Week 1 at Au Bon Climat and Qupe

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Today marks my first day off of a wonderful week of work at the winery. For the next three months I will be interning at ABC and Qupe two very fantastic wine labels situated in the same winery. ABC was started by Jim Clendenen and Qupe was started by Bob Lindquist both pioneers in the region starting around 1982. They were some of the first to plant Pinot Noir in the region and they continue to create fantastic wines.

The first week has been a lot of learning where everything is and how to do everything. Day one I was washing bins as the the harvest workers filled up the big press (I don’t recall the exact size, but they just kept filling it, there is a shovel for scale!)

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Pumpover on the medium fermentors for the first two days.

But for the most part I have been doing punchdowns and pumpovers. We start every morning punching down everything in the 1000 gallon tanks, unless they were crushed and destemmed within the last 2 days in which we pumpover morning and night the first day, morning the second day and inoculate with yeast the second night. They also have 6000 gallon tanks which also have to be pumped over twice a day, but those take an hour each. I got a bit nervous with those because last years intern switched the outtake hoses of two pumps and for 30 minutes was pumping Pinot Noir into Syrah and vice-versa. I was told that the Pinot Noir had some great color…

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The medium fermentors that we get to punch down every morning and night!

Jim Adelman, the general manager, also took me out to do some grape sampling to Bien Nacido vineyards and White Hawk Vineyards and a few others. We take those back to the winery and crush them up and Marrisa the assistant winemaker checks for pH and Brix. On the topic of vineyards, one thing that is very different from the Fingerlakes is that the Wineries are not affiliated with the Vineyards. They are completely separate business entities. The wineries typically sign three year contracts with the vineyards for certain blocks of grapes. In order to harvest the winery puts in a request to the vineyard manager. Many times the winery has to wait several days and up to a week before the vineyard is able to pick for them. That means there is a lot of patience and jockeying for position as to who gets the grapes first.

Grape Samples!
Grape Samples!

The final thing that I did that I had never thought about before was sampling wine from the barrels. The fermentation finishes in the barrels so for each of the lots that they have they must check the brix and temperature. They can tell when each is done fermenting and they monitor the temperature to keep everything in check. They were having me do the 2015 whites. The whole process entails having a wine thief and a gallon jug and you take a small sample from around half of the barrels. Some of the lots are stacked 6 barrels high so climbing the barrels was a bit of an adventure. I used a portable density meter to take those measurements, I only mention the tool because I recall seeing other viticulture and enology students in upper classes using one. It’s nice to be able to make the connections from classes to industry.

View of the barrels from six barrels up!
View of the barrels from six barrels up!
The Portable Density Meter! (only costs $3000... as they tell me after I almost drop it.)
The Portable Density Meter! (only costs $3000… as they tell me after I almost drop it.)

 

 

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