Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bottling Weekend 2007: The price just went up $5

It's almost 4a.m. and I've just finished rinsing carboys and fermenters from their purple sludge, with one eye on the full moon and the other eye on the lookout for a pack of coyotes. This feels like deja vu all over again ... a day full of bottling, an evening spent racking. This year, we had it all figured out. We borrowed a pump and 100 feet of tubing. After everything was hooked up, we turned on the pump, the motor purred, and the wine trickled from the storage container into the barrel. Note the word: trickled. We were expecting a torrent. My little siphon hose works faster. The flow was less than one quart per minute. "The motor's no good," opined the Queen. I thought, perhaps, the tubes were too long, or too tangled. Finally as midnight approached, I went back to methods I knew that worked: using the Enomatic bottling device to siphon wine off the dregs into a 5-gallon carboy, then lifting and pouring the contents through a funnel into the barrel. When I was cleaning up a couple of hours later, I noticed something in the filter: wood chips! No wonder it didn't work; the filter was clogged. Lesson of the day: when using a pump, if it doesn't work, check the filter! Needless to say, we bottled 3/4 of the Nebbiolo (about 17 cases), and racked the Petite Sirah into the barrel with the Petit Verdot, creating a new, promising blend: Petit Petit. In our book, Petit + Petit = Grand. Stay tuned to see how the Petit-Petit turns out next year.

One revelation about the 2006 Merlot, which we also bottled this weekend. The grapes were grown next door. They were fermented with equipment that anyone could easily purchase. The wine was stored in a 15-gallon carboy, which anyone could purchase (or you could just as soon use a beer barrel). We bottled using a simple device. And as the winemaker's father would say, "It doesn't taste that bad." It ends up there was a 5-gallon carboy leftover of Merlot pressings, which we blended with slightly more than a gallon of the Nebbiolo -- I'm looking forward to tasting it after it's aged for six months in the bottle but I anticipate the winemaker's father saying, "That tastes pretty good." Anyone could do this.

When we finished, the place was a mess. But, within 24-hours, we had it cleaned up, and achieved an important milestone: we slept with both cars in the garage.

The first words out of the Queen's mouth the morning after were: "I'm tired of this." Her suggestion: "Sell the grapes -- forget the winemaking." There is so much work that went into the bottling, and the racking, that as I thought about the "costs" of the wine -- and how good it tastes -- we concluded that we would be cheating ourselves if we didn't charge $25/bottle for the Nebbiolo. Next steps: apply for that wholesale reseller license, and get the garage bonded.

Have any suggestions for the permitting process? Looking forward to your posts.

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