Bottling is the culmination of several years of winegrowing effort. For this reason it is arguably the most stressful aspect of winemaking. There are a lot of moving parts and players. Everything has to come together with perfect synchronicity.
Timing of bottling is important. This past week we bottled Claret and Petit Verdot 2016. We used to bottle these wines after 20 months in barrel, but have now shortened the interval to 15 months. This reflects a stylistic change and a respect for the vintage: we want to capture the fruit and freshness that the 2016 vintage gave us.
There is also a logistical aspect for choosing the week. It was very cold and windy, therefor difficult to do any vineyard work. Best to stay inside and bottle. The bottles were delivered back in December. We need to get them here before any chance of snow as a loaded 53 foot tractor trailer on our snow packed steep windy lane would not have a good outcome.
The “North Cellar” where we set up our bottling line is underground, but still susceptible to water pipe freezing. And that it did the week before bottling. Fortunately we had a brief thaw and were able to repair the burst pipes.
The bottling line has not run since August. I’m always amazed at what can go wrong as a piece of equipment just sits dormant. But we can count on some sort of problems went we start her up. Jonathan is well versed in our GAI Italian bottling line, but all it takes is one cracked “O” ring to stop the bottling.
This week my final concern was getting all the staff here on the first day of bottling. Snow was predicted that morning and these mountain roads can be dangerous. Fortunately we got just a dusting. Bottom line, we had a gloriously boring two days of bottling (with one “O” ring induced hiccup). That’s as good as it gets!