Discover The Cellar | A Balance of Art & Science

The cellar is the beating heart of every winery. It is here where Mother Nature’s labor ceases, and human skill steps in. The cellar matters because it is the sanctuary in which wine is allowed to mature and develop under the watchful eyes and hands of the winemaking team. It’s also the first time the team can control the process. That’s why when founder Don Dady first set foot on the land that would become Seven Apart, he knew that a world-class cellar would be one of the key factors distinguishing our winery. “Don wanted to ensure our winemaking facility features the most advanced technology and the finest equipment available, providing us greater control over the incoming fruit,” opens Yannick Girardo, Managing Partner at Seven Apart. For the past five years, Yannick has overseen Don’s vision come to life and shares why creating a cellar where tradition meets innovation is so important for success. 

A Cellar Walkthrough

Allow us to set the scene for those who have never been to the Seven Apart cellar. The space is organized into three sections: the front, middle, and back. This layout represents the three stages of winemaking: grape arrival, fermentation, and aging.

The front section is the most active during harvest, as this is where the grapes are received and processed. Upon entering the production facility, you will see a large covered canopy housing the crush pad. The crush pad serves as the initial point of grape arrival, marking the beginning of their transformative journey. An optical sorter is then used to process the grapes – a sophisticated device that meticulously selects the finest grapes through advanced imaging techniques. A pneumatic press is also at our disposal, although it is primarily used for white wine production. A pneumatic press applies gentle, controlled pressure to extract the juice from grapes, preserving their delicate flavors and aromas.

Approaching the cellar’s midsection, the fermentation tanks come into view. “The cellar was an existing structure when Don acquired the property, so the team had a set square footage to work with,” Yannick explains. “To optimize the layout and functionality of the available space, we chose square-shaped fermentation tanks. This allows us to make better use of the area compared to cylindrical or cone-shaped tanks.”

Finally, as you come toward the back of the cellar, you will see the temperature and humidity-controlled environment for barrel aging. Yannick emphasizes the importance of maintaining a 55 to 60-degree Fahrenheit range and 75% humidity at all times. Since the cellar is not underground, they recreate the desired environment using air conditioning units and humidifiers. This setup prevents any shrinkage or issues with the barrel wood drying out. Like a well-orchestrated symphony, the cellar flows seamlessly from point A to B to point C, accompanying the wine through each stage of its life.

Controlling The Cellar

Amidst unpredictable climate conditions such as fires, hail storms, and floods, the cellar is a haven where the team can exert more control. Temperature is the most crucial of these elements. As Yannick explains:

“The temperature-controlled environment for the tanks is critical for fermentation. Whether you’re doing a cold soak, raising the temperature during fermentation, or monitoring CO2 levels, it’s crucial to manage these factors meticulously.” 

With the help of technology, Seven Apart maintains a consistent temperature and humidity in the cellar, ensuring ideal conditions for the wine. The cutting-edge technology, complete with sensors and alarms, also ensures the safety of the staff working in the area, especially during the fermentation process when high levels of CO2 are extracted. Ventilation fans kick in automatically, maintaining a constant flow of fresh air and keeping the cellar environment optimal for winemaking.

To avoid issues like contamination and spoilage, control is kept through cleanliness. Everything in the cellar has to be extremely sanitized and clean to avoid any cross-contamination or any issue of spoilage.  

“The truth is that the fun part in winemaking is when the grapes come in. But the reality is that you spend 95% of the time preparing for the grapes and only 5% of your time making wine!” laughs Yannick. 

As harvest time approaches, cleaning, and sanitation reach their peak. “With each new arrival of grapes, we must sanitize again, scrub everything, and ensure that all surfaces are clean and as free from contamination as possible so that we can process the incoming batch of fruit,” he explains.

Balancing Art & Science 

In the realm of winemaking, some purists advocate for minimal technology within the cellar, favoring the raw hand of nature and tradition. However, at Seven Apart, we believe in a different philosophy, one that harmoniously marries the old with the new.

“In winemaking, technology is merely a tool. It’s the winemaker who breathes life into the process, wielding it with the touch of an artist and the mind of a scientist. This delicate balance between art and science is where the true essence of winemaking lies,” ends Yannick. 

By incorporating sophisticated technology such as temperature control and juice extraction, the small Seven Apart team can dedicate their time to where they really want to be: the vineyard.