Tag Archives: merlot

Not unlike a major motion picture, our wine has been three years in the making -- from planting our vines to harvesting the first fruit to fermenting, aging and filtering the wine and, finally, bottling our first wines!  Last week, with the help of friends, we bottled 930 cases of Meritage, Merlot, Cycle 76 (aka Pinot Gris), Rivanna Red, Rose, and Viognier wine.

I want to start at the end and say thanks to our friends, Gary, Pam, Rick, and Stephanie for showing up early in the morning and learning the process with us through the day.  Thanks also to Matthieu and Jason at King Family Vineyards and the guys from Hunter Bottling Company for being our guides.

Cunningham Creek first bottling

Hunter Bottling Co. truck

 

The Hunter Bottling Company truck is amazing.  It is a self-contained mini-factory that cleans, fills, corks or caps, and labels bottles at an amazing rate and then expels the filled cases down a conveyor belt.

 

Placing bottles on conveyor CCW bottling

As you probably guessed this doesn't happen without human assistance.  Pam, Stephanie, Bruce, and I were the ground crew while Gary, Rick P. and Rick H. manned stations on the truck.  The process begins and ends with cases on a pallet.

Job #1 is lifting each case of empty bottles off the pallet and setting it down upside down on the conveyor belt to begin the bottles journey. First thing, it's cleaned with a jet of nitrogen and then it goes to the filler.

 

The clean bottles are then filled with wine and either capped or corked, depending on whether or not the wine was fermented in oak.  The Rose and Cycle 76 (aka Pinot Gris) were fermented and aged in stainless and capped.  The Merlot, Rivanna Red, Meritage, and Viognier were fermented and aged in oak and corked.

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After filling and corking/capping, comes labeling.

IMG_1740 Cycle 76 Pinot Gris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wine on its way to the box

Once labeled, the bottles travel down the belt to humans again.  Two sets of nimble and careful hands place each bottle back in the case and the last machine tapes it closed.  As you can see in this video, Gary, Rick and Rick worked hard and as this picture shows, they also had fun.

Cunningham Creek wine freshly bottled

 

labeling the boxes

 

After being taped, the box travels down the conveyor belt to more sets of quick and nimble hands.  This time the task is to label the box and place it carefully back on the pallet.

 

 

wrapping the loaded pallets

 

Finally, its wrapped in plastic and ready for transport.  It turned out that this job required special expertise and became the sole responsibility of Pam.

 

 

We sampled the Rose and Cycle 76 and gave it a thumbs up.  The reds go through a "bottle shock" period and need to "rest" for about a month before we taste them, so we are trying to be patient.   But, they will be ready for tasting along with our Strawberry Wine at our Strawberry Fest on May 21.  Hope to see you there!

Cunningham Creek corks

 

 

 

We finished our first harvest—hooray!

Before I tell/show you more about the harvest, I want to thank my “happiness engineer” (this is the title they use) at WordPress.com for telling me about an app called EXIFPurge that removes orientation metadata from photos. It’s now an added step to run my blog photos through EXIFPurge before loading them, but no more upside down/inside out photos!

About the harvest...

We harvested seven varieties which totaled 23 ½ tons of grapes from our vineyard and two vineyards we lease. Depending on the variety its now in barrels or tanks at King Family Vineyard transitioning from grapes to wine.

Harvesting is a truly tactile process—drawing heavily on sight, taste, and odor.  I can’t capture the taste or smell but I’ve got some great photos that will give you a sense of the whole Cab Francprocess.  We harvested four of the five red grapes that are used to make a Bordeaux blend.

Cabernet Franc (left)

Cab Sauv CabSav

 

 

 

Cabernet Sauvignon (right)

Merlot (left)

 

 

MFF Petit VerdotPetit Verdot

We also harvested three whites.

Young ChardonnayThis is young Chardonnay several weeks before harvesting.

Pinot Gris is the gray white winePinot Gris

 

 

 

 

 

Viognier

 

 

Viognier is the considered the white wine of Virginia.

 

In addition to great grapes, we discovered you need the help of fabulous friends and family to get the harvest in.

harvesting Cab Franc LHV

harvesting at LHV

 

 

 

 

 

We had some beautiful weather for harvesting and also some very wet days.  Can you identify the people under the rain gear?

Harvesting in the Rain LHV

 

Beth harvesting in the rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After harvest, the grapes were transported to King Family Vineyards and stored in the cold Weighing the grapesroom overnight.  Loading the trailer

 

 

 

 

 

The next day each pallet was weighed and then sorted.

 

sorting

Happily, we were fortunate to also have fabulous friends and family to help process the grapes at the sorting and vibrating tables.

sorting Cab Franc

 

 

 

So, what's next? First, Matthieu and Bruce will turn all those wonderful grapes into incredible wine.   Then, we'll share them with you at Cunningham Creek Winery (at Middle Fork Farm).  We plan to break this month -- stay tuned!