June 22, 2011
The last few days have been busy. My 30 minute drive to work is very nice. There are a lot of farms in Illinois and by the end of the summer I will have probably seen more corn than I wanted to. One of the barns I pass is painted in ‘barn
quilts’ which give a barn a unique character and color. The midwest is usually stereotyped to be fairly flat, but it is not flat here in Galena. There are rolling hills and mounds everywhere. Galena is a large tourist attraction in Illinois, drawing about 10,000 people each weekend. I have been told not to venture into the downtown area on the weekends because of the traffic. It’s hard to imagine how a town of 3,000 people turns into a town of 10,000 over night. I guess I’ll see how that all works this weekend.
On Tuesday morning we finished up the Pinot noir blend so we could bottle it that afternoon. The bottling line they have is a Prospero line consisting of a rinsing head, CO2 sparger, 8 head filler, leveler, ROPP machine (for screw top bottles), heat shrinker, and a labeler. The only thing that the line is missing is a capsuler. My job was to do just that, place capsules on the bottles as they went down the line. This job also doubles as a quality check point to ensure that the bottles have the right amount of wine and that they contain a cork. We bottled about 550 gallons (roughly 210 cases) and it took about 2.5 hours.
I had the opportunity to learn more about winery sanitation, which has become a recent fascination of mine. There is not much research about winery sanitation, so many wineries operate in unsanitary conditions which can lead to wine spoilage. Galena Cellars has a fairly strict sanitation system that helps to insure cleanliness at all times. They rinse all of the hoses through a soda ash solution for about 1 minute, then water for about 1 minute, then a solution of citric acid and potassium metabisulfite (KMS) for 3 minutes. The hoses are then attached to pulleys and suspended from the ceiling to prevent the ends from sitting in wash water that ends up on the floor. Before the hoses come in contact with wine, the ends are sprayed down with 70% alcohol to make a final sterilization effort. A similar process is done for all of the fittings and any other pieces that come in contact with wine. The bottling line is cleaned by the use of ozone water for about 10 minutes. It has been a great experience for me to learn about the sanitation practices because many wineries have trouble with this and I’m glad that I found a winery that seems to have it under control.
After work on Tuesday, I went out to dinner with Chris, Britt, and Chris’ father at Happy Joe’s (a pizza place) and then we went back to the winery to participate in Reiki, a form of Japanese healing that was being performed on the vines. One of the employees at Galena Cellars is a Reiki master and since it was the summer solsitice, she felt that the spirits would be able to help the vines grow this year. The ceremony consisted of all of us being smudged with burnt sage, calling the spirits out with drums and rattles, the calling of the directions and chanting. The night ended with a nice wine and cheese tasting and a guided meditation session. Reiki has never been done on the vines before and Galena Cellars doesn’t usually participate in rituals like this, but they decided to give it a try. I will definitely say it was intresting and that I’m glad I attended. However, I am wondering if this ritual will produce any results. I’ll just have to wait and see.
Wednesday morning started off cold and wet and didn’t improve much from there. It even Ithacated throughout the day. I helped Chris enter 18 of her wines into the Illinois Wine Competition, which included more tasting and hard decisions. Once the rain let up a little, we went out into the vineyard to comb the vines out some and remove extra shoots, lateral shoots and suckers. It was probably the longest amout of time that I have worked in a vineyard and I’m glad to know that I chose the correct concentration. I enjoyed my time in the vineyard today, but I don’t think that I would enjoy doing that day after day. It was a great experience though and I believe that I will be out in the vineyard again tomorrow.
Once the rain started again, we headed back inside to stay dry and we did some bench trial blends on a wines that will be finished soon. We made blends for St. Croix, Rhubarb, and Cranberry. The Cranberry was filtered today and will most likely be bottled tomorrowafternoon.
The automatic labeler on the bottling line does not work with a few of the labels because the sensor cannot read through the brown paper backing. There are only a handful of labels that this happens with and the Pinot noir that
was bottled yesterday just happened to be one of them. Britt and I spent the time after lunch hand labeling 30 cases of Pinot noir, 30 cases of Merlot, and 30 cases of Syrah. We finished just around 5pm and headed home for the day.
Working at Galena Cellars has already been a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to see what the next 7 weeks will have in store for me!