Sheldon Haynie
November 17, 2012 | Other stuff | Sheldon Haynie

Ancillary work

Lightheart Cellars is a federally bonded estate winery with a winegrower 02 license. That means that we have vineyard and vintning operations on premises. There are other categories of winemaking, including alternating premises, where you share production areas, or only buying your fruit from growers, or even to sub contract it all out to a custom crush facility where all you supply is money and label artwork. 

Doing it all, is perhaps the hardest way, to have responsibility for the whole process, what we call "soil to foil".  While it does require a lot of time and energy, its the only way that we believe we can offer the best wine at the best price. 

By farming ourselves, we are able to control the vineyard, to use viticultural practices that we prefer to make the crop what we want. We can prune, shoot thin and manage the canopy to achieve a balance of quantity/quality and cost, while using low impact & sustainable methods that we can feel good about at the end of the day. There is no great romance to being on a frozen tractor seat before dawn tilling up somebody else's back yard, but its a means of securing winegrapes that meet our needs and allow us to grow while ensuring that the fruit is grown to our specifications. 

We could have just sent our fruit off to another facility, and hired out the winemaking. There are varietals such as sparking wines where that makes sense due to specialized equipment requirements. We chose instead to make our own, starting with hobby sized tools, and slowly upgrading as we could afford better, from one barrel in 2009 to ten in 2010, sixteen in 2011 and 40 in 2012. 

Our production process is very labor intensive, Jane and I have both gone to bed tired, stained and weary from working more than 12 hours in a weekend day many times this crush season. For a pair of grandparents with graduate degrees, we are working pretty hard at physical labor, along with family and some part time hired help. Its a good feeling, to "get my back into your living" to quote The Who, but we are a long way from "Teenage Wasteland", though some of the casual help is right there.

We made some strategic investments, including a must pump and a rented forklift that vastly reduced the heavy lifting, but there were still 50 barrels to clean and place on racks, and 23 tons of fruit to shovel through the destemmer and then bucket into the presses. 

And that is just the farming and winemaking. 

Earlier this week, we attended the Annual meeting of the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley, a slightly raucous event where the budget was passed, the dues increase defeated and officers elected. And your author was not nimble enough to dodge faster, and was tagged as President for 2013. A little subsequent drama and I'm also acting President for the remainder of 2012, just because we don't have enough to keep us occupied, without chivvying a bunch of strong willed rugged individulists who own wineries. 

Today we are re-arranging the furntiture inside & outside and cleaning up after a two day re-build of the patio cover roof by the same teen age field hands, using impact drivers on ladders instead of tractors in the field. Its been an interesting education for all, but the work is done, it looks good and the rain does not get through. We've roofed over the site of our future commercial kitchen, and are planning the pergolas for the grove adjacent to the patio, where we had the band for last Passport weekend. 

This is the stuff they don't teach at Davis, or in any of the how to be a winemaker books. 


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