|Tuesday April 25, 2006
This is one of those days that you hope won't happen again. It was all business so no Family problems, but some personal problems. I was poorly prepared for the bottling we were planing for today. Originally I thought we could bottle 2005 Fresco in full bottles and 2005 Chardonnay and Late harvest Sauv Blanc in Full bottles and half bottles (375 mls). We got a slow start today. We were busy yesterday with some customers (we seem to be getting more referrals) and Steve got here this morning at 8am. That was early, but he had to set up the bottling line for the first time in the year. I had thought we could bottle all wines today. If I was organized we could have done all bottling even though we had hoses and other parts including tanks that had to be cleaned. I kept on coming back every so often to check to see how close we were to starting. At about 11Am Steve informed me we were waiting for a nitrogen tank. I had remembered he had ordered a spare tank yesterday, but at 11Am he informed me we needed it today to start. I wasn't too happy. If I had known that we could have picked it up ourselves yesterday. I do not like the salesman that was hired two years ago to represent Wine Country Gases. He actually is a past acquaintance of Pat and I going back 20 years. He is a nice guy, but we do not understand each other. We do not communicate well. One of the problems with Wine Country Gases is that they have a new order person and he seems a little unsure of himself. SO when Steve called yesterday and ordered our tank of nitrogen, the new order person called Chris, the salesman our acquaintance, to confirm my order. I always try to be friendly to Chris even though we are not on the same wave length. I invited him out to see the bottling in action today and told him I would give him a bottle of wine. Chris took it that I had invited him to come out and bring the nitrogen tank. Yes, the order clerk had not informed Chris that we needed it in the morning. Or did Steve.........
That was the beginning of the day. Boy do I have more to tell tomorrow.
Wednesday April 26, 2006
Today has not gone much better than yesterday, but first I will finish discussing our bottling problems that occurred yesterday.
At about noon time yesterday I sent Steve out to pick up the nitrogen cylinder that we needed to run the bottling line. He didn't return back until after 1pm. At that time we started filling our wine tank with 2005 Fresco. The first barrel went in fine and then the accedent happened. I walked away for a minute and came back and saw wine all over the ground. I yelled and we stopped the flow in a few seconds. What had happened had never occurred before. There are two holes in the tank. One hole is at the bottom of the tank where the wine comes in and out. The other 2 inch hole is about a foot higher and it takes about two barrels to get up to that level. This second hole is secured with a valve and is used for racking in case there is sediment in barrels that settles to the bottom of the tank. We don't need this second valve because we leave the sediment in the barrels. Someone had removed the valve used to close these holes and had forgot to replace it after cleaning. Of course it is my responsibility to make sure everything is ready to go, but like I said I don't remember that valve ever being off before. I think we lost about 10 cases of 2005 Fresco.
We actually didn't start bottling until after 2pm and then the problems really got going. I think I must have uttered "What's Wrong Now?? at least 20 times. We could not get the shoot holding and dispensing the screwcaps to work correctly. The bottling line kept shutting down. At 2:20 I called Gerard the tech who services the machinery. He arrived about 45 minutes later. When he left at 5pm he still had not solved the problem. We did get the line to work most of the time for about three minutes at a time and then we had to restart it by pushing a button. It seems there is some type of safety light that shuts down the line for some reason. By 5pm we were trying to run at 200 cases an hour, but in actuality we were averaging about 120. We finished the 390 cases at 6:30pm, an overall average of less than 100 cases an hour. That is about what we averaged with our old bottling line. I am hoping to average 150 cases an hour in July when we bottle most of our wines and I will do everything I need to do to make that happen.
Today we just finished bottling our 2005 Chardonnay and 2005 Late Harvest Sauv Blanc. We had similar problems with the capsules. When we started bottling with half bottles the shoot dispensing the screwcaps failed completely. I had to manually put the screwcap on each bottle. Fortunately we only bottled 100 cases of 375ml bottles. The other disappointment today was the clarity of the wine. Both the Chardonnay and late harvest are somewhat cloudy. We did use a new type of filter, but it did not clear the wine.
We are finished bottling until July. I hope things go better then.
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