The MOG Monster
Having addressed our press capacity for white grapes, it seemed only fair to do something on behalf of our reds, a project that Bruce, Julianne and Brian ‘sorted out’ by acquiring a new grape sorting system. Most wineries, including Cakebread Cellars, have a system in place for inspecting the grape clusters that arrive at their wineries. In most cases, this is done manually by workers who visually inspect the clusters and remove MOG (material other than grapes, such as sticks, leaves and stem jacks) before the clusters are de-stemmed and crushed. In the past, we inspected the clusters as they travelled along a feed auger en route to the de-stemmer. In our new system, the clusters are dumped onto an incline belt, where they are hand-sorted before dropping into the de-stemmer and then proceeding onto an oscillating stainless steel berry sorting table fitted with six meshslotted screens providing narrow openings through which seeds and stems can fall. At the end of the table, an air knife blows all material lighter than the berries into a collection bin, leaving only the cleanest, highest quality fruit to be conveyed to tank for fermentation.
The new sorting system is “a better way to gently handle our fruit,” says Julianne Laks. “Brian and I visited a number of wineries and talked with many people about grape sorting systems. Eventually, we had P&L Specialties in Healdsburg design a sorting table to our specifications, and Brian did a great job hooking everything up and dealing with the electrical issues. This will definitely enhance quality by helping us make wines with better color and softer tannins.”
“The sorting table allows us to see everything we’re culling out,” Brian adds. “I’m amazed at all the stuff that falls out before it reaches the tank. Plus, it’s much faster than hand-sorting; these upgrades to berry sorting will allow us to process 10-15 tons of fruit per hour compared to the old system. I’m excited!”
Last, but not least, we have greatly enhanced the ability of our in-house laboratory to quickly analyze juice and wine chemistry, by acquiring state-of-the-art infrared technology. All of our juice and wine samples now run through a snazzy box-like device called the Wine Scan, which measures brix (sugar), total acidity, pH, malic and tartaric acid, nitrogen, volatile acidity, glucose/fructose, ethanol, and free and total sulfur. The technology, originally developed for the milk industry, is used today by many commercial wine labs, but Cakebread Cellars has the first model in the United States that measures free and total sulfur in wine. The Wine Scan eliminates the need for ‘wet chemistry’ (chemistry done in the liquid phase, which requires the preparation of many solutions and buffering agents) and saves enormous amounts of time.
“Basically, the Wine Scan delivers rapid results for time-sensitive winemaking decisions,” says Stephanie Alstott, Cakebread Cellars Assistant Winemaker, who supervises our laboratory. “In the past, we’d send samples out for analysis or do
them here, and we’d be waiting half a day or more for the results. Now, we rarely have to wait longer than 40 minutes, and we can do a juice analysis in 30 seconds. The data appears instantly on our computer screens and is transferred to spreadsheets.”
“Having faster lab results helps us make better decisions,” states Julianne Laks. “For example, we can do a juice analysis and quickly determine, based on the chemistry, when to pick a lot of grapes at its optimum sugar-acid ratio. That translates directly into enhanced wine quality.”
Three for Three
“Our three priorities at Cakebread Cellars are quality, efficiency and customer service,” sums up Bruce Cakebread. “These new tools address all three. By becoming more efficient, we enhance quality, and by enhancing quality we better serve our customers. It’s a win-win-win situation.”