Bottling the 2013 Pinot Noir

Nothing about bottling day is hard, but everything about bottling day is difficult. Glass bottles, metal foils, corks, and labels are handled separately, each procured from unique vendors. You can have your labels printed at any time, but they are illegal to use until approved by the government. If your approval paperwork is misfiled or delayed, you might end up ordering labels before they are actually approved. This is a potentially costly gamble. On the other hand, biting your nails and awaiting approval first may necessitate a “rush order” to the printer, with no guarantee you’ll have your completed labels in time. Bottling unlabeled glass, called “shiners,” can be equally costly. At Bruliam, we use a spreadsheet to calculate our wine volumes. It’s really a guess. You have a wine barrel of fixed volume (228L), and you guestimate your losses. There’s evaporation from the top of the barrel, called headspace. There’s also a volume lost to lees. It’s a by-product of my winemaking style, known as “sur lies” aging. It means I keep the wine with the original yeast, holding onto the ghosts of harvest past until the very end. The skeletons of dead yeast settle to the bottom of the barrel, sponging up some volume of wine with them. You’ll also lose volume to filtration, although it’s far less now since we switched to cross flow from pads. The delta between the volume of wine we think we have versus what we actually bottle means we always order too much or too little product. I’m now the proud owner of giant trivet made of “2013” embossed corks, leftover from my rose. I forgot to have the corks rehydrated and resealed in time to reuse them for the 2013 pinots. It’s now a trivet of regret, since Brian miscalculated our current cork order, and we ended up 500 short.

As I write this on the night before bottling, I think I’ve got it under control - that is until there’s a new, unforeseen implosion tomorrow at the bottling line. Since last Friday, we have mitigated the cork shortage disaster and solved one glass problem with another. We’d originally anticipated a bottling line change, where we’d have to swap out the majority glass mold for a measly 26 cases of another. (Apparently the glass mold we’ve been using for years has been discontinued). On the bright side, we don’t have to stop the bottling line anymore. Everyone is relieved. On the flip side, the 26 cases of fallback glass, my “calculation-cushion” if you will, doesn’t exist. The warehouse forgot to delete that line item from inventory back in 2011. Whoops. If I’m lucky, I will sneak by with just enough glass, exactly on the money. But Brian has suggested I take an Excel class at community college this spring.

The best news is that our new Torrey Hill label was approved two weeks ago, some 10 days after we placed the order with the printer. And the wine is delightful. In fact all of the 2013’s are tasting great. I am very proud of the vintage. But I don’t want to get all sappy and quixotic about my wood-fermented 2013 Soberanes pinot when you’re all about to get the 2012. Get ready for the 2012 release and drink to bottling day 2013. Before we blink, we’ll be onto the 2014 harvest.


Update 8/20/2014 - so far so good.  The 2013 Torrey Hill is in bottle.  Now on to the next ones: