Simi is an older winery, having begun in the late 1800's by two Italian brothers. The first brother came to America to seek his fortune in gold. That was hard work! He opted to sell produce to restaurants, and began making some wine in the cellar of his San Francisco shop. His wine was very popular so his brother joined him. They purchased land, built the winery and began production.
The wine label often tells the tale. If the label is "Estate Bottled" all of the grapes and the wine making process must be on the winery's property. If the label names a region, or a county, then the grapes may have come from outside the winery.
Large screw-shaped mechanisms act like a conveyor to move the grapes through different processes.
The first stop (except those grapes designated for Chardonnay at Simi) is the "distemper".
The destemmer has a paddle that mashes the grapes against a screen. This is a distemmer we could see at Deerfield winery.
The hard stems get caught by the screen and the grapes and skin fall through where they are carried into a large vat for initial fermentation. The stems are carried by another conveyor and dumped into a truck. This winery uses the stems to enrich their soil and help break down the clay in the soil.
Another interesting aspect of this process is that this winery uses a gravity feed. The initial crushing and storage is higher up a hill than this area, so once the wine has gone through processes in the larger tanks, it moves without the use of pumps to this area.
I found it interesting to learn that barrels used for white wine could later be used for red, but not the other way around. The winery now uses bar code labels with all of the information about the contents encoded.
The Deerfield Winery created their own caves. Barrels are stacked through different passages that go under the hillside.
After the desired aging time the contents are bottled and labeled. Some wines are aged further in the bottles, others are ready to sell.... and for the visitor, it's time for a stop at the tasting room!
Our group samples wine at Sutter Home Winery
Some wineries charge for tasting.
A few, like Sutter, offer a few samples for free.
It seems that most wineries have a tasting "menu".
Most of the wineries we visited encourage you to become a member, meaning you will commit to buying a certain number of bottles of wine through the year, receiving a discount for your purchases. Some memberships allow perks at other 'sister' wineries as well.
All wineries would love to have you walk out with their product.
We did our share!