The bottling operation was established in April of this year, and now Hannah Nicole can manage the entire winemaking process on site. Before the bottling machines were installed, Hannah Nicole staff were calling in a 40-foot bottling truck when wines were primed for packaging. The process was expensive, so Winemaker John M. Sotelo would wait for multiple barrels to mature before calling in the bottlers. Now, as soon as a varietal is aged to perfection, Sotelo and his crew begin bottling. The machine processes 30 bottles of wine per minute.
“We can bottle 700 to 800 cases of wine, 12 bottles to a case, in a day,” Sotelo said. “Having the bottling system on site will greatly improve the quality of our wines. We’ll have more time to experiment with aging technology and have the ability to try new blends before bottling. This allows us more flexibility with our wines. Each wine matures at a different rate, so when one is ready to go, we can bottle it immediately.”
Before the grapes are harvested, they’re routinely examined for sugar content, color and flavor. When the grapes are ready, they’re picked, boxed and transported to the winery building, where they’re sorted for quality, a process that eliminates discolored or shriveled grapes. The grapes are dumped into a machine that pulls the grapes from the stems, then pumped into a stainless steel fermenting vessel.
For red wines, the crushed grapes go into the steel tanks with their skins and seeds. For white wines, the grapes are squeezed so only the juice makes it into the tanks. When the wines are done fermenting, they’re poured into wooden barrels to age. Hannah Nicole staff regularly sample wines from the barrel to check for quality and assess readiness for bottling.
Hannah Nicole Vineyards produces 15 wine types each year. Most notably, the 2010 Le Melange Rose took Best in Show honors at this year’s Contra Costa Winegrowers Commercial Wine Competition. Hannah Nicole also received 10 awards at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest such competition in the United States.
“We’re so proud to be the first winery in our area to grow, produce and bottle our own wines,” said Operations Manager Mark Enlow. “East County isn’t recognized as an American Viticultural Area by the Wine Institute, but hopefully this moves us closer in that direction.”
Currently, Hannah Nicole Vineyards produces about 8,000 cases per year, Hannah Nicole wines are available in 15 states and sold abroad in China. With the expanded opportunity for production comes the expanded opportunity for marketing. Enlow hopes to add 10 more states plus European and South African markets in 2013.
Hannah Nicole Vineyards and Winery is located at 6700 Balfour Road. The Tasting Room is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information about Hannah Nicole Vineyards and Winery, visit www.hnvwines.com.