|Wednesday June 29, 2005|
We have been opened at Plaza Farms since June 17th. As expected there have been many problems. I am very disappointed in our sales there. Hopefully people will find us. Sales here at the winery have been going well so we have enough money to pay the bills.
Yesterday our new bottling line was delivered and we will be setting it up today. It includes a 12 spout filler, a new screwcaper and a new labeler. We should be able to bottle 150 cases an hour. On Friday we will be bottling about 70 cases of Chardonnay for Brendan's restaurant, under their label. Brendan picked up some bulk and we cellared it here for two months. Next Wednesday the 6th of July, we will start bottling our own 2004 wines. The glass needed will arrive today.
In the last two days we have been frantically moving 2003 wine out of our storage areas into other cellars in our main house. Also as in past years I have moved older vintages around to clear way for the 2004 wines. These moves are always an adventure. Last year I misplaced some 2000 Petite Sirah. This year I am trying to keep better track of where these older wines are moved to. I did decide to move 11 cases of 2001 wines to the Plaza Farms. They consist of 5 cases of 2001 Carignan, and 2 cases each of 2001 Aca Modot, Petite Sirah and Block 4. I tried a 2001 Block 4 last night and was very happy with how it has progressed. Before any discount, we will be selling the Carignan for $26 and the others for $30.
Today, Kate our 20 year old daughter leaves for a semester of study in Australia. We will miss her. We may visit here next month.
Wednesday July 6, 2005
This has been a very frustrating day. We started bottling with our new filler, labeler and screwcap machine. If everything goes well we should do about 145 cases an hour. In the past if everything went well we could do about 95 cases an hour. Today in 6 hours we did 400 cases. That is only 67 cases an hour. We think everything that could go wrong did. I'll try to go into more detail tomorrow.
Friday July 8, 2005
7:00 AM: I have the biggest problem of any bottling in my 11 years. We have sealed 1100 cases so far and all the bottles have to be resealed. Some, many or most all the capsules are not on tight enough to break the seal when opened. I was upset and thought about pointing the finger, but ultimately I will have to take the blame and pay for the resealing. Atleast I caught it in time when I opened 6 bottles last night and 5 did not crack the seal. No one else noticed it during the bottling. I now wait for both the capsule maker and AWS (They are the ones who sold me $100,000 equipment) to call and come out to explain what the problem is. We will lose atleast a day, but I can live with that.
I've been told the last two years there is an instrument which can be used to calibrate the screwcap head, but no one has been out to show me it. I should have insisted to see it and have the machine calibrated before we started sealing. At first I thought we had to take all the capsules off first before resealing, but now I am hoping that we can just run the bottles through the line again. If everything worked perfectly we could be through sometime this evening. I guess I am cooking for all the workers.
Saturday July 9, 2005
Yesterday I waited for a return call after leaving messages to both Alcan and AWS. At 8:20 am I decided to call again and connected with a technician at Alcan and they said they would look into my problem and get someone out to correct it. I called AWS again and they were clueless. Impatiently I waited and received a few calls to inform me that someone from both companies would show up. Finally about 2:00 pm two techs from Alcan and two techs and the salesman from AWS showed up at the winery. At first the Alcan people blamed the bottle. I had called the bottle company who supplies the Gallo glass and they claimed Alcan does not recommend Gallo glass because of politics. I looked at the glass under a magnifying glass and could see not difference between the Gallo glass and the glass I used last year.
I observed the calibration and saw that the only person of the 5 that seemed to know something was Greg from Alcan. Seriously I didn't see him do anything that would take a calibration kit to do. Greg assured us that everything was fine now and that I should use the machine to complete the bottling and at the end adjust the machine to re-seal the first wines we bottled. The top crimper would then need to be moved out. If not it could damage the capsule.
At just after 2:30 pm I instructed Brendan to start filling the tank with our 2004 Aca Modot. Since we had only 243 cases to bottle I was confident after filling the tank we could finish the bottling in two hours.
At about 3:30 pm we were ready to roll. The first bottles off the line looked great and then I heard Steve scream "Oh NO!!". You guessed it!! The capsules were doing the same thing as before. They were not tight enough at the bottom of the capsule to break the seal. Steve with my prodding literally tried to adjust everything but the down pressure. The down pressure had never been the problem. The indentation in the cap looked fine. Mainly we fooled around with the bottom crimper by moving it out and in.
It's a long story, but after one hour and twenty minutes we finally
had it figured out and we started bottling. I had sent my workers home
at 4:30 pm so Steve, Brendan and Mich, my best friend, completed the bottling
in less than two hours. I helped some, but I had more important things
to do. I had to start preparing pizza. At about 8:00 pm the first pizza
came out of the oven and we all sat down to discuss the day.
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