For pinot noir, bottling is the last step in a nearly two-year process that takes grapes from the vine and puts wine on your table. If you've ever seen a wine bottling, you may think it looks like a lot like manufacturing, and not nearly as romantic as winemaking sounds. The truth is, every step of the process is absolutely essential to ensure that you not only pour a quality wine from that bottle, but that the wine can beautifully and gracefully age in the that bottle.
Let's take a look at how bottling works. Earlier this month, we bottled our two, newest pinot noirs: the 2019 Russian River Pinot Noir and the 2019 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. We're especially excited about the Santa Lucia Highlands release, as it is our first bottling of pinot noir from this unique and gorgeous appellation.
Bring In The Bottling Truck
It all starts with a big truck that looks like this:
It's not a food truck - it's better. It's a Moble Bottling Truck, which contains all the necessary equipment to clean, fill, cork and label a wine bottle. Trucks like this can set up quickly directly outside a crush pad or warehouse and bottle tens of thousands of gallons of wine per day.
First, the wine is poured from barrels (or stainless steel tanks, if those were used for fermentation) into large tanks like this one. Notice the tubing that leads to a regulator that can start or stop the wine from reaching the bottling truck.
The bottling crew then takes cases of pre-sanitized wine bottles and empties them onto a conveyor belt that guides them onto the first mechanism, a machine that blasts nitrogen into the bottle to not only clear out any remaining dust particles, but to eliminate oxygen from the bottle. The bottle is then transfered from this machine to the one that dispenses a perfect 750 ml of wine into the bottle. In this video, you can see the first process on the right, and the second one on the left.
The bottles are then corked. A machine pops a burst of nitrogen into the top of the bottle to push out the tiny bit of oxygen remaining, then a cork is inserted to the bottle. This ensures that the least amount of oxygen remains in the bottle, so that the wine inside will age without oxydation.
The bottles then move along the conveyer to where they'll be labeled. The labels are printed on giant rolls, which unwind as the bottle goes by. A roller affixes both the front and back labels.
Finally, the bottles are placed in cases, where they are sealed by hand and placed on pallets for warehousing. At this point, the wine is in "Bottle Shock," a phenominon that occurs when wine has been shaken or disturbed more than normal. Bottle Shock can result in a wine tasting disjointed or imbalanced, so it's recommended that recently-bottled wines are allowed to settle for at least a few days. We typically extend that period to 60 days, just to be sure. (Pro Tip: Bottle Shock can even occur after the shipping process, so it's recommended that wine you purchase by mail be allowed to rest a couple of days before being consumed).
We'll be celebrating Pinot Noir Day on August 28th, and if the 2019s are ready for their debut by then, they'll be making their debut. Sign up for our Newsletter to keep informed about our plans for Pinot Noir Day events all that week!
If Memorial Day is Summer's Official Kickoff, July 4th is Summer's All-Star Game. Time to get together with family & friends and celebrate the best that summer - and our country - has to offer. Time to show off those finely-honed BBQ skills, create the best recipes, and uncork your favorite wines.
Like all of us in this great country, the vines that create the wines we love so much are immigrants, too. When winemaking started in the U.S., early winemakers quickly discovered that there were only two varietals native to America that produced drinkable wine: Cynthiana and Catawba. In fact, one of the first commercial wineries in America was founded in Ohio in the early 1800s, and exclusively produced a sparkling Catawba that was said to "rival the most exquisite champagnes of France." Otherwise, the Cabernet, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and other popular varietals that adorn our 4th of July picnic tables all come from a European import, Vitis Vinifera, which arrived in California in 1779.
Of course, much has changed since those early days: it was over 60 years later that John Pratchett and his winemaker, Charles Krug, began producing wine in the Napa Valley. It’d be over a hundred years after that until American wine earned their rightful reputation alongside the best bottlings from Europe, following “The Judgment of Paris.”
And what makes that Napa wine so great? How come American wines can stand not only side-by-side but head-and-shoulders above their European counterparts? It's the terroir. It's the sixteen different appellations of the Napa Valley, each with their distinctive soil and microclimates, that give the grapes their unique characteristics. At Cultivar Wine, we've always been enamored with those differences: the way the ancient riverbed of Oak Knoll gives our Chardonnay its minerality; the way the Rutherford dust creates bold fruit flavors in our Cabernet. These are the appellations our family grew up in, the places our heart called home. We hope that you can taste not only the unique qualities of those appellations in the wine we make, but the love our family puts into it.
So, this July 4th, let’s raise a toast to family, to friends and to wine - The Great American Beverage! To celebrate, Cultivar Wine is offering two special wine packages, one red and one white, depending on your tastes:
One bottle each of our 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, 2018 Napa Valley Rosé and 2018 Oak Knoll Chardonnay for $70.00, plus a complimentary upgrade to 3-Day Cold Pack Shipping. CLICK HERE.
One bottle each of our 2018 Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 Oak Knoll Cabernet Franc and 2018 Russian River Pinot Noir for $115.00, plus a complimentary upgrade to 3-Day Cold Pack Shipping. CLICK HERE.
Have a safe and Happy July 4th Weekend!
What's an even better pairing than wine and food? Wine and friends! But these days, it has been challenging to get together with friends over a bottle of wine. The emergence of online Happy Hours has been one solution, but for wine lovers across the world, the Virtual Wine Tasting has become the event of choice.
Think of it as a visit to the Tasting Room without the Tasting Room. The events are set up in advance, so participants can choose the time that works for the best for them. Just like a live tasting, the wines are pre-selected for each event, then sent to the participants' home, where they can taste them along with the event's host and the other participants.
Cultivar Wine launched its Virtual Wine Tasting Program on June 10th, and plans on having an event every Wednesday through July 1st. Depending on the popularity of the events, we could extend the events through the summer. And if the first event was any indicator, it's going to be a long, fun summer!
Participants in the June 10th event were treated to our 2019 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and our 2015 Leaky Lake Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Hosted by Deborah, Cultivar's Hospitality Director, we went through each wine and talked about how the amazing terroir of Napa Valley gave the wines their unique characteristics. Guests shared their own thoughts about the wines, while club members Jim and Laura even shared their dinner recipe that paired with the Leaky Lake Cabernet!
"I think Virtual Wine Tastings have opened the door to an entirely new approach to wine tasting," says Gingy Harris Gable, Co-Founder of Cultivar Wine. "People have come to see these events as an opportunity to get together with friends from across the country to share an experience they love so much - wine tasting. It's a way to bring Napa wine country to Colorado or Iowa or anywhere in the world."
It's also a great chance to meet your fellow wine lovers. Though usually limited to 10 participants, you never know which part of the country - or the world - the other attendees come from.
"What's so fun about Cultivar's Virtual Wine Tastings is that you not only learn about the wine you're drinking, but it's also like a party," says John Taylor, Cultivar's Marketing Manager. "You can have three or four guests at your home enjoying the event, and find ten other groups online enjoying the event in the same way."
Best of all, Cultivar Wine has started a program of Private Virtual Wine Tastings. Get together with your friends and family, choose the wines you want to try, and we'll conduct a customized tasting online for you. To learn more, or book a reservation, Click Here.