Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Love The Smell Of Fermenting Chardonnay In The Morning...

From Daniel Orrison - Intern at Chateau Montelena

Things around the winery sure are picking up. Over a 160 tons of Chardonnay has been crushed in the last week alone and several tanks have started fermentation. Workdays have gone from 8-hour shifts to an average of 13... and our (the interns) long weekends spent wine tasting and relaxing around the Valley are officially over. I know, the tragedy! This aside, though, life is good-- actually, life is great. The experience we are gaining is priceless and the work is incredibly rewarding. Our responsibility level has also been greatly increased – which means no more babysitting, constant monitoring, or safety tutorials as the amount work at this time of year simply wont allow. But on to a few things I’ve been surprised by thus far.

I’m amazed at how quickly the circumstances of any particular day can fluctuate. There is absolutely no formula or set of guidelines one can follow if he/she wishes to live the harvest lifestyle. Anything can happen! This week alone two presses have broke down, grapes have shown up late, more have come in than expected, rain has been in the forecast (followed by extremely high temperatures), new machinery needs to be adjusted, and the interns are asking about everything… which undoubtedly takes up precious time. Flexibility is key to any great wine we have been told.

I think it’s safe to argue that the winemaker is today’s version of a Renaissance Man… that is, he/she has to do and know a bit about everything. He must be an engineer (who can fix a press when it breaks on the spot… well done, Cameron), a scientist (concerning the who, what, when, where, why, and how to pick the grapes), a romantic (naturally, due to the nature of the business…), an artist (as a wine is most certainly painted), and a craftsmen (for there is always something’s around the winery that must be adjusted by hand). The position is truly interesting as making wine is the perfect mixture of exactly that – craft, art, and science.

In other exciting news around the winery, yesterday we crushed our first batch of Estate Cabernet. The grapes are MUCH smaller and also more thick skinned than the Chardonnay. Which, for the interns, means much easier to sweep and clan up. We also just received a new sorting table (MOG separator) for the crush pad. I’ve been told this too should make our life a bit easier. Spoiled, I know.

But as Cameron has said, the crew really is coming together as a team. Harvest looks to be picking up more so with the heat wave coming through and things should really start to get interesting. Lunches are better than ever… 2260 pounds and counting.

Up or down? What’s you call?

Best from Montelena,



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