Will Work For Wine

“Free Labor”

My husband, Shelly, and I have enjoyed drinking Texas wines for quite some time now. We’ve followed the stories of how the wines are made, where the grapes are grown, and how they get to the winery. We “get” the basics and we’ve often talked about participating in the various steps of getting the grapes from the vineyard into our glass.

Earlier this summer we had the opportunity to spend a day with fellow wine friends Dave and Kelli Potter at Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard near Saint Jo, Texas, as they received Tempranillo grapes from Adam Bishop’s vineyard in Childress, Texas, and Dr. Bobby Smith’s vineyards just down the road in Springtown.

We stepped in and helped shovel grapes, stems and all, into the hopper as the auger took them into the crusher de-stemmer.

Loading the destemmer
Loading the destemmer

The only problem with that process came when the grape clusters were so tight that the berries were holding on too tight to the stems! There was no room for the grapes to slip inside the holes of the barrel to be pulled off and then be dropped into the bin, while the stems are dropped into another bin for composting.

Watching to see if the grapes make it off the stem
Watching to see if the grapes make it off the stem

With these tight clusters, too many grapes were being left on the stems and the whole cluster was being dropped into the compost bin. This was not good at all! So we were taking these clusters by the double handfuls and dropping them back into the de-stemmer. As they were rolled back around and grapes were still left on the stems we reached in and started pulling the grapes off the stems by hand!!

After purple fingers and sunburned necks and legs we got all the bins processed and into the cellar to start the fermentation process. Several groups of people came out and watched as the grapes began their transformation from vine to wine.

Visitors coming to watch destemming process
Visitors coming to watch destemming process

Both Dave and Shelly assisted Patrick Whitehead, the winemaker, in doing pH analysis and brix readings as well as creating the yeast culture that would be used to inoculate the just crushed grapes. Other additions to the “must” included pectin enzymes, and untoasted oak dust to aid in color extraction.

Dave wants to have his own vineyard and winery one day so he was paying particular attention to the process and asking questions of Patrick and John, the vineyard manager.

While Patrick, Presley, and other employees cleaned up the equipment, Shelly and I along with the Potters went to the front porch and enjoyed the picnic lunch we brought ….and some Texas wine, of course!

Perfect picnic spot
Perfect picnic spot

It was very interesting to see the beginning process of how the grapes become wine!!

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