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Crush Begins – Warnecke Ranch Pinot

It’s been crazy weather so far – and continues to be.  It looks like harvest and crush are going to be very condensed, making for some exciting (and somewhat tense) times.  For us it has started out very well.  Our first 20 tons of grapes – Pinot Noir from the Warnecke Ranch and Vineyard near Chalk Hill – were crushed on Tuesday, and are now enjoying several days of cold soak to extract colors and flavors; yeast will be added tomorrow to begin fermentation.

I want to share some photos that help explain some of the process so far.  These grapes were harvested into large metal bins called Valley Bins, which hold a bit more than 2 tons of grapes each.  The bins were loaded onto the truck and sent to the winery. Here’s a photo of those bins of beautiful grapes.

Next, the bins were dumped into a hopper.  We had some great help that day – including Mike, the former Mayor of Santa Rosa, shown here scooping the grapes into the hopper.

From here a large stainless-steel screw moves the grapes to a conveyor and into an area where leaves and stems are separated and removed into another bin.The contract says that the winery will receive grapes substantially free of “MOG” – or “Material Other than Grapes.”  The critter below was removed after he/she was officially categorized as MOG.

The grapes then travel gently to a large tank where they have several days of cold soak to begin extracting the colors and flavors of the grape skins and seeds before fermentation begins.   All this time the heady smell of the grapes envelopes us.  This Warnecke Ranch Pinot is filled with amazing blackberry with ripe-green herbal notes.  Our winemaker, Joe Freeman, carefully examined the grapes as they arrived, and tasted them to begin to determine how they will express themselves in the finished wine.

As the tank sits, a cap of grape skins forms at the top; each day that cap is punched back down into the tank and juice from below is pumped over it to optimize extraction.  That’s where we stand today.  Tomorrow Joe will do some analysis of the juice, then add yeast to begin the magical transformation of earthy grape juice into the heavenly elixir we call wine.

Stay tuned – there’s lots more to come!

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