By Karen Sherman
November 12 was bottling day for Coyote Oaks Vineyards in Hidden Meadows. As the vineyard owner, I have always appreciated the friends and fellow winemakers who come over to assist me with that process. This time we had over 3000 bottles to fill, so I was delighted when about 30 people showed up to help. In addition, this was the first time we used a truck from Marathon Bottling Company to automate the process. With the truck, we were able to bottle about 250 cases in under 3 hours. If we had done it manually, I estimate the job would have taken about 30 hours to complete.
The bottling truck arrived at Coyote Oaks Vineyards at 7 am. After sanitizing and setting up the equipment, the production process ran from 8:15 am to about 11:00 am. The whole operation was quite amazing!
A group of my helpers put empty cases of bottles on the conveyor which fed them into the filling area. Wine was pumped through sterilized hoses into a holding tank via a racking wand from barrels and tanks. After the bottles were filled, the machine inserted the corks and then fed the bottles down to a team that placed capsules on the top of each. Next the conveyor belt fed the bottles to a “spinner” that tightened the capsule on the bottle. The bottles then passed through an automatic labeler and back around the ramp to a station where bottles were placed into boxes. Once the boxes were full, the machine taped the box shut and printed the name of the wine on the outside.
Yes, there were moments of Lucy and Ethyl as the machine worked at a pretty good clip – 45 bottles a minute to be exact! There was one minor casualty, when a few bottles went flying out the open section prior to boxing. Oh dear, there was a moment of silence as the group paid homage to the fallen soldiers of precious wine. That wine was none other than the 2015 Devil Dog, a delicious blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. I’m happy to report, however, there were no injuries and fun was had by all.
The work continued with the boxed cases coming down the conveyor belt where the wine was loaded onto “gators” (mini trucks) for transport to the finished goods area. My thanks to our gator team Dennis VanGrol, Chris Nelson and Mike Dunlap, who skillfully maneuvered the precious cargo over to another team that stacked cases onto a pallet.
Throughout the day, friends switched around jobs and gave each other relief to keep things rolling along. The volunteers were rewarded with breakfast, lunch and adult beverages, which were all consumed with gusto and lively conversations. A shout out to Kazuko Justice who brought a beautiful coffee cake, Sarah Sealey who baked a delicious Stratta, Annette Nelson who brought yummy donuts, Diane Corbett with her baked white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, and Wendy Rogers and Sandra Larsh who baked decadent brownies.
My thanks again to everyone who participated. This neighborhood definitely knows how to work hard, play hard and party hard!!!!
To purchase Coyote Oaks wines, please contact Karen Sherman, Karen@coyoteoaksvineyards.com 760-504-2434. Tasting room inside Belle Marie Winery, 26312 Mesa Rock Road, Escondido, CA 92026 (760) 796-7557.
By Karen Sherman