The Mobile Bottling Truck

Realized how much planning and advance  ordering  goes into bottling day.

Realized how much planning and advance ordering goes into bottling day.

As amateur wine makers, we bottle our wine in small amounts, like a few dozen cases. One person takes the empty bottle, gases it and passes it in to the person manning the bottle filler.  Then, the filled bottle gets passed to the corker.  Then, it’s passed on to the person that puts everything into the case and seals and tapes the case.  We sort of save the labeling for special gifts, and,  if it’s for our friends and ourselves, we just write on the bottle.  We’ve got a pretty good system down with trained friends to man their places in the process. It’s a fun day, great jokes, and usually a lunch to follow, along with workers hauling home newly bottled cases of wine in payment for labor.

But, can you imagine what it would take to bottle 3,000 cases or more? Putting in a bottling line would take a lot of real estate, let alone money.  Small wineries need another option.  And that option is a mobile bottling line. I’ve always wanted to see how these worked.

Video showing the bottles leaving filler, corking, capping, and going to labeling

Video showing the bottles leaving filler, corking, capping, and going to labeling

Today, Dave and Helen allowed me watch the process as the bottling truck was scheduled to be at D’Arts Winery.  There’s a lot of work to do ahead of time to finish the wine.  Then, you have to have everything ready…cases and cases of bottles, bags and bags of corks and capsules, labels for each varietal and then the valuable component of friends, family and pallet movers. The the day arrives, the truck parks, the set up is started and every one takes their role in the process.  The truck is amazing! I was so intrigued with the engineering, machinery,  space planning, and speed of the process.  The empty bottles are loaded to the right side, gassed, filled, corked and capsuled in a space the length of the truck on one side.  As the line turns the bottles are spaced to a time prepping for label application

.   Labeling filled bottles

After labeling, they go back into the empty cardboard case, get loaded to the pallet, wrapped with plastic and moved to case storage . Pallets of cases waiting to be filled I wondered how the wine got to the filler, because obviously there was no room for totes or barrels.  I found out that the wine is pumped from the barrel or tote through a long hose to a smaller container on board the truck.

Totes being emptied by the pump

 Therefore, it explains the planning and preparation, as there is no time to move barrels or start and stop the process once everything is started.  Added to the timing today was an incoming storm threatening rain before everything was finished. But, it is done in a day, at a rate of about a case a minute.

 Amazing!

Thank you again for more schooling, Dave and Helen and Jessie!

Abby, big hugs!

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Springtime in the Vineyard

Lodi Grape Statue Downtown

We have the four “B’s” going on right now! Blooms, Birds and Bunnies! But most important, we have  bud break in the vineyard. Discing has started this week  between rain showers.  Driving by the vineyards, you see a line of green about 4 feet high floating over the ground as the new shoots of lime green have quickly developed in the last week.

We have bottling scheduled with many friends next month for our 2010 Zinfandel and Carigagne.  Time to set up the barn and equipment and tweak the wine a bit before then.

Spring brings many local events to Lodi.  This  Friday evening is the School Street  Stroll in downtown Lodi.  Congratulations to Borra Winery for its recognition as Winery of the Year by the VisitLodi Tourism Board.  Later this month, the fabulous  Asparagus Festival is in Stockton,  and we look forward to  the annual Zinfest next month at Lodi Lake.

Wine and Chocolate Weekend, February 2012

English: Corks at the Public tasting event of ...

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Cottages On Armstrong.

We are moving into February and look forward to our guests arriving for Wine and Chocolate weekend, February 10 and 11.  We fill up early for this kickoff to our  annual winery  events. Each winery features something fun and unusual, usually involving chocolate and food.   But there’s also entertainment!  Watts Winery  features a comedy performance, with proceeds benefiting cancer cure.  Acquiesce Winery will have a belly dancer and free fifteen minute lessons.  Borra Winery usually features Steve’s famous oyster bake.  The price of this event is 45 dollars and the benefits are tremendous.  Lodi Wineries recently received many awards at the largest wine judging event in th country, the San Francisco Wine Competition, with over 5,500 entries.  Enjoy these award winning wines while touring the wineries and don’t forget the new tasting rooms that have opened in downtown Lodi.

D’Arts Winery

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Our featured Lodi Winery this month is D’Arts Winery, located nearby.  Owners Dave and Helen excel in winemaking and creating a warm, welcoming winery environment.  They combine wine, art, food and entertainment for the guests and club members to enjoy.

The fun of  bottling and labeling your own wine is enhanced by the teacher at the bottling equipment! Enjoy barbecued dinners with outdoor movies in the summer, wine maker dinners and club  wine pickup events. And for those that want to participate in the wine making process, you may be able to sign up to help with pruning by adopting a row in the late winter.

The labels on the D’Art’s bottles are truly beautiful and created by the winemakers.  You can find many of the art works displayed at the winery along the walls and in poster format.

One of our favorite wines here is  called Dog Day Red.  It is the result of a serindipitous event, accidentally mixing a barrel of tempranillo and port, and the only problem since then is keeping it in stock!  If that happens to you, we recommend just getting the port until new releases appear!

Dave and Helen have continued to support the Lodi Amateur Vintners Association membership with mentoring and advice.  In 2010, Dave joined several of our local winemakers and community members to feature the first annual evening of art and wine called Artisan Masters.

Stop by for a pleasant comfortable wine tasting experience, meet the  beloved pets (Maggie and Abby), see if Brittany’s almond toffee is available and enjoy the barrel room and art and ambience.

Check out the events and special happenings at their website. http://www.dartwines.com/

Winter in the Vineyard

Tempranillo varietal wine bottle and glass, sh...

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It is late January in the vineyard. Pruning is being done, posts and wires are being tightened and repaired, and new wines are being racked and checked for corrections. Bud break will happen in about 6 weeks unless the weather turns very cold. Everything is at rest.

Winery owners will be returning from vacations and competitions. Lodi wines fared very well in the San Francisco competition last week…Wow! Best of class, gold, silver and bronze awards in abundance. Wine club members are anxiously waiting new releases due to sold out favorites, whites are being watched closely for bottling come up soon.

The Lodi Wine and Chocolate celebration weekend is coming February 11 and 12, 2011. This is a fabulous event locally. The Cottages are booked early for this event and Zinfest in May. But don’t overlook the Spring Wine Show in March!

Vineyard Harvest

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Harvesting by Hand

Harvest of the Zinfandel Vineyard at the Cottages Sept, 2010

It’s harvest time in the vineyard!  Harvesting equipment arrives the night before, and with the harvester pulled by the tractor, the gondolas, and the truck with the bins waiting to be filled with fruit, the equipment starts moving about 5 PM. Harvest is done in the evening, when the sugar levels are highest in the fruit.  The cool evening temperatures keep the fruit cool while the trucks are waiting to unload the bins at the winery.