“Our Grand Meander” – Willamette Valley: iOTA Cellars

We were really looking forward to visiting our friends at iOTA Cellars.  We just missed the actual grape harvest this past Tuesday, but we always love getting a chance to walk in the vineyard.  The rain let up today, whew!  In the vineyard you immediately notice how quickly the vines shut down after the grapes have been harvested.  The leaves are very quickly turning yellow, less lush now but still beautiful.

Fall comes quickly once the grapes are harvested

Looking down, you could see grapes dropped earlier in the growing season and also grapes dropped this week; ones that didn’t make the grade.  Amazing colors!

Multiple passes of dropped fruit leave a colorful history of the summer.

iOTA Cellars is a devotion of love by the two-family team of Don & Johanna Sandberg, who live on the land, and Lynne & Perry Pelos, our next door neighbor of years past.  Lynne was up for the harvest, a real treat for us.  We always enjoy visiting, catching up, and seeing what is going on in the vineyard and winery (previous post).

Johanna & Don Sandberg and Lynne Pelos, we just need Perry!

Our task for the afternoon was to help with pumpovers.  The grapes are currently in a period of cold soaking, which extracts color from the grape skins as well as other elements that contribute to the finished wine.  In a few days, they will let the tanks warm up and fermentation will start naturally.  During the cold soak, the pumpover circulates the grape juice and keeps the grape skins on top wet.  At iOTA, they use a very gentle (but heavy) pneumatic pump to accomplish this mixing.  Attaching the hoses and moving among eight fermentation tanks, all I could think of was “don’t kick open a valve!”

Here I’m pitching in to help with pumpovers.

The grape juice is a very intense garnet red; Julie’s fingernails were a perfect match.

The grape juice in each fermenter is checked every day for brix level and regularly sent out for more detailed analysis.

Right now, it’s just grape juice, a shade over 25 brix.

We have been fortunate to visit at a variety of times of the year.  This time I learned that I probably shouldn’t dream of being a harvest intern; it’s really hard work!

Fermenters are full and fall is on the way.

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  1. […] Our wines come from Rulo Winery in Walla Walla, Washington and iOTA Cellars in Eola-Amity Hills section of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. If you’re interested in learning a bit more about our visits, here’s Rulo and iOTA here and here. […]



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