A Look at How City Winery Bottles Wines

Assistant winemaker Bill Anton bleeds air out of the line in preparation for filtering wine that is to be bottled.

The City Winery team bottled 10 barrels of member wines on Friday. The wines spanned three varietals, including 2010 Pinot Noir, 2009 Petite Syrah and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.

While the winery bottles wines throughout the year as wines are ready, bottling activities ramp up right before the harvest season (which is quickly approaching), so that space can be made for incoming crops, as is normal for the entire industry. Wines that are not ready to be bottled prior to harvest season are racked until harvest crops have been taken care of, which is usually around December. At that point, more attention can be dedicated towards bottling previous vintages.

The winery uses a manual bottling setup that is powered by gravity and a handful of dedicated wine lovers. The wine is pumped from the barrel, through a filter and to 60-gallon stainless steel drums located on a loft in the winery. From there, the wine is pulled by gravity through a hose to the filler bowl (pictured below). The filler bowl distributes wine through its eight spouts into bottles — from there, the wine is corked. The corking machine is connected to a pump that vacuums out any oxygen in the eulage — the space between the cork and the wine surface — to minimize the oxygen’s affect on the wine’s aging process. Once corked, the full bottles of wine are set aside for capsuling and labeling.

Wine aficionado Henry Gonzalez, kosher assistant winemaker Yanky Drew and wine aficionado Hank bottle wines.

While many larger wineries use fully automated bottling and labeling equipment, much of this process is manual at City Winery. Automated bottling machinery is ideal for large wineries, but it takes up of a lot of dead space. As an urban winery, City Winery has limited space and tends to produce a number of smaller batches, especially with our barrel member program, which enables individuals and small groups to make wines by the barrel.

As a result, the team bottles and labels wines in two separate sessions to maintain high quality standards. This allows the team to “focus on the bottling and do it right, and focus on the labeling and do it right,” says head winemaker David Lecomte.

With a team of 5-6 people, the bottling process for 10 barrels of wine takes about seven hours. At the end of the day, that’s 210 cases of wines (or 2,520 bottles of wine) ready for labeling!

Let us know if you have any questions about how City Winery bottles wines in the comments below.