Harvest is always a sensitive time in the cellar, because with long work hours, people get tired and can be more prone to make mistakes. We had a case in point tonight with the Block B grapes that were harvested today…..The sorting table was busy all day with others' grapes, thus we started sorting Block B at 7 p.m. and continued on until midnight. Quite nice…cool, quiet; a pleasant evening until…Bernard went downstairs (the grapes fall by gravity, from the sorting table through a hose, down into a fermenter below in the cellar below) to check the fermenter we were sorting into. To his dismay, the large bottom valve was leaking….slightly thank goodness, but….when he tried to tighten it; it leaked more, indicating that the "leak" was not due to the valve not being tight, but due to someone else in the cellar, who had prepared the tank…forgetting to put a gasket in which would seal the valve firmly to the tank. He put a 50 gallon tub under the tank to catch the leak, while we finished sorting. Then we considered the options…none were pretty. And meanwhile these was a 2 hour crusher cleanup to do (washing all parts of the sorting system and then hosing down with high pressure hot water, to be clean for the next day). But what Bernard finally did was quite creative…and photos attached illustrate…
He drained the juice from the tank, into a clean (properly valved) next door neighbor tank. This left the grape skins in the original tank. And with the juice gone, the top of the skins was just below the side gate of this tank. So he opened this gate, climbed into the tank, dug down through the grape skins to the valve, and plugged it, from the inside, with a plastic 2 liter plastic bottle!!!! This allowed Teresa, on the outside, to remove the valve, put the gasket in, and put the valve back on. The juice was then moved back into the original tank, dry ice spread on top for protection from oxygen, until fermentation starts.Disaster averted. And they both went home at 5:30 a.m.
Photo #1 - Bernard knee deep in Block B Cabernet, getting ready to dig forthe valve outlet.
Photo #2 - Taken from the outside of the tank - plastic jug with cap plugs pipewhile valve removed and fixed
Photo #3 - a grin for success
Vilafonte's Winemaking Partner
That's the first time i've heard of dry ice being used to minimise oxygen contact. hope it works; a more constructive use than a rock band would put it to!
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