In early August, my fledgling winery, Los Milics, harvested our first pick of Tempranillo. It could have gone horribly wrong, because just two days prior we had a hailstorm in Sonoita. Thankfully we lived to pick our fruit and avoid disaster. A helluva start to our 2020 vintage, and par for the course for a challenging and emotionally straining year.
Before we could harvest, we had to prepare the winery for the incoming fruit. Though I can’t fit all of the preparations in this morsel of a column, I’ll try to cover general tasks and chores to ready the winery.
1) Clean and sanitize equipment to process the fruit. Start with picking bins, aka FYBs, which stands for F@$%ing Yellow Bins because they are a pain to clean. Sanitize the elevator, or conveyor belt, which transports grape clusters up the de-stemmer, the press that squeezes juice out of the grapes.
2) Check your gases! Ensure you have enough propane to operate the forklift, inert gas like argon to move wine from vessel to vessel and liquid CO2 to protect de-stemmed grapes.
3) Make sure you have yeasts and nutrients to ensure a safe and healthy fermentation. Normally white grapes come in first and are pressed right away, so you have to have the right vessels ready to move juice into right after pressing. There’s a lot of Tetris-like rearranging to make room for the new fruit.
These are but a few tasks we perform. Another superstitious thing we do based on a fellow winemaker’s advice is have a Burger King Whopper with bacon and cheese. Its consumption right before harvest guards you against any hail or other shenanigans that might occur. So far, mostly good. Ta-ta!
Los Milics Vineyards and Winery
423 Upper Elgin Rd., Elgin