Vol 5: Nothing Less Than State of the Art
“The Seven Apart facility is everything you’d want to make wine.”
~ Andy Erickson, Seven Apart winemaker on the new winery
The Journal | Vol. 5
“I love wines from great places, and this is one of the greatest places on Earth,” says Seven Apart winemaker Andy Erickson. “With this vineyard, it must be really spectacular.”
Though many winemakers agree that superb wine is made in the vineyard, it doesn’t stop there. While the essential markers of terroir for Seven Apart wines originate in Stags Ridge Vineyard and Base Camp Vineyard, after the grapes are harvested, they head on to their next phase and that takes place in the winery.
Taking Care of Everything
Seven Apart founder Don Dady deemed a world class winery to be essential after taking a look at the prized Stags Ridge Vineyard on Atlas Peak. Creating a wine brand around this location, as well as the Base Camp Vineyard seven miles down the mountain, meant that everything on the table needed to be reconsidered with a premium eye.
“We built a state of the art winery,” recalls Don. “Precise. Automated pumpover tanks, optical sorters, and excess capacity.” This provides Andy with “a lot of flexibility,” according to Don, which is important to give the winemaking team the ability to make the best wine possible, with no limits on equipment, space, and timing.
“While everything starts in the vineyards and as we know, we can’t control Mother Nature,” says Seven Apart general manager Yannick Girardo. “Should we have an amazing year, we have little room for error once the grapes are coming in and being processed on site.”
When the grapes arrive at the winery, they are sorted to shift out berries that are too small, damaged, or otherwise imperfect. This is done by the winemaking team, with the help of machines such as a sorting table that shakes, working like a sieve to weed out unwanted materials. In addition to this mechanical means of ensuring grape quality, Seven Apart also uses an optical sorter—one of the most advanced pieces of technology available to the wine business today. This machine employs high-speed digital photography to determine which grapes are perfect, and which grapes aren’t up to snuff. Yannick says that this gives the team “an ultimate last cleanup before getting the best quality of grapes possible into each tank.”
The automated pump over that Don mentioned is also quite modern. As red wine ferments, the winemaking team must employ a method to bring the juice from the bottom of the tank, dispersing it up and over what’s called the “cap” which is comprised of the solid substances from the grape, such as the seeds and skins. The cap floats to the top, and because it contains the compounds that contribute to aroma and color, the juice is pumped over it in order to absorb all of that essence. The automated system performs as programmed by the winemaking team, taking care of this effort on schedule as requested.
The winery is also equipped for energy efficiency, utilizing solar power and water management. “It’s been an amazing savings since we have glycol, chiller, and the humidifier on 24/7,” says Yannick. Keeping the winery and tank temperatures at an appropriate level is a priority, and the Seven Apart winery leaves nothing to chance. “We have a master control panel that monitors all our fermentation tanks,” shares Yannick. “We can adjust the temperature at any given time, and it also monitors CO2, triggering the alarm at the winery should it sense a high level.”
Keeping a winery clean and sanitary generally requires intense water usage. “In order to monitor our savings and water consumption, we have decided to use a Blue Morph UV light to sanitize our tanks,” says Yannick. “It avoids the excess water and chemicals to clean each tank.”
The production building is divided into three sections totalling 4,040 sf: the barrel room, laboratory, and mezzanine. A roll up door divides this section from the tank/fermentation room, another 1,900 sf space which includes 13 tanks ranging from 660 to 3,000 gallons. There is also a large crush pad, which is a zone for the winemaking team to process grapes as they come into the winery during harvest.
All of this comes together as a toolbox for Andy to make the best wine possible, saving manpower and energy. “Everything is really self sufficient,” says Yannick. “This helps tremendously on saving time for a lot of steps that are usually required throughout winemaking.”