The Art of Winemaking - Creating a perfectly crafted wine has to start somewhere, and of course, the grapes have a lot to do with the wonderful quality at Merritt Estate. The process begins with harvesting the grapes. They are then brought to the winery and inspected for quality and eventually prepared to be processed. When all of the processing is finished, the grapes are brought to the winery in bulk boxes that traditionally hold 2000 pounds.
One at a time, the boxes are lifted with a forklift to a stainless steel hopper and slowly dumped. Once the grapes are in the hopper, the Crusher/De-stemmer is implemented. This process will add a coarse grind to the fruit and separate the berries from the stem of the grape bunch. The stems are shot out of the back of the machine and the juice mash is pumped into the press.
Once in the press, the grape mash is combined with a product called rice hull. The rice hull is the seed coating on white rice. There is no flavor or odor to the rice hull; it is merely used as a pressing agent to assist in the pressing of the grape mash. The rice hulls are mixed 50/50 with the grape mash until the press is full. The doors are then put into place and the press is started. The press is run by computer and compresses at 15,000 pounds of pressure.
As the press is running, two steel wheels are working counter-clockwise towards each other, squeezing the juice out. The juice then falls into a stainless steel hopper and is pumped into the winery to begin the fermentation process. The fermentation process is where the juice is transformed into alcohol, using wine yeast and sugar.
The wine yeast will attack the sugar and break it down, releasing CO2 while forming alcohol and heat at the same time. The fermentation process typically runs at 78 to 82 degrees (F) when fermenting rapidly. After fermentation is complete, the wine is then filtered and racked. While it may seem as though the wine is ready, there are still a few remaining steps.
Following completion of the fermentation process, the wine is cold stabilized and filtered again, which prepares it for bottling. We use a bottling machine with a mono-block filling and corking system. This is a completely automated system that places the bottle on one end of the machine and runs it through until it comes out the other end filled and corked.
After being filled with our delicious wine, the bottle then goes into the labeler where it receives a heat shrink capsule and a pressure sensitive label. The end result is the bottle that appears at the other end of the labeler, ready for use in our hospitality room or in any of our fine liquor store outlets.
Meet the Winemaker - Dominic Burke
Merritt's newest winemaker, Dominic Burke, comes to the winery with an accomplished resume. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Dominic discovered his passion for grapes on a family vacation. Already employed as a chemical engineer, Dominic decided to pursue a degree in Viticulture and Oenology from Eisenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Upon receiving his degree in 1998, Dominic began working with several prominent winemakers in South Africa and Europe, most notably with Fabrice Lhuillier of Chateau Crois Grand Baril in Bordeaux, France, and Alex Schreiner of Alex's Wine Estate in Burgenland, Austria. Soon, Dominic's talent brought him to the states, where he traveled a bit and worked for several wineries before finding his place at Merritt Estate Winery.
Come on in for a visit and be sure to meet Dom and his team of winemakers, try the wines and experience all there is to explore at Merritt!