July 24, 2011
The past two weeks have been very busy. When I try to remember what I did each day, it seems like a blur. There was a broken bottling line, a festival, a heat wave, and some bottling in there somewhere I think. Let’s see what I can remember.
On Thursday, July 14th I had the biggest accomplishment of my career so far. I saved Galena Cellars $37,000 by fixing the broken labeler on the bottling machine. As I had mentioned previously, the labeler would not label bottles if the labels were printed on brown paper because the sensor could not read through the paper to determine where the label ended. It was broken for about 2 years and they were just getting ready to buy a new one when Chris told me to go take a look at the labeler and see what I could do. Since I know very little about electronics, I figured that I wouldn’t be able to fix the machine that countless had tried to fix before me. After about 20 minutes, I was able to get it up and running like never before. Ends up that the sensor needed to be adjusted big time and a few dead light bulbs needed to be replaced. I was so happy when I figured it out! I was so proud of myself. Maybe one day I will be proud when one of my wines wins a great award, but for right now I am more than pleased with fixing a labeler.
The next day, I left to go back to Maryland for the weekend. The winery back home had a Reggae Wine Festival and
my help was requested by my dad. I went back and gave about 40 tours over the course of the festival (it was a two day event that drew around 15,000 people). It is the winery’s largest festival and I had to be there. Wine Festivals seem like they would be a lot of fun to go to. People bring chairs, blankets and food to put on the lawn while they listen to music and sip on a glass of wine. Everyone always seems to enjoy it. If you haven’t been to a wine festival before, I would highly recommend it. I have never been to a wine festival for fun, only to work, but even working is a lot of fun!
I finally made it back to Galena on Monday night after countless plane malfunctions on the way. Tuesday was loaded with bottling. We bottled 750 gallons of a wine called Sangarita. It is a cross between a margarita and sangria. One of the more interesting aspects of this wine is that it uses a closure called a Zork which are zip-corks. A person places the Zork on the bottle giving it a little push to ensure that it doesn’t pop out, then the ROPP machine pushes the Zork down the rest of the way. The outside of the Zork unwraps to reveal a bar top type cork that can be easily reinserted into the bottle after opening. This closure is only used for the Sangria and the Sangarita because these wines are meant to be consumed fairly quickly. Placing Zorks on the bottles is more difficult than placing capsules on the bottles because a rubber mallet has to be used to ensure that the Zork does not pop off. It was challenging to keep up with the line at first, but once I got the hang of it, I had no trouble at all.
That night, instead of going out for pizza like I usually do on Tuesday nights, I was invited to a barbecue at Chris’ house with her family and close friends. It was a really great dinner and I met a lot of people that I hear about all the time. People out here are so much more relaxed than people in Maryland, or even at Cornell. No one is rushing to and
from here or there. They are enjoying life at whatever speed it goes at. This is what I would like to call a very low stress environment which is definitely a change of pace from the Cornell lifestyle. The next three days were going to be extremely hot and since my apartment does not have air conditioning, Chris let me stay in the Vineyard Suite above the tasting room at the winery for a few nights. It was so nice! They rent it out to visitors every weekend but it is usually vacant during the week. It was wonderful to live in a fully furnished space again and it was great to have air conditioning!
On Wednesday, we bottled a semi-sweet red wine called Country Red. This is the first wine I’ve bottled that used the ROPP (screw cap) technology. It was really exciting
to see how it worked. There is a big bin at the top that holds the screw caps and it vibrates to move the screw caps around to the shoot. The path that the caps take to get there has many holes that allow the incorrectly positioned screw caps to fall off the path and back to the center. Once they are in the correct orientation, they are transferred down a shoot to where they are placed on the bottled and then tighten. The technology is very cool and it seems to work with minimal problems. The only annoying part is the rattling sound that happens when the bin starts to vibrate. It is loud and obnoxious. Next time, I’ll be sure to grab some ear plugs.
On Friday, we started a fermentation on a new wine that Chris is trying out made from Pomegranates. We mixed up the juice and then I added the yeast. Chris uses EC1118 on most of her fruit wines, so we decided to try it out on this one. I mixed up the bucket of yeast and just as it was beginning to ferment, a small tour walked past. I ran out with my bucket of yeast to show
them the most active part of winemaking. They seemed interested, but they also gave me looks like I was crazy. I guess I know that I’m in the right career path when I get that excited about yeast and people give me weird looks for it. I even told them about killer yeast and how to make a yeast culture. I think they learned more than they wanted to, but hopefully they liked it. I know I did.
My internship is almost done, only 3 weeks left! Before I know it, I will be back at Cornell and into another internship! I can’t wait for that, but at the same time I don’t want to leave Galena.