01 November 2011

Lees filtering - DE - diatomaceous earth

Elizabeth admitted she was too busy to post so instead of missing two weeks she volunteered me, her mother, to write and give you my perspective of what goes on in a normal day during harvest.

Upon arriving at Airlie this morning, Sun. 30 of Oct. Elizabeth and I pumped (racked) the juice from the Pinot Gris grapes that were picked Wednesday morning, 26 Oct. 2011 at the Kramer Farms vineyard.  We pumped the settled juice from one stainless steel tank to another clean tank, when the juice stopped running clear we stopped pumping.  The remaining juice in the tank (200gal. of the original 950gal.) was very thick and full of pulp, bits of grape skins, and a few seeds and is called "lees".  We pumped the lees into a holding tank called a "tote".  However before the lees can be filtered the filter has to be set up; a group effort!
In the photo below the lees in the holding tote is being readied for the filtering process.  Diatomaceous earth (DE) has been added to the lees in the tote which will form the cake that becomes the actual filter, the clothes just hold the DE in place. 

Because the DE settles rapidly it must be mixed periodically in order to keep it in suspension. As Mary checks the filter, Tom mixes with a very long squeegee scraping the DE off the bottom and resuspending it in the lees.  The filtering is a time consuming process but the clarity of the filtered juice and the amount of juice captured from the lees that have settled in the bottom of the fermenting tank makes it worth the effort.  You can see the before and after below.

Mary says, "The operation is slow, aggravating and messy but it is the one piece of equipment that pays for itself season after season.  We recover close to ninety percent (90%) of the juice mixed with the lees which would otherwise be lost.  There isn't another easy way to capture that juice."

Tony, Filter Cleaning Mistress

I haven't been surprised to see how well Mary and Elizabeth work together but observing how much making wine demands the mental agility to change plans, keep hundreds of details cataloged, direct volunteers and keep their sense of humor as we mess up has been a joy.

Christy Ogg

Bob on the Job

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