The Basics of Winemaking

Last post, we shared a few pictures of the harvest season in progress.  This post is going to pick up where harvesting leaves off: making wine.  If you’re new to winemaking or if you’re a seasoned pro, we’ll think you’ll enjoy this post.  So, open a bottle, pour yourself a glass of Swan Creek wine, and read on.

The steps to winemaking are essentially the same, whether you’re making a red, white or rose:  Pick the grapes, squeeze out the juice, ferment the grapes, age it, and then bottle it.  Of course there are variations along the way, but everything comes back to these basic steps.  We covered picking the grapes last time, so next up is squeezing the juice.

Getting Ready to Process Grapes

This step, also known as crushing, typically takes place out on the crush pad.  Freshly harvested grapes are brought to the winery in large bins.  The bins are emptied into a machine that crushes, de-stems, and extracts the juice.  Once the grapes are crushed, they’ll take a different path depending if it’s a red or white.

For white wines, the juice is separated from the skins and any other debris.  Red wines remain in contact with the skins for an extended period of time to allow for color and flavor extraction.  Fermentation also occurs during this time and the longer the wine stays in contact with the skins, the darker and more flavorful the finished wine will be.

Fermentation at Laurel Gray Vineyards

Fermentation starts when the winemaker adds yeast to the pressed juices.  Most wines are fermented until all sugar in the juice is gone (making a dry wine).  If any natural sugars remain, this will make a sweeter wine.  After fermentation is complete, the wine is filtered to remove the spent yeast.

Stainless steel tank or barrel, which do you like best?

Wine will age in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels from just a few months up to a year or two.  The aging time will allow wines to mellow and become much more smooth.

Windsor Run Cellars: The Bottling Line

Windsor Run Cellars: The Bottling Line

After the desired aging time, the wine is ready to bottle.  Bottles are filled, corked, labeled, and then boxed up. They need a few weeks before they’re ready to be sold.  At this point, you’ll can pick up a wine from one of our tasting rooms.  Come visit our vineyards and try one for yourself!

Harvest Time at the Vineyards

Harvest is always a busy time at the vineyards and this year is no exception!  Take a look at some of the activities that go on in the vineyard to make these great Swan Creek Wines.

Harvesting Grapes at Laurel Gray Vineyards

 

Chuck Hauling Grapes at Shadow Springs

 

Harvested Grapes at Laurel Gray

 

Jamey and the Grapes at Shadow Springs

 

Harvested Grapes at Laurel Gray Vineyards

 

Harvested Grapes Ready for the Winery

 

Getting Ready to Process Grapes

 

Fermentation at Laurel Gray Vineyards

 

Want to learn more?  Come visit our vineyards and see for yourself just how much is going on!  Stay tuned for our next post about the basics of wine making.

The Secret to Good Wine

You may have heard the phrase “great wine starts in the vineyard”.  Have you ever really thought about what that means? The Swan Creek Wine Trail takes great pride in the grapes we grow. We have first-hand experience in growing excellent grapes and we know that the secret to good wine is great grapes.  In this post, we’ll highlight a few important factors into growing great grapes.

What Makes a Great Grape?

 

Bud break at Laurel Gray

Grapes Flowering at Dobbins Creek

Throughout the growing season, there are several critical times that help shape the season to come.  Grape vines start growing as winter fades and the weather warms up.  Bud Break is the first milestone of the season. If the tender parts of the vine are interrupted during this phase, it can be disastrous for the rest of the year.  Next is Flowering and Fruit Set.  As you can guess, this is when the vines produce flowers which eventually become grapes.

Verasion at Laurel Gray Vineyards

After the grapes develop, they hang on the vines absorbing sunlight and nutrients.  They eventually change colors.  This process is called Verasion.  Here, sugars start to develop and acid levels drop to a normal range.  The grapes will hang on the vine until they are fully ripe.

Caring for Grapes

Bird Netting at Shadow Springs Vineyard

Throughout the growing season, vineyard workers take great care of the vines helping to direct energies and nutrients into the grapes.  Pruning, hedging, and leaf thinning are activities that help the grapes grow and ripen.  Another key activity is keeping pests and diseases at bay.  Birds are a particular issue.  Although they do keep bugs out, some birds like to eat grapes more.  Protecting the grapes from the birds usually involves wrapping the vines in netting.  It’s also important to keep the grapes nice and dry to prevent mold and mildew from forming.

Harvest

Harvest at Windsor Run Cellars

Picking the right time to harvest is critical as grapes don’t ripen after they’re removed from the vines. Finding the right balance between sweetness and acidity is crucial.  The natural sugars in the wine ferment into alcohol and the acidity helps to make a wine flavorful and bright. Want to learn more about harvest?  Stay tuned for our next post to learn more or come visit our vineyards!