The Cleanest Rat
Thursday, August 6, 2009 at 9:02PM
The Cellar Rat in sanitation

Cleanliness is definitely the name of the game. In preparation for the harvet every single piece of equipment large and small has to be thoroughly sterilized. That means washing every square inch of everything not bolted down in the winery not just once, but three times (and in some cases four). For the large pieces of machinery like the press and the sorting table I first pressure wash the contraption, then I take a scrub brush and go over every nook and cranny with "proxy", which is the non-toxic industrial cleaning agent that is standard to the industry, and then I go over everything again but this time using citric acid in order to neutralize the proxy. Then I finish it off with another rinse with water. Phew. Some of the equipment we use like the pumps must be cleaned several times a day - every time they are used for a different wine.

This week we cleaned all of the machinery used during the harvest. That includes: The de-stemmer, which de-stems; The press, which squishes the grapes; The mass pump, which bursts grapes thats skin is too tough to pop naturally during fermentation (like Cabernet); The dumper, which dumps grapes on to the sorting table; The sorting table, which is a big conveyor belt; The shaker, which separates unripe grapes.

Also we tested each machine to make sure that they are in proper working order so that we can fix them before cunch time. Can you imagine how disastrous it would be if you have 100 tons of grapes sitting on the crush pad, melting in the sun, and try to turn on the press and nothing happens? That's what happened today. Not the whole grape fiasco (harvest isn't for another month at least) but when we tried to start the press, nothing happened. In fact, half of the machinery didn't work. That's because it's only used for a short period during the year and all of the equipment sits idle. So we called Robert and he came and got three out of four of them back up and running, including the press! The highlight of my day was helping my uncle repair the motor. All that it needed was for the parts to be banged apart that had been rusted together. And it reinforced a lesson I learned quite a while ago: A good winemaker is a good mechanic. And a good electrician... And a good chemist... And a good carpenter... And a good botanist... A good winemaker has to be a jack-of-all-trades. So I guess I'll have to pick up the skills as I go. Hey, I'm working on the carpentry. I've almost finished my deck. Tomorrow we're going to filter a Syrah Cuvee. More to come...

Article originally appeared on Chronicles Of A Deerfield Cellar Rat (
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