Oregon Winemaking Journey | Health, Love & Fire

Oregon Winemaking Journey

Monday, February 15, 2016

I've been asking Dan to share his experience volunteering at a local winery during harvest for a while . . . but I'm excited because today I finally have his post to share! And not only does he share it from his viewpoint but I also have the video of harvest from the winery and several cameos of him in that video (look for the guy in the ATL shirt...Go Braves!).

Well, Here is my post finally. I know Libby asked me to write something about the winery I help at so today I'm sharing my experience working Harvest. I have found a new hobby and I'm sure Libby would tell you it's a fairly expensive one. But I like how you can make a product and be able to change so many things about it during the process. During the summer and fall for the last 4 years I have been able to be a part of the Harvest team at one of our favorite wineries.

Stoller Family Estate is a winery outside of Dayton, Oregon, just about a 15 minute drive from our house. They start around 8:00am every morning of harvest. The mornings are cool and filled with lots of fog so a must have is coffee so that you can stay warm while outside and in. The fog starts and does not seem to lift all that often in Oregon during this season. Stoller used to be an old turkey farm back in the day. When Bill Stoller got the property he decided to make it into a winery. There are about 300+ acres of grapes on the estate with many different varietals or types such as, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, and Syrah. The majority is the Pinot Noir since it is so popular and prominent in Oregon. Stoller makes about 40,000 cases every year and wants to expand more over time.
Now to talk about what we do in the winery is the fun part for me. It is all hands on!! Every year there have been about ten harvest interns that assist the wine making team at Stoller. Then it goes down to about five in the winter months. But Harvest is the hardest part and an all hands on deck kind of job. All the fruit is picked on site by workers in the vineyard. They pick a section of grapes at a time and then they get put into plastic bins. The trucks then bring the grapes down to the winery to be processed. We have to hand sort all the grapes, so we pull out all the leaves, unripe fruit, rotting fruit and moldy fruit before it can go into the tanks. Grapes then go up the conveyor and get destemmed. This will separate the grapes berries from the stems. The stems make tannin flavors in wine as well as oak barrels but that is later. Some wine makers will also do what is called whole cluster fermentations, which means they would leave the grapes on the stems to sit for some time to get those flavors and tannins. So, once the sorting is done it is time to do a cold soak and wait a few days to get all the color out of the skins, then it will be time to add the yeast. This is when that super sweet grape juice turns into WINE!!!
When the fermentation takes off you have to do regular punch downs twice a day and keep an eye on the how long it takes to dry out. This means to gets to where there is no more juice for the yeast to eat. Once this happens it is time to rack the wine. They do this once it has reached what the wine maker likes for flavors in the wine. Racking the wine will get out more sediment and lees or the yeast byproduct. Racking can last for a day or two and then it is transfered into barrels. The barrels will allow the wine to breath just slightly and take on the oaky flavor to balance it out. Oak also releases tannins that is also helps to preserve it. The wine sits in the barrels for months to years and tasted throughout the process. Once the winemaker determines the right amount of  time has passed it is time to blend. A committee in the winery will sit down and add little amounts of wine together and try it till they find a combination they like.
I got started just by asking someone in the tasting room if they ever accept volunteers. We were there with Libby's parents, who are club members and by asking in the tasting room I got connected to the head winemaker who was willing to let me volunteer. Now four years later, I've been able to help with harvest each year and continue to learn more and be given more intricate tasks. Volunteering has been one of the coolest experiences and has taught me so much about wine making and the entire wine industry. This is only a short overview of the wine making process! I hope it leads you to the growing Pacific Northwest and Willamette Valley of wine country that we live in!

Here's a video that Stoller put together of harvest from two years ago to give you an even better look at the winemaking process . . .
 
One Day // A Harvest Story | Stoller Family Estate from AO Films on Vimeo.

19 comments :

  1. Oh my goodness, this looks like an amazing experience! I've always wanted to see wine being made and experience it for myself. I'm looking forward to a potential trip to California and Oregon next year and I'll definitely be visiting some!

    x Sarah
    http://www.bohochiccafe.com

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  2. Wow this is so cool!! I never thought about seeing it being made, but now I want to!! :) THanks for sharing

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  3. How fun! I'd love to go. Great pictures by the way.

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  4. Oh I want to do this for sure!!! Love this post :)

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  5. This is so cool!! I've been on several wine tours where they show you where it's done, but thanks for really showing us how it's done. So neat!

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  6. Stoller is one of my favorite local wineries! We finally became members after years of going there :) I've often thought about volunteering for harvest and think I will ask a local winery for this year's harvest. Thanks for the inspiration! ;)

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  7. What a gorgeous winery. I'm up here in WA state and we love visiting wineries, especially in Chelan, WA. Great photos!

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  8. We just enjoyed a tour of a brewery and I couldn't have any of the product at the end. I would love to go to tour a winery someday.

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  9. What a fun time! I think this would be such a fun trip with friends.

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  10. Oh wow, GORGEOUS! I've always wanted to go to Oregon and this sounds like the perfect trip to do there!

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  11. Wow! How fun! This looks like it would be such a cool thing to participate in every year. Right up my alley! Thank you for the post!

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  13. Wow! I loved being able to come on this journey with you through the photos! :)

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