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Bench 1775

Kendall Harris
October 28, 2014 | Kendall Harris

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. :)





Time Posted: Oct 28, 2014 at 6:23 PM
Kendall Harris
October 3, 2014 | Kendall Harris

It's Harvest 2014 in the Okanagan

It's autumn on the Naramata Bench, and we are in the throes of the 2014 Harvest!

We picked our first grapes on September 19th, and since then there has been constant activity at Bench 1775: containers of grapes being filled in the vineyards and delivered to the winery, grape crushing on the aptly named crush pad, fermentations are started & checked daily, and the whole time, the team has its eye on the weather, which can determine when the grapes will be ready and whether we can even pick (ie no picking when it rains, it dilutes the grape juice!).

Winemaker and General Manager Val Tait directs and supervises the activity, and visits the vineyards daily to taste individual grapes as they ripen, and to take samples of grapes from different areas throughout the vineyard.


Val returns grape samples to the winery, where Sonja, who assists her in the lab work so necessary to winemaking, crushes the berries and analyzes the resulting juice for sugars and acids. Between tasting the berries, and examining the numbers that come from the lab, Val decides when the grapes get harvested.


Bench 1775 grapes are hand-harvested, each cluster cut carefully off the vine, and the grapes are returned to the winery.

“I’m super excited about the quality of the fruit that’s coming in,” says Val. “The first picks of our sauvignon blanc have come in, the more grassy, bright components of the sauv blanc blend. The Gewurztraminer has come in, and the first of our Chardonnay, for our new Chardonnay program. Stay tuned for that!”


Once they are delivered to the winery, the grapes go immediately into the crusher de-stemmer, which removes the grape berries from the stems and gently crushes the grapes, producing the juice that will one day be a Bench 1775 wine! Sonja and the other members of the winery team check on the fermentations daily to ensure the yeasts are doing their job exactly as they're supposed to! 


“So far, we have two finished wines,” says Val, “And three more that are almost finished and they are fabulous! I’m very excited about the wines as they’re completing, and I think they have even better potential than last year, but there’s a lot that can happen between now and harvest!”

This is Val’s 23rd vintage. “Some years are way more stressful than others," she says. "This one I’m sleeping a little bit better.”

Be sure to Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Bench1775 for regular updates from the team. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @Bench1775.

Time Posted: Oct 3, 2014 at 12:12 PM
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