As most wine production people know, when it comes to bottling, the best a winemaker can hope for is that nothing goes terribly wrong. One expects a bit of broken glass, label malfunctions, and cork setting problems but hopes to avoid major problems that leave crews sitting around idle for hours while repairmen argue in Italian over the un-locatable fix to the problem. For example our first bottling ever involved about 25 cases of bad-labeled bottles and four hours of troubleshooting the problem before we had to abandon the bottling and reschedule it for a few days later when replacement parts could be found. In another (very small) bottling, only seven of the eight fillers worked properly, and after messing with the line for a couple hours, we gave up and had to uncork the half filled bottles and pour the wine back into tank. Not the most efficient process to be sure. There is a lot riding on these fateful days. Our precious juice has made a very long (and expensive) journey from vine to fermenter to barrel and we are anxious to get it safely into bottle.
Of course bottling day is the culmination of many months of planning. We have to design and re-design the labels several times (and then submit them to the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau for approval), evaluate numerous bottle samples from several manufacturers (and of course, the one you like best will likely be back-ordered after spending 3 weeks making the decision to use it), evaluate cork samples, and choose wax colors (yes, we are gluttons for punishment and wax all of our bottles by hand). Not to be overlooked in the bottling process is racking and blending the wine which is a delicate operation, particularly when you bottle unfiltered, and we have to carefully separate the juice from the lees. On bottling day itself, there is a whir of activity, with unloading bottles, reloading the filled bottles into cases, palletizing the cases and storing the finished ones out of the ways. The entire operation looks like a giant beehive; people scampering in all directions, all-intent on their work activities.
So it is with great relief that we announce that despite a few hiccups, Dragonette Cellars had a hugely successful (and remarkably efficient) bottling last week. We managed to get about 1100 cases of 2008 Syrah and 2009 Sauvignon Blanc into bottle with only a single broken bottle (and that was only an empty!) and only a handful of bad labels. It should be noted here that we did narrowly avoid having 325 cases of Syrah being unlabeled as the freight company lost 1 of the boxes of labels shipped from our manufacturer. Luckily, I was able to track the package down to Santa Maria and was able to dash off and go get it as we bottled up one of our Sauvignon Blancs first. Whew!
A huge shout out goes to the friends and family that came out to give a hand with this bottling. The crew was magnificent and made the day as easy as it could be. Grazie!