Winemaker Richard Carmichael inspects the vines at Greenvale Vineyards
Ever wondered what it takes to be a winemaker? We asked Greenvale’s winemaker, Richard Carmichael, to give us an overview of what his typical week is like during harvest season.
Pre-Harvest: It’s my job to make the official judgment call on when to harvest. This includes measuring several key markers that are critical to the final color, flavor, and quality of the wine. First, I inspect the grapes for ripeness, flavor, and tannin development (seed color and taste). I then test sugar (brix), acid, and pH levels. If they’re up to par, I give the green light. Let the harvest begin!
Days 1 and 2: Rise and shine! There’s much to be done once harvest is underway, and it’s never too early to start. Getting out there and handpicking the grapes from the vines is the first step of harvest. It’s a team effort, and a great deal of work.
Much of my time is spent hauling one-ton bins of freshly picked grapes off to the winery to be crushed. I then wait for an opportunity to use the crush equipment that we share with our friends at Newport Vineyards.
During this period of harvest, my typical workday starts around 7am and can easily run 15 hours or longer.
Days 3 and 4: Harvests for a single wine variety can yield up to 10 tons of grapes. They need to be de-stemmed and crushed. Our team dumps the grapes into a large machine to make this happen. It crushes the grapes before they are set aside for two to three days for pre-fermentation maceration.
White wine then goes onto be pressed. This allows us to extract the juice and discard the grape skins. To press the grapes we use a basket press for small batches, or a larger machine when necessary. (We skip the pressing step for red wine grapes because the skins give the wine its rich color.)
As all of this goes on, I am in charge of cleaning the equipment after use. Sanitation might not immediately come to mind when you think of winemaking. It’s certainly not the most exciting part, but it’s crucial to the process nonetheless.
I make sure to deep clean every inch of the crushing equipment and then treat it with the proper solutions to rid it of harmful bacteria and other microorganisms. Ignoring this step could compromise the fruit and the finished product.
Days 5 and 6: The grapes are left to settle for a period of time after they are crushed or pressed. Usually, a day or two later, it is up to me to make sure the grape juice is racked. This means filtering it out of the settling tank to get rid of any residue prior to fermentation.
Once again, I set about cleaning. This time, it’s the tank out of which the juice was racked.
The next step is to inoculate the grapes with yeast to start the fermentation process that will turn it into delicious wine.
Day 7: Once the wine has started fermenting, I’ll be checking the wine’s progress daily. I’ll rack the wine again at the end of fermentation. Then it’s time for even more cleaning!
So far this year we’ve been enjoying a successful harvest. My team and I are looking forward to the day we can sit back and take a sip from the fruits of our labor.