After the grapes are harvested, they are run through a crusher, which separates the grapes from the stems...

The wine is then transferred to a stainless steel, secondary fermentation tank.  The variable volume tank is equipped with an interior floating metal lid with a surrounding air bladder (much like a bicycle inner tube) which is inflated to seal the container. An airlock allows the CO2 gas to escape until the fermentation process is completed. Placement of the interior lid is an exact science using calculations of formulas requiring the assistance of NASA caliber engineers or, absent that, a couple of wine aficionados will suffice...

If, at the end of the evening, everyone has remained relatively healthy, you are now ready to haul your creation down to the county fair and pit it against wines produced by other area winemakers.  And from time to time you defy the odds and actually win…

And finally the finished product, which has been aging for years, months, or in this case, several hours, is transferred to bottles which have been thoroughly washed, rinsed and sterilized…

After the wine has been bottled and corked, it is carefully placed in boxes, cork-end down to keep the cork moist thereby providing a better seal…

At harvest time, these two are scrambling to find as many bodies as possible from among their dwindling list of friends, acquaintances, dumpster divers and bag ladies to help with the harvesting and manufacturing of a product which occasionally passes as wine and is used extensively as aircraft fuel.  Their California contacts exhausted, they are now reaching out to nearby Nevada for naive “neighbors” willing to participate in the Zimmerman vineyard mayhem…

Wine
The fine art of making this delectable libation

"Spillage" is an industry term for wine that, for whatever reason, never quite makes it into the bottle.  If you look very closely at the next picture, you will see a glass on the bench where the wine is being bottled.  This glass represents “spillage” at Gladiacres and is always excessive during any bottling endeavor involving both Norwegians and Irishmen…

Meanwhile, back at the press…

Producing a quality wine is both an art and a craft which demands attention to detail through each step of the process beginning with the selection and planting of the vines, through the fermentation and aging and ending with the application of the label to the finished product.  If the winemaker has religiously adhered to time tested procedure and remained vigilant throughout the process, he is usually rewarded with a varietal of exceptional quality.  Still, there are others who depend mostly on dumb luck.  This is one such story...


After a year or two of “laying down,” you are ready to invite a few friends and neighbors over to sample the fruit of your labor…

After a victory lap and a few high-fives, you heckle the losers, pay off the judges, and head back up the mountain where, according to Don Meredith, "Tomorrow starts the same old thing again."   

Remember: Life is too short to drink bad wine…unless you made it yourself!

(Note the “free flow” in lower right corner of the above picture.)  The top is then assembled on the press and a chunky guy, fattened for a week on Ben and Jerry’s Cookies ‘n Cream, turns the screw to press the rest of the juice from the must…

The flunkies with least seniority routinely perform this task as it usually results in hands permanently stained purple and hordes of fruit flys following you for the rest of your days.  As the grapes are added to the press, the “free flow” wine, that which naturally flows before applying pressure, is collected …

The resulting “must,” consisting of the crushed grapes and skins, is placed in special food quality plastic containers, yeast is added, and the mixture spends about a week fermenting.  The must is then scooped into the press…

My ne’er-do-well brother-in-law and his bride, affectionately known as The Vineyard Vixen, own a plot of earth near Grass Valley, California.  Within mere moments of signing the final papers of ownership they christened their new acquisition "Gladiacres", after Jerry's mother, Glady,  and set to work planting a vineyard…

Chele is a Zimmerman friend from San Carlos, Mexico who actually believed all the tall tales of the “Fly Farm Estate Vineyard” having lush vines, whispering waterfalls, abundant floral displays, gourmet food and award winning wine.  She soon discovered that the most lush of the grapes had already fallen off the vine, were eaten by birds or shriveled to raisins in the sun prior to the harvest; the whispering waterfall was located just below the septic tank; the abundant floral display had already blossomed and died one hot afternoon in July; the gourmet food consisted of whatever she could trap, skin, clean and cook; and the award winning wine was produced by a neighbor.   At day’s end, she and her fellow “volunteers” had amassed a bin full of grapes from which this year’s zinfandel would be produced…

The press is disassembled, and the compacted “cake” of skins and seeds is removed and discarded…

As the grapes mature on the vine, they can usually be found in the vineyard spraying the plants for a variety of molds, mildews and insects…

And, finally, the wine is placed in a temperature controlled wine cellar/tasting room for aging...