“Is 8am too early to try some wine?”
The fermenting grape aromas, the mulching of the grapes going into the press and the winery workers stained with red juice and grape skins are all part of the glorious process of turning grapes into wine.
Last weekend I was invited to spend a couple of hours watching the magic of this years harvest unfold. Anthony Yurisich, the 4th generation winemaker of Olive Farm Wines (OFW) let me watch while he, his Dad Ian and new team member and winemaker Sean pressed a couple of batches of red wine grapes.
We were pressing Malbec and Cabernet grapes on this particular morning. These grapes had already been destemmed and slightly crushed about a week ago and then popped into either big yellow containers or into super tall stainless vats.
During the time the grapes or must as we call it at this stage, are in the vat the yeast either from the grape skins or a special strand yeast added by the winemaker starts off the primary fermentation process.
During the primary fermentation the must has to be watched very carefully and throughout this time a process called pumping over takes place. This is done several times a day to create better contact between the skins and the juice. Grapes are like children; Anthony explained to me, they take a lot of attention and caring. You can grow the best grapes in the vineyard but its up to the winemakers to make that into a great wine. You can definitely make bad wine from great quality grapes!
Sean explained to me as he was setting up the press, that the grapes would have been in the tanks for about a week fermenting. OFW have various tanks of all shapes and sizes. With the Cabernet, Ian and Anthony really had to get their hands dirty. After siphoning all the juice out of the tank, they think had to shovel out all the grape skins. And boy was there a lot! Everything was pumped down into a big tube, which is then carried through to the press. The press is rather like a tank with a bladder insider that squeezes all the juice out through tiny holes and flows down into a sink below the press, which is then pumped into its final destination – tank or barrel.
The complete process takes roughly an hour or two depending on how much wine is being pressed. While the press is working its magic, it gives the guys the time to thoroughly clean everything in the winery. This is an extremely important thing to do in a winery, the longer you leave it to clean the worse it is.
“Is 8am too early to try some wine?” Anthony asked me. I am sure he meant that as a rhetorical question! Next up Anthony took me through the winery to try some wines straight out of the tanks/barrels. It was an amazing experience to taste how the wines are “growing”. Some were sweet like grape juice and others made me twist my face in contortionist ways. But once you got under the surface you really could taste/smell that sparkle of potential, which will one day be a stunning wine, enjoyed by all. Well maybe I do have those motherly instincts after all, well when it comes in wine!
After poking my nostrils into plenty of tanks full of wine, the carbon dioxide produced from the fermentation process started to tap rather abruptly with a headache at my door, so it was time to explore the vineyard! Anthony started off by showing me the bulky yet tall and slim machine, which picks the grapes. This machine shakes the vines at about 400 shakes per minute. Being one of handful of vineyards to own one of these in the Valley, Ian and Anthony were actually picking for another vineyard since 9pm the previous night! Yep grapes are definitely like kids, keeping you up all night demanding your attention!
We continued to stroll through the vineyard, trying some grapes here and there (delicious). During the morning I learnt a lot not only about the winemaking process but also about OFW and I have to admit it really got me excited about their wines. They have about 20 different varieties planted and are looking outside of that wine box. They are willing to try new things and experiment to help us make our taste buds happy!
I had a great morning at Olive Farm Wines and I want to extend a huge thank you to the team for letting me come along and being so informative and enthusiastic about explaining everything to me. I can’t wait to visit again and try my way through the 2013s when they are released.