Making wine by Moonlight, er, by Spotlight at Bench 1775

Harvest 2014 has presented some unique challenges, namely, alot of fruit, ready, harvested and delivered to the winery all at the same time.

“This year we have had to wait for the fruit to be ready, and it seems like it’s all coming in at once,” says General Manager and Winemaker Val Tait. “It’s been a challenge finding room for it all!”

Alot of fruit all at once also means that the winery staff has been divided up into shifts, so there is constant activity all day, and on many days, also well into the night.

Here is a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Bench 1775 team, making our award-winning wine by moonlight — well, by spotlight. 🙂

Associate Winemaker Patrick O’Brien walks through the winery at night. It gets pretty dark on the Naramata Bench, and the winery just seems to glow!

These grapes arrived after the sun went down, and must be processed right away.

The grapes are fed into a crusher-destemmer machine, which separates the berries from the stems — note the greenish stems that come out the bottom of the machine. Note also our team member Janice, who is well insulated against the cold and the wet; it’s impossible to do this job without coming into frequent contact with grape juice and fermenting wine!

The crush pad houses the Press, and is lit up at night with a huge spotlight. If you squint, it kind of looks like the moon landing! 🙂

Once they’ve been through the destemming process, the grapes are funnelled through a long tube into the Press. The Press contains a big balloon, called a bladder, which inflates and gently presses the grapes against the side of the Press, and the juice runs down into a large tray at the bottom. It is then pumped into the winery and into a stainless steel tank, where it will rest and soon become wine. This is our 2014 Pinot Gris.

Inside the winery, things are just as busy. Sonja takes a sample of Cabernet Franc from a tank and takes its temperature, literally. 🙂 The tanks have been warming up the juice to a temperature that is hospitable to the introduction of yeast, so she’s checking to see if it’s ready, and it is! Stay tuned for a future blog post about inoculating the grape juice with yeast to make wine!

Also going on in the winery several times a day during harvest, even into the night, are Pumpovers. Our tanks of red wine contain the juice as well as the skins of red grapes, so the skins can soak in the juice and give it that nice rich red wine color. The skins float to the top, and might dry out up there, so our team members, like Tom here, pump the juice from the bottom of the tank and spray it over the skins on top so it soaks through.

And at night in the winery, it’s hard not to notice the dark, quiet barrel room, where the barrels are hanging out, doing what they do best: lending complexity and mellowness to our wines, with time and patience.

Good night and sweet dreams from Bench 1775. 🙂