Who knew it would be so much fun to operate a bottling machine, a corking machine, a foil wrapping machine and a labeler, not to mention completing the steps in between? A group of us were literally holed up in Larry’s wine chemistry room (aka: the detached, windowless garage) for what felt like 15 hours each day. Yet it never got boring. In part, that’s because a lot of old school Madonna songs were coming on the radio but mostly it was because bottling wine is honestly fascinating.
So, here's how you bottle wine:
Before the actual bottling takes place, Larry and Dayle research, purchase and set-up all sorts of fancy machinery. Then they casually coerce their friends into kickin' it at the vineyard for some “Memorial Day fun.” Then said friends arrive and learn how to operate the machines. Each person gets to pick the one they like best and essentially becomes an expert operator by the end of the day.
Step 2, Fill 'er up: Fill four bottles at a time with vino, making sure each contains the correct amount of liquid.
Note: Of all the machines, I like the bottler best. That's the machine that's connected to a huge vat of wine via a vacuum cleaner-type tube. The wine flows through this tube and into a metal container. Then it's somehow pushed through four separate small, clear tubes that each end in funnel dispenser. The machine operator (me!) snaps one empty bottle into each dispenser and watches the wine flow into the bottles through the clear tubes. There's a trigger that stops the wine from overflowing but occasionally the trigger would fail and it would be my important job to "manage the excess", which I was very good at. And my strategy? Drink it, I Love Lucy-chocolate conveyor belt style.
Step 5, Smooth 'er out: Insert the top of each bottle into the foil smoothing machine. You can't imagine how wholly satisfying it is to see a crinkly, loose foil become smooth and fitted. Or maybe you can? (Smoothing machine video)
Then all you have to do is wait for bottle shock to pass and it's go time. Let me know if you want to be part of the wine tasting at my house that will take place as soon as Larry says we're not in shock anymore. In the meantime, I'll continue to trip over the case of wine every time I walk into my kitchen.
*Note: the grapes we harvested will likely be ready for bottling 3 years from now. The wine we bottled today was from Dayle and Larry's very first harvest in 2007.