I am so glad that you have expressed interest in learning how wine is made from the grape to the glass. By participating in these classes, you will gain hands on knowledge of the entire process and will gain a huge appreciation for the steps, care, love, and time required to make a glass of wine. With this knowledge we hope that you will appreciate all wine just a little bit more.
A note on classwork – Crush Crew is designed to be an educational experience, so it also involves doing homework (please read and understand all emails), asking questions, obtaining clarification and taking pop-quizzes.
This year we will be processing about 90,000 pounds of fruit in about 9 batches to produce about 3,000 cases of wine. We hope you can have a full and rewarding experince being part of the Exclusive Koi Zen Cellars Crush Crew.
Remember: You have to earn your Crush Crew Tee Shirt!
Primary Winery Operations:
To really understand how wine is made, you need to participate in all of the steps of the process and @ Koi Zen, we offer these opportunities for you to learn and participate in all of these steps. We know you will also have a great time and meet great people.
When the grapes are ready, we take our picking bins to the vineyard prior to pick. The field works pick and load the grapes onto the trailer. This requires a large truck (~12,000# tow capacity). Please let me know if you are interested in hauling a load (I pay for gas, hotel and food on the trip). There will be a very limited amount of passenger “slots” if you want to go on a pick run (sorry you pay your own expenses)
At Koi Zen Cellars we pick up the grapes from world class vineyards as whole clusters and transport them to San Diego. Within a few hours after picking, we first remove the stems from the grapes and prepare the “must” for fermentation. This process involves a lot of sorting grapes to remove the MOG (material other than grape), loading grape clusters into buckets and feeding them into the destemmer. This often takes lots of hands and strong backs but is tons of fun and very social.
After the must has been prepared, we add nutrients and yeast. Every 6-12 hours we have to “punch down” each vat and record the sugar levels and temperatures so we can manage fermentation. This is a great upper body workout and a great opportunity to taste the wine as it moves from juice to wine. I generally define a punch down schedule so you know when it will be happening. Often it is around 6 am and 6pm.
After about 10 days, the wine is complete and we need to separate the wine from the solids. The must is bucketed out of the vats and into the press. Similar to Crush this is a hands on process and likewise is a lot of fun.
At Koi Zen we age our red wines in oak barrels for 10-36 months. Periodically we need to sample each barrel, rack them or top them off and adjusting the chemistry. This process is really cool since you can taste the differences between each barrel and the difference between free run and press runs.
When the wine is done bulk aging we bottle the wine. This involves unloading empty glass, filling bottles, corking, labeling, foiling and re-casing the bottles. We set up an assembly line and crank through about 40-50 cases per hour. At the end we enjoy the leftovers. This is also very social.
Safety & Legal:
We try to establish a safe, friendly and educational environment; however we are working with large machines and many tons of grapes. To maintain safety, we need to have some rules and regulations.
- You must be 18 years of age or older and sign a Liability Waver to enter the production areas.
- No pets – registered service animals only allowed in a Food Production Facility.
- You must wear closed toe, non-slip shoes at all times in and around the production areas.
- You must be in good physical condition and understand your limitations prior to helping – seek advice from your doctor prior to participating.
- Alcohol impairs judgement and coordination skills, so limiting consumption is imperative.
- We deal with rotating machines so no loose clothing, scarves, necklaces or hair.
- Winemaking can be messy and will stain clothes and hands.
- You must maintain a “sanitized” state and standard.
- You must avoid any dangerous activities, situations, goofing around and pranks.
- You must be professional; this is a serious, potentially dangerous and expensive environment.
While making wine it is CRITICAL to maintain an excellent sanitization protocol. Forgetting to wash your hands can destroy $10,000’s of dollars’ worth of wine. We use a very strong combination of Sulfites and Citric acids to clean and sanitize everything that touches grapes or wine. This includes equipment, hands, barrels and tanks.
A small percentage of people are sensitive to sulfites. If you are sensitive, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you DO NOT participate.
Mother Nature along with logistics determines when the different actives happen and sometimes we have very little preparation time. I will try to provide as much advance notice as possible which includes what activity we are doing, and the approximate time, length and size of the task.
With each activity, I will try to set up a RSVP system. Only RSVP is you are GUARENTTED to be there, otherwise just show up. This helps to ensure that we have an appropriate number of people participating.
TRUE/FALSE – I want to have some fun
TRUE/FALSE – I can participate as much as I want and it is FREE
TRUE/FALSE – I can tell my friends who are interested