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Alexis Nicolai
 
July 12, 2017 | Alexis Nicolai

Racking and Blending

It’s that time of year again! In early summer, we begin the racking process. The term ‘racking’ refers to moving wine from one vessel to another. At Emeritus, racking means moving the wine from the barrel to the blending tank; the final stage of winemaking, emptying barrels to blend then bottle. And just like that, we're one step closer to getting the 2016 vintage into your glass!

To get a better idea of how this works let’s back up to harvest time, after the wine has fermented we put it in French Oak barrels. We let that wine rest, undisturbed for 10 months (aside from some tasting and topping). During this aging process, the wine separates from the lees (dead yeast) and other solids and settles to the bottom of the barrel. When we rack the wine we leave this stuff in the barrel and only take the wine out for bottling.

Before we begin racking, every barrel must first be tasted. We check for reduction or any technical flaws in the wine. Next, our winemaking team inserts a tool that looks like a wand into the top of the barrel. This tool allows us to dip into the barrel just far enough to remove the wine without getting any of the solids at the bottom of the barrel. There is a line connected to this wand that is used to pressurize the inside of the barrel with nitrogen. This creates pressure in the barrel that forces wine up through the wand into the next vessel, in our case a larger blending tank.

The blending tank is the final stage before bottling, this gets all the different barrels from the vineyard into one place, think of it like mixing up a big pot of soup and you want all the ingredients mixed well so each bowl served tastes the same.

We can see when solids begin to get pushed up.
That's when we know the barrel is empty

Keith, our Assistant Winemaker is emptying a
barrel to a blending tank

Once all the barrels are emptied, we need to clean them so we can use them for the next vintage. We typically use our barrels for 5 vintages, before finding them a new home. To clean them, they have to be rinsed out really well with a tool similar to a pressure washer. Once they are drained, we use a big steamer wand inserted into the barrel to sanitize and remove any wine that may be stuck in the pours of the wood. Steaming the barrel creates so much pressure inside, you can actually see the ends of the barrel start to push out. Once the wand is removed, the ends of the barrel pop back into place.

Barrels being washed out after they are emptied Barrels being steamed for a deep clean

This is only the beginning, in only a few days we'll begin bottling the wines from the blending tanks then laying them down to rest for a few years before sharing them with you. At this stage the wines are exceptional, and it will be exciting to see how they develop in the coming years. After bottling we'll be prepping the winery for the 2017 harvest, tis' the season in Wine Country!

Comments

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