday we brought in the last of this year’s white grapes; just over a ton of Riesling from Dionysus Vineyard north of Pasco.  Rose’ and whites in-house is a major hurdle for us, that is over half of the Lagana Cellars and about a quarter of the Locati Cellars fruit.

Tuesday, with the typical delays and hiccups, we brought in 1.3 tons of Dolcetto at Locati Cellars and 3.7 tons of Syrah at Lagana Cellars.  Syrah has such nice coloring I had to take a few fun photos as we went along:

Stomping whole cluster Syrah, great way to finish the first day of reds.

Stomping whole cluster Syrah, great way to finish the first day of reds.

Syrah grapes in the destemmer/crusher.

Syrah grapes in the destemmer/crusher.

The Dolcetto was such a rush knowing we had to cross town to do the Syrah next that I didn’t take my phone up on the ladder with me when we ran the destemmer/crusher at Locati Cellars.

Syrah stems, festive looking, like we celebrated the first reds of 2014 coming in today.

Syrah stems, festive looking, like we celebrated the first reds of 2014 coming in today.

So many photos on Facebook show other local wineries stomping/crushing Syrah today; excited as we ramp things up a notch or two.  It brings our small facilities. with just a few of us, into the whole local wine picture.  We were in fantastic company from what I could see!  Walla Walla is more than wine, but during Crush, it is hard to see much else when you are in the industry.

Cheers!

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A spectacular day in the garden

Two new rain barrels - we had enough rain to water the changed plantings today.

Two new rain barrels – we had enough rain to water the changed plantings today.

Finally hanging the hose so we can walk passed the tomato plant that is taking over the left side of this corner.

Finally hanging the hose so we can walk passed the tomato plant that is taking over the left side of this corner.

We have lived in this house for just over a year now.  Last summer we had a jungle to hack through in the garden: 21 large rose bushes, two over grown butterfly bushes (under one I found a hydrangea), untold numbers of spiraea that had seeded themselves throughout the yard and candy tuft smothering everything in the front flower bed.  Thankfully I have had spectacular help in my husband and my daughter in removing most of the above mentioned plants.  During the last few weeks my husband has valiantly weeded the nearly empty front beds while I have been crushing grapes; between the empty lot across the street and the heat we had quite a crop of weeds all summer.

Hiccups along the way - like splitting an irrigation pipe while digging a hole for the blacklace elderberry.

Hiccups along the way – like splitting an irrigation pipe while digging a hole for the black lace elderberry.

We removed so many spirea from this bed last summer!  Rearranging the plants to begin filling in the big holes today.

We removed so many spiraea from this bed last summer! Rearranging the plants to begin filling in the big holes today.

Today: mid-sixties to low seventies, sunny but comfortable and we were both home which made for a fabulous day to work in the yard.  We moved about ten large potted plants and several smaller ones from the old house that were still in pots.  Now that we could see most of the flower beds we could better determine where the plants we brought would fit.  Removing all but four of the roses meant the herbs could be close to the kitchen around the back patio. The black lace elderberry is also now at one end of the patio, but we had to work hard to put that plant in the ground.  The irrigation pipe isn’t consistent from one end of the yard to the other – this we learned today.  The columnar yews are planted to either side of the living room window, with one of the remaining roses left in front of the window.  The large front bed has been rearranged and some poorly located plants have been moved to begin to fill in the street side of that bed.  We plan to put in a front patio at the back of that bed, so we can sit in the afternoon shade; hopefully that will happen next Spring.

The small 'woodland garden' corner with the white pine, ferns, columbine and hosta.

The small ‘woodland garden’ corner with the white pine, ferns, columbine and hosta.

Where we had to remove the dogwood in the back last spring we put the white pine, ferns, hosta and columbine for a small ‘woodland garden’.  It is so nice to look out the kitchen window and see the neatness of the flowerbed now.  It had been full of old strawberry plants, weeds and landscaping fabric harboring lots of slugs; that is what is filling the trash can now.

Ten year old Syrah from Forgeron Cellars - the best reward at the end of the day!

Ten year old Syrah from Forgeron Cellars – the best reward at the end of the day!

We are by no means ‘done’ but we put all but one of the potted plants in the ground, we removed lots more detritus and salvaged a few other plants that were struggling to grow in awkward spots.  There are muscles we typically don’t use that hurt already, but it was worth the effort today.

Dinner: neighbor's cucumber, our herbs, crab from the Puget Sound and pasta with our choices of wine. Excellent.

Dinner: neighbor’s cucumber, our herbs, crab from the Puget Sound and pasta with our choices of wine. Excellent.

Happily, we had a 2004 Forgeron Syrah open on the counter, so I had a lovely glass of wine once showered.  Hubby chose a 2013 Amavi Semillon.  To cap everything off, we threw together a pasta crab salad from fennel and chives out of our garden, a cucumber from the neighbor’s plant, and crab that my Aunt & Uncle were so gracious to provide us.  Eaten on the back patio, overlooking some of our hard work made for a delightful evening.  My partner in wine is also my partner in life; it is so great to enjoy working hard as much as playing hard.  Hubby, you are the very best!

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