As Explained by Winemaker Amanda Cramer
The basic concept of the winery is to deliver the fruit to the tanks without a must pump or must lines, while maintaining the ability to communicate from the fermentation floor all the way up to the crush level. To accomplish this, our architect (Tim Woodle of Pults and Assoc.) designed a cement mezzanine level that is not a full floor, yet is still strong enough to forklift out onto. The mezzanine is actually suspended from the ceiling (so there are no pesky columns below). Below the mezzanine, we decided to put the red fermenters in circular array to make it easier to convey the fruit to them without pumping. On the mezzanine level, we have four different bays where the fruit can be received. All the receiving and sorting equipment is “plug and play” so it can all be disconnected and rolled over to another bay.
We hand harvest all our fruit at night, so it arrives at the winery cold at 7am. Pickers never have to pick during the heat of the day, cellar staff aren’t standing around waiting for fruit to arrive, and we save a lot of energy, since we never have to chill down hot fruit. We have three levels of fruit sorting. The first takes place in the vineyard, where pickers are instructed to leave the “uglies” behind. The second level of sorting is a cluster-sort, pre-destemmer, followed by the third level, which is a berry-sort. The berry-sorting table conveys the fruit into the crush rollers. We dial in the crusher at the beginning of each new lot to make sure larger berries aren’t getting shredded, which results in leaving about 30% of berries (the smaller ones) whole. The crusher is positioned over a hole in the floor, where the fruit falls through a chute onto a straight white food-grade conveyor belt (just like the one used for cluster-sorting). There is a catwalk covering the entire space interior to the circle of tanks, putting the tank tops at about waist height. Each different pod is made up of a different size tank, so the catwalk level varies across the room.
Beyond the four pods, the white tanks are arranged in a more traditional rectangular array since there is no need to convey must. The white press is on a section of mezzanine that is a full floor and the juice goes down to the tanks via flexible hose through a hole in the floor.
It is part of our regular cellar training to discuss use and abuse of water. One of my biggest pet peeves in the winery is when I see someone using gallons of water to chase a single skin down the drain. I say, pick it up with your fingers! We are recycling 100% of our winery waste-water by putting it through a three-pond system: treatment pond, constructed wetland, and holding pond. Water from the holding pond is used to irrigate the vineyard, as well as a reserve for fire protection. The treatment pond has sub-surface aerators, so no old-school fans throwing dirty-looking water every which way. This cuts down on evaporation losses as well as aroma and definitely makes it easier on the eyes, even though it is tucked away in a spot interior to our property, in response to a request from our neighbors prior to construction. We are also collecting rainwater from all the non-permeable surfaces, most notably the roof. The roof has a rainwater catchment system which collects 36,000 gallons of water for every inch of rainfall, sending it down massive gutter pipes, which sound awesome from inside the winery! The first flush off the roof can be diverted to storm drains if need be, but we are currently sending it all to the holding pond, trying to save every drop.