Our first red grape of the season came in this morning:
Sangiovese. With our pre-class crew gathered we began cleaning the destemmer, sans crush mechanism, and the Key Technologies Optical Sorter. We are one of two wineries to have the Optical Sorter in Walla Walla, so I understand. The apple industry has been using similar technology for a while, but this is really new stuff for the wine industry. I had the pleasure of working at the spitting end of the machine, removing the discarded grapes from the catch bin; I was stiff with juice from top to bottom by the time we were done. My partner in this venture ended up standing in the catch bin, similarly
covered in grape juice, seeds and skins. His leather shoes will forever smell like Sangiovese grapes, where my duck boots will never lose their current sheen.
It was interesting to see what was discarded and what was kept for fermentation. In total, we seem to have lost about 5% of our total product through the optical sorter. Very few
small stems and even less raisin-like grapes were kept, but we did think that we needed to adjust the sensitivity of the machine since we knew there were properly sized, well colored grapes with good seed formation in the discard bin this time around.
The keeper grapes were promptly brought into the cellar. They are to be the ‘Boys’ team where the ‘Girls’ team anticipates Cockburn Ranch Syrah early next week. Remember when I said that we painted barrels and did anything and everything asked of us in the last few weeks? Well, this is our extra treat – we get to work with some fantastic grapes, it is our responsibility to make this wine work. Does it sound like a reward for hard work, more work? Each of us is totally psyched and ready for this experience, yes, we consider it a tremendous honor to take on this additional work.
I haven’t worked with Sangiovese grapes before this, so not sure if the Optical Sorter was worth the effort myself. As with any transition, there are nay-sayers and advocates with stubborn reasons why such a change should/shouldn’t happen. We will use the sorter with other grapes and further tweaking/teaching of the software will provide further data to help sort out the arguments. It is good to have an opportunity to use the technology like this when I don’t have an opinion.
Later in the afternoon we had our ‘First Year Orientation’ and a reception following, so no other grapes were processed today. Ordered my books to pick-up when I am on campus tomorrow. I will also have to make time to purchase some heavy-duty work pants and some better shoes. Jeans and duck shoes with no support were ok today, but not for the next month of work.