Saturday, March 12, 2005

Hand Picked versus Machine

This topic came up recently in my rant about Crane Lake with a winemaker from Sonoma who offered a story about a friend who worked for one of the big industrial wine "factories". (I am not suggesting it was Crane Lake or Two Buck Chuck.) The friend's job was to inspect the truck loads of grapes coming into the "factory" er, winery, after machine harvesting and pull out any unwanted items from the mix, like branches, insects, bird nests, snakes. Snakes! As he could only root through the top layer of the trucks, we can only guess at what got through the "inspection" at the bottom of the truck bed. I guess the picture in my mind of immaculate small bins of grape berries being gently crushed to make the wine we drink, isn't always the case. (I am told that if you like sausage, you shouldn't ever watch it being made!)

"The massive Central Valley facility where Two Buck Chuck is made feels more like an auto plant than a winery. Three hundred refrigerated storage tanks tower four stories high next to Bronco Wine Co.'s parking lot. The adjacent crush pad is equipped with traffic lights at each of seven stations to direct the trucks that work all day and all night during harvest, fetching machine-harvested grapes from around the state and dropping them off for processing. "

Now, I am not saying that Crane Lake is made in part from the snakes that didn't get discovered in the truck beds before crushing, but it adds a whole new line of questioning for the winery reps when they discuss how their wines are made. "You mentioned that you de-stemmed the grapes before crushing, but are you sure that they were de-snaked?"


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