Happy Wines come from Happy Winemakers

This is a continuation of the blog “A First of It’s Kind

Happy Wines come from Happy Winemakers

If you had to guess what the most stressful days a winemaker has, most would guess picking or bottling or speaking in front of crowds. Not for me. My greatest stress comes from one particular job…filtering.

The issue is that with a conventional plate and frame filter using pads, there is a fair amount of educated guessing that goes into the mix. My job is to take into consideration how many times the wine has been racked, what the turbidity (cloudiness) of the wine is, what the volume of the wine is to be filtered, and how long I hope to be filtering (or how short I hope to be filtering).

From this information, I choose the porosity (the size of pores in the filter pad) and number of pads to put into my filter frame.

The issue is that you want to choose just the right filter for the job. If I choose a filter with slightly larger pores than the “solids” in the wine, then the wine sails through the filter and does very little (except I’ve wasted the day, thrown away pads, and moved the wine again).

If I choose a pore size that is way too small for the solids, then the pads plug before I finish the filtration. And then I need to either set up a new filtration and/or choose different pads.

If I’ve chosen poorly, it takes several hours to know this. Once filtering, I watch the pressure of the wine going into the filter versus that of the wine coming out of the filter. The higher the pressure difference, the more the pads are filling up with solids. At some point, it becomes a diminishing return where the rate of wine being pushed through is just too slow.

Lastly, these filtrations are done just prior to bottling, so there’s little room for error (or else the bottling schedule gets all messed up).

Stress, stress, stress. Until now! With the crossflow filter, I filter the wine only once, regardless of the turbidity. The crossflow uses a technology that essentially keeps “cleaning” the small pores of the membrane while filtering the wine. The dirtier wine is flushed back into the original tank to be filtered again. No questions of whether the filtration will finish or the wine will be “clean” enough. Just pure happiness.

Why is this important? We’re a small, family business. Stress is nothing new, but to alleviate this kind of stress from say 30 days a year makes Paul a happier person. And when I’m happy, it’s a much happier environment for everyone!

And the bonus is that, unlike the old pad filter, the wine coming through the crossflow filter tastes as good coming out as it does going in. That makes me even happier!!!

The Crossflow Special

To make all this happen, Maggie asked me how I planned to pay for the majority of the $50,000 price tag of the crossflow filter. With the success of our pump sale a couple of years ago, we found out that the greater Madroña family (you all) had an interest in being a part of helping get specific pieces of equipment for the winery. There’s a sense of ownership as well as the thought that with each sip of the special wine, people have made something possible that maybe would not have happened.

I intentionally hold several wines back for rerelease later in their lives knowing that 1): the additional cellaring will only improve the wine, and 2): we have the responsibility of cellaring the wine (since most people don’t hold onto wines once purchased).

The wine of choice for me for this crossflow purchase is our 2009 Signature Collection Zinfandel. A warmer year produced a big, full-bodied Zinfandel with plenty of ripeness and wonderful structure. The purpose of a few more years of age on this wine is toning down the ripe fruit characters (allowing the subtleties of spice and earthiness to come through) while showcasing the suppleness and luscious texture of a great Zin (with cellaring).

To entice you, our greatest tasters, to support this effort, we are offering our employee discount (50%) to all of you on purchases of full cases of this Zin. Normally, at the $26 pricepoint, a case of this Zinfandel (non-aged) is $312. With the Crossflow Special, you’re looking at $156/case (+tax, of course).

Although I didn’t hold onto enough of the 2009 Signature Collection Zinfandel to pay for the entire crossflow filter, we can get most of the way with your help. We started showcasing this special (and tasting the wine) about three weeks ago in the tasting room. With only that exposure, we’ve already sold through half of my inventory. So time is short and we’d love your support.

Thank you for being a part of the Madroña community!

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