The Top 5 Essential Tools of the Professional Winemaker (that no one would have ever thought were important)

I feel sometimes that I get caught up in working and doing my job that I forget there are rather interesting things that I absolutely can not make wine without that most of the non-winemaking public would scratch their head over.  Thus in order to lighten things up on the blog a bit I present my “Top 5 Essential Winemaking Tools” list.

5) A Desktop Calendar

I know what you’re thinking.  In today’s era of technology why would anyone still need a desktop calendar?  I have two, plus my Outlook calendar.  I’m of the mind that you can never be too organized so I have a year calendar to show things like seminars, vacations, or winemaking tours. Then there is the Monthly calendar showing holidays, major meetings, or short day trips.  I then use my Outlook calendar for the daily stuff, meetings, tastings, etc.  Call my OCD but its how my life works. 

4) Colored Highlighters

Ok, this one may just be me but I found myself today wishing I had more colors of highlighters (and I already have 8!).  They are great when you have your list together and are coming up with a blending plan.  You can show similar colors going together.  You can highlight different analysis that may need attention.  You can make different colors show up on your abovementioned calendars to denote days out of office and why.  There are so many uses for colored highlighters in the winery!  This can also be transferred over to colored dry erase markers for a tank board to show wines going through ML, filtered wines, fermentations, and different vintages.  We’re very visual beings and being able to visually organize your life makes issues easier to spot and fix.

3) Excel Spreadsheets

Say what you will about computer jockeys but they’ve got one thing right.  Excel spreadsheets beat the writing things down on bits of paper hands down!  They are super convenient because you can plug in theoretical blends and analysis and get an idea of where your wine will end up analytically.  This doesn’t take the place of trial blends put together on a counter top but it sure does help when you’re trying to tweak the analysis numbers in a wine a bit.  You can also sort lot lists by just about anything that one may need to sort for which is so much faster than trying to make a new list by hand all the time. 

2) Clipboards

     I have at least 4-5 clipboards that I reference on a daily basis.  They contain up to date wine analysis from the Lab, lists of tanks that are moving, or barrel inventories, most of which are in the form of Excel spreadsheets.  They are great for carrying around the cellar to write on.  Trust me, writing with a wine glass, barrel thief, and a clipboard in hand is difficult and quite a comical scene.  During harvest it gets even more crazy with clip boards including what grapes came in yesterday, what’s coming in today, what’s had yeast, what needs yeast… well, you get the picture. 

1) Wineglass

Ok maybe this one is pretty obvious however I dare you to walk in any winemaker’s office and not find one.  We carry them around in the cellar, in the lab, have them sitting on our desks.  You really can’t make any winemaking decision without a wineglass.  The wine MUST be looked at, smelled, tasted, and considered fully before any of the above tools can assist you going forward.  If you catch a winemaker out at dinner and their water glass is even close to the shape of a wine glass they will undoubtedly subconsciously swirl it and sniff at some point.  We’re just that used to having one around us at all times. 

Ultimately it is all about organization.  As a winemaker, one must know where their wine is at all times.  This may be fairly easy if you’ve to 5 or 6 tanks and you’re doing the work but as the winery size grows it becomes increasingly more difficult to remember where you put things off the top of your head.  These tools are what keep me sane and on top of things on a daily basis.  I’m sure if you ask any winemaker they would tell you the same.

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