Vine To Wine

Uploaded by zewanderer2008 on 10.11.2012

You wouldn't expect dogs to hold a high-level corporate position at a winery,
but there is a place in central Illinois where they do.
Meet Maxl and Moritz, the official vineyard assistants at White Oak Vineyards in Carlock.
Together with their owners, Mary and Rudi Hofmann,
they make sure that every glass of wine you enjoy not only tastes great,
but also embodies that German "Gemütlichkeit," an easygoing coziness and sense of belonging.
We're going to show you the love and dedication the four of them put into their work
and give you a behind-the-scenes look to see what it takes
to get from vine to wine.
It begins with a journey to the southern vineyard, where Rudi is planting a new field of Steuben grapes.
All of White Oak Vineyards' young vines come from a nursery in the Finger Lakes region in New York.
Earlier in the day, Rudi and Maxl had already dug holes in preparation for planting.
Typically, it takes about three years before the plant begins to bear fruit.
A little later that day, Rudi is busy constructing a trellis system
for another new variety of vines that were planted earlier.
He then places grow tubes around each vine,
which train it to grow up towards the trellis structure
and also protect it from small animals and strong winds.
Grape vines are aggressive growers, so in the late winter and early spring it's time to prune them.
Every row of vines at White Oak Vineyards is pruned by hand, often when it's still freezing outside.
This year, spring came along a little earlier.
Grapes only grow on last year's stems, called canes, so any growth older than that must be removed.
New shoots are then trained to grow along the trellis.
Later in the season the Hofmanns will repeat the process, this time selectively
pruning the plant to create the proper foliage-to-fruit ratio, which ensures
that the grapes receive plenty of sunlight and nutrients.
Now it's just a matter of making sure the vineyard assistants are properly massaged,
and waiting for the grapes to ripen.
It's barely six a.m. on a late August morning, and everyone is already out picking grapes.
During the ripening process, sugar levels in the grapes increase, while their acidity decreases.
"Brix" is a term used to describe the sugar concentration of grapes.
One degree of Brix represents one gram of sugar per one hundred grams of grape juice.
Grapes are usually picked when their Brix rises to the upper teens or low twenties.
Winemakers will often use a refractometer, or Brix meter, to measure this value.
At this point it's important to work fast.
When stored too long, the grapes may start to crush under their own weight and
prematurely begin the fermentation process.
So that same day, Mary and Rudi, along with the help of their good friends Becky and Pete,
prepare to process today's harvest of Cayuga grapes.
They are first sent through a crusher-destemmer, which separates the stems and leaves from the grapes.
Then it's time for the grape press,
which consists of an inflatable rubber bladder and two wooden springform shells.
The press is filled with the crushed grapes, sealed,
and the bladder inflated, which extracts all the juice.
Red wine is made a little bit differently.
Instead of heading to the press after crushing and destemming, the grapes are
transferred to a primary fermentation vessel, where they go through a process called maceration.
That's the extraction of flavors, tannins,
and the red color from the grape skins and seeds.
This process can take anywhere from three days to a week, or possibly even longer.
Mary uses this opportunity to take some juice samples.
She tests them and creates a log to keep track of all her measurements now and in the future.
Aside from testing sugar and acidity levels,
she also determines if and how much sulfur dioxide should be added to the grape juice.
This is a compound that inhibits growth of bacteria,
prevents oxidation, and preserves flavors and freshness.
By now the press has done its job and extracted the frothy juices from the grapes.
From here, they are pumped into their new home, a stainless steel tank for primary fermentation.
Now it's up to the yeasts to turn the sugar in the grape juice to alcohol.
Sometimes they're not quite in the mood; in that case, a couple of jackets draped
around the tank can raise the temperature to begin fermentation.
Fermentation takes place in two stages. During primary fermentation, which lasts
from three to five days, the wine is exposed to fresh air and the yeasts reproduce rapidly.
Then, during secondary fermentation, the container is sealed and the fermentation
process slows down for the next three to six months.
Depending on the style, the red wines, after completing primary and secondary fermentation,
are transferred to oak barrles for aging.
These impart another layer of complex aroma compounds onto the wine.
Time again to wait.
Then, one day,
it's time to bottle up the delicious Frontenac wine that has been aging for the past year.
The wine bottles are first filled with nitrogen, which will prevent the wine from oxidizing
during the bottling process.
From here, the bottles are handed over to Rudi's cousin Willi,
who is operating the filling station today.
The wine is pumped out of its oak barrel,
into the filling station,
and then into the bottles.
Now the bottles are handed over to Rudi, who corks them.
Case after case slowly fills up, ready to be enjoyed.
Looks like someone is happy all the hard work is finally over!
Whether you're here to relax, to enjoy some music,
take in the peaceful scenery or to celebrate,
chances are you won't want to leave.
So drop by when you have the opportunity and indulge yourself with some
hand-crafted wine, made with the typical German attention to detail.
That's what White Oak Vineyards is all about.
We hope to see you here very soon, and until then we'll say
"Auf Wiedersehen, und bis bald!" [Good-bye, and see you soon!]