Time to Rack the Wine

Hello, I am the youngest of Susan and Sal Captain's four children, and in the picture is me with my daughter (eating a plum from a tree here).

Before planting in 2005, Captain Vineyards was a poison oak farm with lots of fire-prone grease weed and animals: two goats, fifty chickens, some dogs, and three brothers. ;)

Since I've been here more due to the Pandemic, I've noticed operations at the local family winery are quite different, but no less busy! I'd like to share some pictures from a certain winemaking process happening right now.

Aging fine red wine is not a waiting game; at least once per year during the three-to-seven years in French oak barrels, the wine goes through labor-intensive "racking." This process softens tannins, clarifies the wine and enhances aromatic qualities. 

What does that mean at Captain Vineyards? My parents empty out all the barrels, and, refill - from the top!  

"I do not do any other type of fining or filtration," says Sal, engineer-turned-winemaker. "Most wineries use egg whites or other emulsifiers to remove sediments and organic matter from the wine." 

I couldn't believe others use egg whites in the winemaking process, so I did research and found that it's actually worse than I thought - see below, from WineSpectator:

"Egg whites (either in their natural form or a powdered version) are one of the most popular substances used for fining. Other commonly used agents include isinglass (fish bladder), casein (milk protein), gelatin, bentonite clay or seaweed (the latter two are often used in wines that are marketed as "vegan friendly"). Some winemakers also think that the fining process can help reduce astringent or bitter notes."

And now I understand why racking the natural way, relying on gravity only and not adding anything, really protects the terroir notes in the wine! 

Below is Sal again - when making natural wine, everything must stay clean, always!

Below, Susan is probably rogue tasting young Petite Sirah in that mug...

The racking process takes several days, and it must be done in cooler weather. So thank goodness the fog has decided to stick around this week! 


Hope you enjoyed this post, cheers!