While we get back into the swing of a new semester (which starts next week – are you ready? Heck, am *I* ready….?!), let’s take another moment to see what some of our students get to do during their internships. By the time our students take the Fall Wine Production Internship, they have already had many hours in the winery working alongside experienced winemakers, and this practicum experience requires 194 more hours in the winery. Below is the summary of the practicum experience of another student, Nancy Evans, who is slated to graduate this spring. Nancy is a dedicated student and clearly is passionate about winemaking and the grape and wine industry. Following her Fall Wine Production Internship summary is her summary from her Cellar Operations Internship, which requires 64 hours in the wine cellar with a mentor. I think you will agree: many excellent opportunities are available to our students as they complete their degree work, and they do not spend their internship time only washing hoses and tanks.
Fall Wine Production Internship Experience
The host winery for my fall internship was Niagara Landing in Lockport, New York. While there I was mentored by Domenic Carisetti, head winemaker. I experienced the fall harvest while it was in full swing throughout September and October. In November we began the work of moving wines from one tank to another to make room for new fermentations and stabilizations. We made additions to wines after having made appropriate calculations. Niagara Landing has an annual case production of over 10,000 with more than twenty wines on their wine list at any given time.
In the early part of the semester, beginning on my first day at the winery, I assisted with de-stemming and crushing the tons of grapes as they arrived on flatbed to the winery. I operated the pumps controlling the flow of grapes from the de-stemmer to the press, and of the juice from the press to the tanks. I loaded rice hulls into the press, which help to keep the skins from sticking to the sides of the press and blocking the juice from flowing freely. I learned how the Willmes press, which was made in Germany in the 1930’s, operated. We processed a variety of grapes during harvest including, but not limited to: Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, Stueben, Reisling, Niagara, and Merlot. I was taught how to clean and sanitize all the equipment when we were through at the end of the day.
I was trained in the proper way to punch-down caps safely. I was responsible for monitoring the grapes while they remained in two ton bins for up to ten days to extract color from the skins. I also participated in multiple transfers of wine among tanks in the winery to help maximize storage space. I helped run the wine through a pad filter then cleaning the filter when finished. I assisted in bottling on a six bottle line, assuming all jobs including setting bottles on the line, removing them from the line once filled, and corking the finished product.
I learned the proper techniques involved in laboratory analysis to measure pH, alcohol, total acidity, and SO2, using equipment including a hydrometer, an ebulliometer, and titration tests. I was involved in the process of taking samples used to determine the amount of various nutrients and fining agents to be added to the wine in tanks. I aided in calculating the mixtures, then in adding them to the tanks. I also participated in tastings to confirm that a wine was ready to bottle or as they were blended.
The time spent in the winery this semester has been incredibly enlightening as well as exciting. Participating in harvest was an experience that could not be imagined. I look forward to spending additional time at Niagara Landing next semester to continue this unique learning process through my Cellar Operations Internship.
Cellar Operations Internship Experience
This semester I worked in the winery at The Lakehouse Inn & Winery in Geneva, Ohio for my Cellar Operations Internship. My experiences there have included a lab work, barrel and cellar maintenance, and work in the press room where white wines are stored in tanks.
When I first started working there, I felt it was very important to be very aware of my position as a student, which was to learn as much as possible from the winemaker, while contributing anything I may have learned so far that would be of value. I am confident that by carefully and thoughtfully approaching the relationship in this way, we were able to build a mutual trust and learn from one another. The winemaker I worked for has never had an assistant to help him in the winery. He relied upon various people to simply help him out when he needed an extra hand. He now refers to me as his assistant, which is deeply gratifying.
I began working there in January when all of the wine had been through primary fermentation and most had completed malolactic fermentation. My first duties included helping to filter the white wines, clean and sanitize all of the hoses before and after use, clean the tanks, learn to operate the pump, and overall clean up. I also assisted in the lab tests including TA, pH, and Free SO2. I learned to calibrate the machines and run them. I helped to develop a schedule for testing all of the wine on hand, which was something that had not been done before. This is, in my opinion, the most beneficial contribution I have offered thus far. The fact that I was enrolled in a Chemistry class and Wine Microorganisms this semester was very useful. I was able to share information learned in class as it applied specifically to the work we were doing in the winery. I think it is very common for winemakers to underestimate the necessity for routinely testing wine to be sure nothing bad happens to it from a microbial standpoint. I am proud to say that we have begun a practice of testing all of the barrels every two weeks and top them up regularly.
I have also become more comfortable using lab equipment such as the electronic pH meter and the machine used to test for Free SO2. I am familiar with all of the chemicals used for these tests, as well as those used for sanitation. I have worked out the equations to determine how much SO2 to add to large volumes of wine based upon the results of the testing conducted. I feel like my experience in the lab has greatly increased my understanding while in class. Oftentimes we would be
learning about a topic during a class that I had actually experienced in the winery that same day. I know that my learning was enhanced because of this.
Overall, my internship has been a very rewarding experience that I believe has greatly contributed to my education. The opportunity to apply the things I am learning in class, and practice under the watchful eye of someone who has years of experience, has been invaluable. I have found both of my internships to be incredibly exciting and informative. There is no better way of learning how to do something than to actually do it.