I am often asked to describe the winemaking at Bedrock Wine Co.. I typically reply, for lack of a better answer, “Cro-magnum.”
The winemaking is as rudimentary as it is pure. Following picking, grapes are pitch-forked by hand into the small Zambelli destemmer. The grapes are then gently pumped into open top fermenters of various sizes and materials, all of which lie outside under the sun and stars, where they commence and finish fermentation.
Feeding the destemmer Zinfandel grapes
Depending on the wine, we do manual punchdowns. This means perching oneself on a 2X8 above the fermenter and repeatedly plunging a punch to submerge the raised cap of skins and seeds. If not a punchdown, we use a twenty-year-old Waukesha pump to do gentle pumpovers.
Following primary fermentation the wine is basket-pressed in a large, Italian, steel and iron press that is manually operated. Though time-consuming and messy, this method of separating juice from the must allows maximum control over extraction.
In the winery, barrels are manually stacked two or three high, coming just a few feet shy of the nine foot ceilings in the converted chicken coop which is the winery. If racking is necessary, I use a “bulldog” pump, which gently displaces clean wine from the lees in the barrels using an inert gas such as nitrogen and argon. I call it “poor man’s gravity flow.” It is agonizingly slow, but is as gentle as is possible.
The completely hands on and manual nature of the winemaking means that I become intimately familiar every wine—from pitching the grapes into the destemmer (40,000 lbs in 2008), to punchdowns, to pressing, to topping, racking, blending, and bottling.
Of course, this is a lot of work for one person to do. Luckily I have wonderful friends and family who lend a hand. Bedrock Wine Co.’s slogan has always been “It takes a village to raise a wine,” and in no place is this more true than the cozy quarters of the winery.
Footstomping Hudson Alban-Selection Syrah with Jen and Chris at Enkidu Winery while a bemused Armando Ceja wonders why his picture is being taken.