Day at Work: Wine Maker


My name’s David Mahaffey and I’m the
winemaker and grape grower for a wine called
Olivia Brion: pinot noir and chardonnay. I like to be involved in the whole process and in grape growing I like to start
with planting the vines nurturing them, harvesting the fruits seeing the fruit fermentation, developing a brand and a story around the wine
that I make, and then eventually delivering it to the restaurant and
seeing people enjoy it in a restaurant meal. “This one has got well, let me…” “I won’t put any words in your mouth. Why don’t you taste it first?” So, we’re working on kind of the upper tier of wine making. This is not the kind of wine that you’d find for ten dollars in a supermarket. This is the
kind of wine that would be sixty five or seventy dollars in a nice
restaurant. So we’re trying to make something that’s not just pinot noir but it’s pinot noir from a place. Our approach is to be as natural in our
farming as possible. I like to think of myself as a steward
to the soil and I feed the soil in the soil feeds
the vine. Well, one of the interesting things about our work up here is that because we’re out by ourselves there is a a lotta critters who would
like to help themselves to some of this very tasty ripe fruit. Several species of birds in fact this mountain range that we’re on the top of is a major flyway for several migrating bird species and they stop and
they’re hungry this time of the year. So, we use bird netting, covering the vines entirely to physically keep them excluded. We also have an electronic bird
call device that sounds like a distressed bird to try to scare them
away. We also have a propane cannon up there that explodes makes a big sound about every 15
minutes and that sound uh scares them away as well. “This task that we’re doing right now” “called punch down is just to get the
skins back down into the wine so that we” “can extract all of the color” “during the fermentation,” “because all the color in red wine comes out of the skins” “not the juice in the berry.” “This fermentor over here is” “fermenting at a faster rate.” “We can indicate that by simply by the temperature” It’s an exothermic reaction, meaning
that it gives off heat as it goes. That one was at 67 and this one is only at 62. So this one is not giving off as much
heat, hence it’s not fermenting quite so rapidly. As a winemaker I need to know how much sugar is in each one of these
beautiful little grapes and how the yeast will go about
converting that sugar into alcohol. I can’t have too much sugar in the
process or I’ll have too much alcohol which might in fact, stop the whole process. So I need to know about simple chemistry and sometimes a little bit more advanced chemistry. The most difficult job in this business is the developing of the story. How does your wine fit a particular special niche that somebody is going to be
interested in that differentiates it? That that means that it’s different than
everybody else’s product. So, brand-building, marketing, telling the story, being willing to tell the story again
and again. And understanding how your wine is in fact different and why it’s worth the money that you’re asking for it. Most of the people on the go to study winemaking will go two of the universities is in California – uh, University of California, Davis, or
University of California, Fresno, where you can take a degree in fermentation
science and even a master’s degree beyond that. There are several of the junior colleges
around that have wonderful programs in grape growing and winemaking, Napa Junior College, Santa Rosa Junior
College, but more importantly go help some winery. uh, Be involved. I uh, I always have extra people helping me and love to explain the process of what’s going on. It is varied work, and it’s outside work. It’s work that keeps me moving and so this is my thirtieth year of making
wine and I really love it. I really love the physical activity of it. And the fact that there’s a new challenge everyday.

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