the midst of bottling the 2010 Willamette Valley
Pinot Noir at Coeur de Terre Vineyard. Bottling is a great deal of hard, repetitive work. Many wineries hire out the process. Scott Neal, the owner of Coeur de Terre, does not. He has a large investment in some highly temperamental Italian bottling machinery, so we do it ourselves. And there is a heck of a llot of wine to bottle this week. This extremely well priced Pinot has consistently sold out, so this year Scott has made more of it. In a long day of work we were able to bottle two pallets of wine. One pallet has 54 cases. We have a total of eight pallets to finish this week.There are five guys working with me. They are a regular part of Couer de Terre's staff. Usually most of them work out in the vineyard, but today they are in the winery helping with this process.
Scott introduces me to the line. He is at the corking machine and hands it off to me. I am immediately paranoid. You grab a bottle from the turntable where it has been filled, make sure that it has just the right amount of wine, and then push it into a knob which forces the bottle up into a shoot where a cork is pushed down into it. In my mind I could just see me miss the open-
ing and have the machine crash down and crushes the bottle severing my hand in the process. And, of course, I miss on several tries. Fortunately the machine is built to correct inappropriately placed bottles. Somehow I magically get moved over to the least mechanically challenging job on the line. I grab each bottle as it comes off the corking machine and clean it with a towel for the labeling machine. This little machine is Scott's personal nightmare. It is touchy, and without the least provocation with mangle the labels and bring the entire process to a halt.
Wouldn't you think bottling wine would be simple? I mean you put some wine in a bottle and stick a cork in it, right? Not so much. It takes a lot of technology. Before the bottle is filled it is inverted and filled with nitrogen gas. The nitrogen is slightly heavier than air, so it sits in the bottom of the bottle. When the wine is added, it pushes the nitrogen up to the top of the bottle. The corking unit has a vacuum which draws out any air as the cork goes in. All of this is to make sure no air is in contact with your wine.
After the labeling machine there is another one which presses the capsule over the the top of the cork. Then the bottles are placed in a Coeur de Terre box and set on a pallet. They don't arrive
at the winery in Coeur de Terre boxes, so they have to be taken from the shipping boxes, placed on the bottling line and then put into new boxes. After five or six hours of this work I'm beat. It is glorious out so I head into to the vineyard to look around. The sun is shining, but there are no birds. That seems strange until I hear a shot gun blast. This isn't one of the propane cannons. Some of the vineyard crew are out walking around with real shotguns. I'm thinking this will make the fake blasts much more effective.
At one point during the day, Lisa Neal comes down with paychecks, handing each one to the employees and thanking them for their hard work. Martin, who is working next to me, asks if I'm a friend of Scott's. It tell him that I'm an intern trying to learn about wine making. That I have another job which is paying me while I do this work, is just too confusing to communicate.
I am blessed to be able to experience all of this, blessed to work with Scott and Lisa, blessed that people I serve were willing to give me this extended time off to study winemaking.And there are some benefits. Right before
I leave Lisa walks up with some '10 Pinot Gris bottles that don't have any labels. They ran out of labels before they ran out of bottled wine. She gives me a few to take home. We have one with dinner and it is outstanding. Beautiful, tropical fruits with a deep minerality all beautifully balanced by a bracing acidity. Eventually I'm going to get to help make some of this beautiful wine. It will be worth doing all of this bottling just to get the chance to help make something so wonderful.