Wine Bottling…for Fourteen Hours!
Our first act for the Sol Rouge Vineyard and Winery was wine bottling! While Maria was working in the wine industry in San Francisco, she helped with this job a few times, but this would be Neil’s first time bottling. It always proves to be a VERY LONG DAY, but we love those new wine experiences.
We knew we’d be starting very early so we were attempting to go to bed early. But, then we found out that we’d also be helping by tasting the current blends of wines, about to be bottled, the night before. This was pretty cool to get a sneak peek of all the wines! The winemaker asked our opinions and even made adjustments the next day due to our critiques.
The plan was to arrive at 7am on Monday morning, so we made sure to have breakfast and lunch ready to go. We grabbed our coffees and hit the road to start our day. There were a few tasks to be done before we actually started bottling. The first thing Neil and I did was taste the white wine from the night before to help come up with a different blend. Nothing like wine tasting before 8am! Then we had to re-roll the first batch of labels. We weren’t really sure why it had to be put on a new spool but we found out that the roll was wound “off left” but needed to be “off right”. This means that it had to unwind in a certain direction in order to be placed on the bottle correctly. It makes much more sense now that I’m not half asleep and standing in a winery.
Once we were all prepped and ready to go, it was around 9:30. We would be using a mobile bottling facility. This means all the machines are brought in on a trailer and the staff works right inside the trailer to do all the bottling tasks. It was a chilly day so I was all bundled up. There are six jobs involved: 1. blowing air out of the bottles and placing on the filler, 2. filling and corking, 3. place a foil capsule on the bottle neck, 4. seal the foils and hand the bottle to the labeler, 5. place the label on the bottle, put the bottle in the box and send it down the conveyor belt, 6. stack the finished case boxes and also put the empty boxes of bottles on the other conveyor belt. It takes a few minutes to get into the groove of your task but then it runs pretty smoothly! Neil and I were both working on the capsules; I’d put them on and he’d seal them.
Since this is an assembly line, you are doing the same thing over and over, so it kind of turns into an RSI waiting to happen. In order to prevent this, Neil and I did a lot of stretching! Maybe next time, we should suggest a yoga workout during lunch? Despite the repetitive nature, we had a great mix of music playing and the delicious smell of wine to keep us going. Also each time we switched wines, we had about a 10 minute break. It was kind of hard to keep track of how many wines we filled but the first one was certainly a big lot. It ended up being around 100 cases of wine, which is over 1000 bottles for those of you keeping track!
We ended up bottling two brands that day, one in the morning and one after lunch, six wines per brand. After the first brand was complete, we couldn’t believe there was a whole other brand to do but luckily that second brand, Sol Rouge, was less wine per lot, closer to only one barrel each. And for the sake of wine math, it was about 20 cases per wine.
Around 6pm, our food had run out and our energy was wearing thin, but I got to change jobs since a couple of the guys had to leave. Now I was in charge of putting labels on. This is a job that I remember enjoying but it definitely works your whole body. You have to grab one bottle of wine with your left hand to put it on the machine, then use your right hand to take out the bottle with the label and place it in the box. With my lack of energy, it seemed to go pretty slow but luckily nobody else really had any energy to heckle me either. We still had 3 lots to complete but managed to wrap up just after 8pm.
Once we arrived back to the vineyard we were pretty exhausted but we were rewarded with wine and burgers for dinner. There was even a hot tub, hot and ready for us to enjoy. It certainly helped with all those sore muscles! It was definitely a long day of hard work but it is always nice to see the big stacks of wine all bottled and ready to sell. I’d help with bottling again but maybe give myself another year or two off before I volunteer!
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