Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Making Wine at Antill Estate

The Weka Pass steam engine pushes uphill across from Antill Estate,  "I think I can... I think I can"

The great grape harvest is now upon us at Antill Estate.  The Pinot Noir grapes are at their peak ripeness and ready to turn sugar to alcohol. The grapes are cared for meticulously by hand, nurtured and protected organically from start to finish. They only wait to be plucked bunch by bunch from the vines that they now burden.  Julian and Janice, the owners/operators of this estate, produce a small quantity of wine with an emphasis on quality and a strong passion for both the science and art of wine making.  They have a thorough knowledge of the science underlying wine production but truly theirs is an art incorporating the environment and the community into their own specific brand of terrior.  The Pinot Noir produced through the efforts at Antill Estate has a rich full bodied flavor that appreciates with familiarity and strengthens over time as do the relationships forged by the community-minded wine makers. Though still a small operation with little publicity, relying instead upon word-of-mouth marketing, the Antill Estate label will undoubtedly gain national recognition in the upcoming years as each vintage approaches it's matured state.


Clean as a whistle

Clean, Clean, Clean is all you think before embarking on a voyage in fermentation.  We must do away with any competing bacteria or fungi that would take hold of the process and send it awry. Sterilization is a potentially difficult task when following organic and eco-concious practices.  Luckily as the french perfected wine production over the course of hundreds of years they came upon some fantastic techniques.  One of these techniques is the use of sulfur as an antibiotic cleansing agent and environmentally safe option.  Everything the grapes might touch is first scrubbed and treated with a sulfur solution.

Awaiting the big day.  These tables live year round for harvest day.

The press standing sentry over packed-up past vintages.

After the complete sulfur cleanse Antill's focus shifts to last years vintage.  Growing in complexity and character the wine has matured within these oaken barrels until the moment we drop in the "bulldog" or wine extractor. Now it is off to be bottled and prepared for the masses.

The 2011 vintage waiting to be bottled for the masses.

The scientist/artist hard at work in his laboratory and shrine to Dionysus, God of wine.


The grape harvest is a ritual and sacred time for the wine industry.  Most of the year, grapes are looked after with a relatively heavy hand pruning, thinning and nurturing them to their full potential.  Now when they reach that final stage and the sugars are just right they must be handled with grace and sympathetic hands.  We do no want to bruise and batter them before the fermentation. They use a whole berry fermentation in which the grapes undergo fermentation while still intact imparting more fruitful flavor to the resulting wine.  All of the grapes are picked, sorted and de-stemmed by hand giving Antill Estate wine the highest possible quality and a purely authentic and wine making process. This is the way wine has been made for centuries by those who set the standards of excellence in the field.

Sweet and plump.

A solid lunch break recharging the invaluable workers.

The vines unburdened.

Father and son.

Roald working hard and loving life.

The picking may take a few days with the help of many friends, family and the odd wwoofer or two.  Crate after crate of ripened grapes are stacked for de-stemming moving ever closer to the fermentation tank. Finally upon meeting the last quality check each bunch passes through able hands and is stripped of its supportive stem, keeping the grape whole, and dropped into a tank where all of the magic will happen.

Crates of grapes.

Each bunch worked over by hand to remove, without breaking, as many grapes as possible for whole-berry fermentation.

No machine will ever match the quality and heart that comes from the hands.

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