When wine is discussed the topics that come up are where are the vineyards, who is the winemaker, what is the microclimate, or what is the meaning of the picture on the bottle. We never really take about the cellar and what it takes to get the grapes from harvest to the bottle, and your table. As Cellar Master at Le Vigne Winery that is exactly what I’m thinking about every day. Over the past four years, I have grown within the company from cellar hand to cellar master. In that time I have learned a great deal about the winemaking process such as barrel selection, sanitation, and training the rest of the crew on the upkeep of the cellar.
My general duties as cellar master consist of mentoring the crew to ensure that all sanitation is done properly. Sanitation is of the utmost importance in the winery because of the impact it can have on the wine. Wine can be damaged by bacteria, oxidation, wine residue, or bad yeast among other things. To prevent such things we are continuously sanitizing hoses, barrels, tanks, and all the gadgets. For example, when using hoses to filter red wine and then changing to filter white wine the hoses must be properly sanitized. If they have leftover residue from the red wine, it could cross-contaminate the white wine and potentially change the color. Another cleaning process that we do is steaming the barrels. This helps keep the barrel fresh and free of bacterial infection. This process is done in between filling barrels.
It is important to make sure that our standards are high which includes the knowledge of the crew. I help with that by training the harvest interns to be able to identify discrepancies in the wine from grape to juice. Since the cellar crew is the first one to work with the wine they are imperative in maintaining our high standard and quality. This way if a wine presents problems, we can address it early and not let it negatively affect any of our wine lots.
Besides supervising the team, I enjoy Le Vigne’s artisan cheese selection in the tasting room. Currently, my favorite cheeses are Saint Angel, a triple cream soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese, and Rattlesnake, a Wisconsin cow’s milk cheddar cheese infused with habanero and tequila. The Rattlesnake cheese is spicy and great to put on burgers and omelets. My fiancé and I can’t get enough of the Saint Angel. We love eating this cheese with salami, tiny toasts, and fig spread that we get here at Le Vigne. This with a bottle of our Sangiovese for me and a bottle of Le Vigne Sparkling for her is a perfect night in for us.
I hope I was able to give you a little insight into the cellar and you enjoyed hearing about my favorite cheeses. Wave “Hi” to me on your next visit to the winery. I will most likely be in the tank farm or barrel room working on our wines.