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Pressing Into Action

Posted: Nov 21, 2006 1:33pm ET

This year we decided to buy a bigger wine press. Mostly because we’d increased production to the point where we just couldn’t get enough grapes pressed in a day using our old press, and partly because I didn’t want to hear “I think we're gonna need a bigger press” (to paraphrase a line from Jaws) another time.

It’s always a challenge any time a big piece of equipment is delivered to the winery. Nothing seems designed to be moved easily, at least not without one of the machines you’d see on the TV show Modern Marvels. Life would be so much easier if we had one of those cranes that could lift the Empire State Building. Of course, figuring out where to park it when it wasn’t being used probably would be even worse.

The truck delivering the press was supposed to be at the winery by 4 p.m. It showed up at 8 p.m. By then, it was very dark in our parking lot. And it was getting very cold. Furthermore, the press was in the very front of a 53-foot-long enclosed trailer. Normally, equipment like that would be delivered on a flatbed, so that you could at least try to use forklifts to unload it. And to make matters worse, it didn’t have its wheels attached—it was on a wooden skid. Kimberly, Mike and I decided it was time to take a moment and think.

We decided it would be best to drag the press the length of the trailer with some straps attached to a forklift. It took about a half-hour to get that set up and accomplished. And it wasn’t without some worry. I kept envisioning the straps breaking under the stress, and the recoil slicing through any number of my body parts. Luckily, nothing of the sort happened … but I'm still having nightmares about it.

Our next problem was how to get the press out of the trailer. We decided to use the forklift to drag it out most of the way, and then place picking bins (they have more uses than just parking-lot sculptures) underneath it to support the end that the forklift was holding up. After freeing up that forklift, we used both of our two forklifts to support the other end of the press, and then lifted it enough so that the truck could drive away. With a few more upside-down picking bins, we had our press up on pedestals in the middle of the parking lot. Maybe it was a good thing the truck showed up so late, since we’d have been in our neighbors’ way if it had arrived in the afternoon. At this point the press was nice to look at … but still wasn’t in the winery.

Next we used the forklifts on either end of the press to lift it up, remove the picking bins, and lower it to the ground. We then used one forklift to lift and push it while using two pallet jacks on the other end to guide it. Somehow, we made that work. Sounds straightforward, but that took over an hour.

So, two hours after showing up, the press was in the winery. Getting the wheels on and the hopper assembled and attached could wait for another day. Just another day in the life of a winemaker—and something else they probably don’t teach you at UC Davis.

Robert Fukushima
California —  November 21, 2006 6:47pm ET
Isn't it remarkable all of the amazing skills a small business owner has to posess to make a business run. And what was that saying, something about what a small group of dedicated individuals can accomplish...
Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  November 21, 2006 11:56pm ET
Robert - sometimes I think only about 1% of what we do is what most people would call winemaking. And I'm sure 50% of what we do is cleaning :) And the other 49% is lifting heavy things. Just like most other small business owners.
Barry Rossum
November 22, 2006 9:49am ET
Hey Brian it's about time that you got another press. Wine making is such a pressing business this time of year. So what did you get and what's the capacity? A former pinot prisoner on parole wants to know.
Eric Hall
Healdsburg, CA —  November 22, 2006 10:37am ET
I never thought that the experience gained in the summers I spent in my youth working in warehouses, driving a forklift would ever come in so handy in my middle age!
Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  November 22, 2006 8:13pm ET
Barry - the old press was 900 litres... the new one is 2900 litres. It was soooo nice having the larger press this year. We could press off 15 T-Bins in a day and be done by 10PM, whereas 9 T-Bins was an "out at midnight" day using the old press.

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