Friday was a great day. I spent the whole day working with Robert in preparation for an upcoming Heart Of Sonoma Valley Association event that Deerfield is hosting. It's going to be great fun because the public is inviting to smoosh grapes the old fashioned was - with their feet! But the smooshing has to be done in something and in keeping with the theme of tradition and old world technique Robert decided to refurbish a redwood wine fermention tank that we have had for years. Wooden wine tanks really aren't used in larger California wineries today mainly because they are so much more difficult to keep clean and Deerfield isn't an exception. But there were two old redwood tanks that hadn't been used in 10 years just sitting around, so we set out to cut one in half so that it's a good size to hop in and get stompin'!
First I numbered all of the staves of the tank so that we could put it back together in exactly the same order (Staves are what you call the planks of wood that make up a barrel or tank). That's important because after so many years they become warped and fit together just so. Then we took off the metal hoops that bound it together and all of the boards collapsed like a flower blooming in fast motion. Then Robert collected all of the staves and took them to the Ranch where he cut them in half. Meanwhile I was given the job of scraping all of the old dirt off of the sides of the boards that made up the floor (also important to get it to seal correctly). When Robert returned he brought something that really surprised me: He brought a big bag of flower. I thought maybe we'd switched professions and become bakers. I've never been a subscriber to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it philosophy" so I was a little skeptical when Robert told me we were going to use the flower to make the glue to seal the tank. The ancient egytians used flower and water to make glue for papyrus fabrics in 1500 B.C. I'm sure humans have been doing the same thing for wine barrels for a few millenia. But as I learned they really did get it right the first time and it worked like a charm. After we replaced the hoops, we tightened them down almost to the point I thought they'd buckle.
The trick to make it water tight is simple but brilliant: Get the boards squished as close together as possible and then get it wet - The wood swells and expands and fills in any gaps. Or at least in theory... I'm writing this on Monday, we've been running a sprinkler in the tank since Friday and there are still a couple gaps. But Robert is commited to making the event as genuine an Old World experience as possible and he said that tomorrow we're going to use reeds from the marsh to patch it. I'll let you know how it goes!
Information on the event is here: http://www.familywinemakers.org/index.cfm
It's the whole weekend of the 18th of September and it's $30 dollars a person. Should be a blast!