My first week at Bin to Bottle has been busy! I arrived on Monday night and was up bright and early for work on Tuesday.
Tuesday I got a quick tour of the facility and then I helped sanitize some lines in preparation for arrival of wine and whisky that needed to be moved from the tanker to a tank. Sanitation is taken very seriously here, initially it seemed excessive as Au Bon Climat and Qupe (vintage 2015) only washed water through the lines and pumps before and after moving any wine. Looking back that seems like too little is done to clean and sanitize (too little being no sanitation in this case). That being said Au Bon Climat and Qupe are their own clients. Bin to Bottle has thousands of barrels, thousands of gallons of wine that they work on for clients. If something goes wrong, they lose that client and potentially other clients who hear about it. So a four stage sanitation process (caustic, water rinse, citric acid, and phosphoric acid) is a cheap form of insurance against introduction of any unwelcome microorganisms. While we were moving the whiskey I also noticed that we were using an air pump. What’s so special about whiskey that it gets to have it’s own special pump? Well, electric pumps get a little excited at times when working with whisky (I mean who doesn’t) and when the pump sparks so does the whisky and the chemistry only gets hotter and more explosive. 128 proof alcohol and sparks can get “a little flamey” as a friend of mine once said. So unless the pump doesn’t have it’s head in the clouds and stays grounded use an air pump when dealing with high proof alcohol!
Wednesday I had the opportunity to do some barrel to barrel gravity racking.
Thursday I sampled barrels.
Friday I topped barrels. That was more exciting because while I have topped barrels before, I had never used a pressured keg and line to do it. It makes the job much faster and and cleaner. The one downside is having to use a ladder to climb up the barrels. Understandably it is a safety thing, but speed drops to a crawl when using a ladder, that’s one thing that I will have to think about in the future if I have my own winery or work for a winery. Does the speed lost versus the savings in liability balance out with the use of ladders in a barrel room? It probably tips heavily in favor of the savings in liability but I’ll still complain until I’m not working in the barrel room anymore!
Yesterday (Saturday) I went up to Robert Mondavi for a tasting. They have wonderful wine and excellent customer service. I was given business cards for an “Alan Christensen” so I spent 2 hours as Alan. It turns out when you work in the trade in Napa, people want to know where you live and how long you have been in business and all sorts of things. Lo and behold I didn’t know any of this stuff as I have spent very little time in Napa, but vague answers are always the way to go.
Interrogator: Where are you from?
Alan (played by me): Oh you know Napa.
Interrogator: Oh me too!! Where in Napa?
Alan: Not really in Napa, more south of Napa…
Alan: SOUTH, I LIVE SOUTH
Alan quickly turns away before further questions can be answered and concentrates intensely on his wine, beads of sweat dripping down his neck…