Blog

Shakib Ali
August 4, 2017

5:00 am: My alarm goes off and as a habit as soon as I wake up I login and check that the nightly sanitation has finished. Our bottling line has an automated cleaning process which is scheduled each night, so this tells me if it’s going to start out as a good day or a more challenging one. Everything was good today, so I got ready and after a quick breakfast I was off to the winery to bottle our 2014 LangeTwins Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. I tasted the wine the night before and talked with our winemaker Karen Birmingham about it. The wine tasted great so it has me a bit excited today.


Shakib Ali and Randy Lange working on installing the line in November of 2014

6:00 am: I arrive at the winery with two employees and begin preparing for the day's bottling run. We confirm that our nightly automated sanitation has completed and that our filters, the last line of defense to remove any yeast or bacteria, have passed their integrity test values. Then we take a final measurement on the bottling tanks for record keeping and connect the wine lines to the tank. Now we’re ready to send the Cabernet to the filler and perform what we call the “first flush” where we flush about 120 gallons of wine through the wine filter and the filler to remove any remaining water that may have been in the system from the sanitation. 

Now that we have performed our first flush, we begin syncing the machines up as our line is designed as an “MBF Superblok” meaning that all of the machines are synced together in one much smaller footprint than a standard line of our size. Once the machines are synced we send a sample set of bottles through the line so that our Lab Supervisor, Lindsey, can run a final analysis on the bottled wine to confirm that it meets all of the set specifications which include checking the alcohol, dissolved oxygen and fill height among other things. With these specifications checked off and one final taste approval done by Lindsey we are given the OK to bottle the wine.

All of this is happening in the first hour of bottling and is usually completed by 6:45 am. Today we were right on time. 


Sample bottles for quality control

7:00 am: The remainder of the bottling team comes in and we have a quick meeting to discuss the day’s run and any changes or specific points we think may be challenging. Today we had three employees out for CPR and First Aid Training so our mechanic, Jose, and I will have to work on the line. No problem.

As soon as the meeting is done its time to begin. This is the most critical point of the production run as we have to make sure that our setup has been done correctly. We typically start off slow, around 120 botles per minute, while we check that the label placement on all four label stations is looking good and that our inspection system is checking the fill height, cork insertion and the labels correctly. 

It took a bit longer than normal today as we just changed over from a week of running a reverse taper bottle. We also had to replace a spring on the capsule applicator star wheels (which guide the bottle into the spinner heads from the screw that moves the bottle down the line) as well as two actuators on the infeed star wheel that guides the bottles into the corker. With so many moving parts, we are always fixing something. 


Reverse Taper Bottle (left), Claret (right)

8:00 am: We finally have the line dialed in and the package looking great! Now we can turn it up to 200 bottles per minute and let it run.

1:00 pm: We are done with the LangeTwins 2014 Cabernet! No time to rest as we need to get the line changed over to run our Sand Point Cab tomorrow. This is where all of our operators turn into a NASCAR pit crew and we all work together to get the changeover done as quickly as possible. This changeover is a bit more involved but by 1:45 pm the changeover is done and I can finally get back to my desk to answer emails and work on ordering parts for our upcoming filler rebuild next month.

3:30 pm: Time to go home. I walk the bottling line to make sure that all of the equipment is shut down properly and that all of the lines are correctly setup for the nightly automated sanitation.

3:45 pm: Lock the doors and go home. Another successful day of bottling done.

Aug 4, 2017 at 10:27 AM
Charlene Lange
March 25, 2017

It was little Italy Friday night at LangeTwins winery with Pietro ‘Pete’ Murdaca in the kitchen pairing our Italian varietals with his cuisine. Was it the rainy night? The red checked tablecloths? Perhaps the strolling accordions?  There was a bit of magic in the air as 75 guests witnessed this third generation young chef stretch and execute a unique culinary experience.

Dinner pairings were all Pete’s design – opening act was a golden beet and arugula salad paired with the LangeTwins 2016 Sangiovese Rosé .  He then matched our 2014 Winery Exclusive Nero D’Avola with an oxtail ragu and cavatelli pasta that took two days to prepare.  Our 2013 Single Barrel Teroldego was the feature with a charred ribeye over a bed of raddichio, but it was his chocolate semifreddo dessert topped with toasted hazelnuts and fresh fruits that pushed everyone over the top served with our MVP Dessert wine. 

The addition of Italian varietals to the LangeTwins portfolio can be attributed to winemaker David Akiyoshi who identified these Mediterranean varietals as unique wine grapes that would thrive in the Lodi appellation and especially under the direction of our viticulture team.  “These varietals are old world heartbeats,” said Akiyoshi, “and great additions to the family portfolio of wines.”

Murdaca is a hometown Lodi son of Annette and Jim Murdaca, and a third generation chef.  His culinary training was in Italy, and he completed internships both in Calabria and Rome. Murdaca cites “freshness of ingredients” as a key to his success, with an emphasis on sourcing local produce. Murdaca and his family are currently renovating their Kettleman Lane restaurant, Pietro’s and describe their new look as “blending the old with the new”.  They expect to reopen in the June, 2017.

We spiced up the evening with a caricature of our chef Pete to honor his first solo winemaker’s dinner and pressed him to sign autographs for his admiring crowd.  It was amore! 

Mar 25, 2017 at 10:08 AM
Charlene Lange
February 28, 2017

The event was billed as a “Stuck in Lodi” auction item, offered to Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theatre Company in my hometown of Chelsea, Michigan.  If you raise your palm, point to the bottom of your thumb and scooch over just a bit, you’re pretty darn close to Midwest territory, home of the Spartans, and I’ll give you U/M’s Wolverines as well. 

Our auction item is just one of the little things I do to maintain my hometown connection, while supporting local, original theatre.  Hats off to Daniels, also a hometown boy, who reached back to the community to establish a local theatre while honing his own trade as an actor.  Now in its 25th year, The Purple Rose Theatre enjoys audiences of thousands of patrons annually from across the nation.  That effort alone should garner a Tony.

The auction high bidder secured the three day trek to Lodi featuring our crazy Wine and Chocolate weekend.  We mixed the Michiganders in with 5,000 of our newest BFF’s from throughout California.  February is a great time to leave Michigan ditching snow scrapers and to blast into our warm valley temperatures, and see the daffodils begin to bloom.

Ann Arbor’s Dave Ligotti, his wife Karen, and Saline’s Derek Dobbs with his wife Noelle were very game to jump into the themed Wine and Chocolate ‘Roaring 20’s weekend.  They appeared on our doorstep for the opening event, our Wine Club Release Party (that would be solely to pick up wine…) dressed to kill! 

Randy toured them through the winery, intricately explaining the focus of our winery as creating opportunities for taking the fruit from our estate grown vineyards and distributing through wholesale market place, via our brands or our clients brands.  Our family manages and grows over 8,000 acres of winegrapes, and with 27 different varietals we have a unique opportunity to create many exceptional wines.

The recent addition of our bottling line adds another component to the discussion as we complete the circle of ‘vine to wine’ – the high speed bottling line capacity is 220 bottles each minute.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of the weekend is always Big Red Night at the ranch. I cook and Randy grills thick filets – this dinner is not for the faint of heart. It was originally billed as a chance to raid Randy’s cellar and choose whatever red wines, regardless of age, to pair with the filets.  However!  Randy veered off script declaring he knew where the really, really good stuff resided, especially those wines of same vintage/year with multiple bottles.  And since we also included our Canadian friends, Vancouver Police Department #2 Warren and Lisa Lemke, son Joe’s partner on a 10 day bicycle ride from Vancouver to Lodi, circa 2014 we needed those multiple bottles!  I likely neglected to mention the Vancouver crew brought wines as well, so we added the Canadian and Washington labels to the list – we justified the evening as an educational wine experience!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Wine and Chocolate dawned on Saturday morning and I had warned the Michigan crew to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  The best thing they did was book a car and driver – that certainly took the pressure off enjoying wines from 58 different wineries in the Lodi appellation.  We initiated them early at LangeTwins, paired our wines with our signature chocolate, brie and basil panini’s and then sent them off to explore the region. 


So we turned them loose on the greater Lodi area for a day of wine tasting, exploring and enjoying the fruits of our labor, literally. Last word from Dave Ligotti?  Lodi will never be the same! 

Feb 28, 2017 at 10:28 AM
Aaron Lange
February 1, 2017

60 MILLION!  Did you know that there are about 60 million vines in the Lodi Appellation that each receive individual attention from a skilled farm worker during the winter pruning season?  Why do winegrape growers spend so much time, effort, and money pruning their grapevines?  

In short, winter pruning is one of the most important cultural operations that occur in the vineyard as it sets the stage for the coming growing season.  The decisions growers make while pruning affect the form of the vine, the vine balance (canopy vegetative growth and potential yield), and of course the quality of the fruit.  


Old Vine Zinfandel, before and after pruning

Very simply, grape clusters (bunches), leaves, and tendrils are all attached to the shoot (think: new branches), and those shoots grow from buds each spring, which looks like the picture below.  Those green shoots eventually lignify (turn rigid and woody) just before harvest each year, only to be trimmed down by growers during the winter.  See here for a great explanation of grapevine structure and morphology on the Lodi Winegrowers webpage:  http://www.lodigrowers.com/important-structures-features-of-grapevines/


A newly pruned spur with one bud

What’s really important to understand is that those green shoots and clusters which will pop up in the spring are already microscopically formed in each bud during the growing season BEFORE winter pruning.  That means the number of clusters that will appear for the 2017 harvest are already formed in the vine right now!  In fact, some people actually dissect buds in order to count and try to predict how large or small the upcoming crop will be.

In Lodi, the most common style of pruning is “spur pruning”. In both images here, the Chardonnay (left) is spur pruned on a bi-lateral cordon (two arms on a wire to accommodate machine harvest), and the old vine zin (right) in a “head trained” form.  


Pruned Chardonnay and Old Vine Zinfandel

Spur pruning means we cut woody shoots (canes) down to a length of three inches, which typically includes two or three buds on each “spur”.  In general, we predict a primary shoot will emerge from each bud, which will typically have two clusters, depending on variety. In this way, we calculate and plan how many buds we want to leave per vine, which gives us an indicator of potential yield. In a perfect world, leaving twenty, two-bud spurs on a Chardonnay vine should leave us forty shoots, each with two clusters, or eighty clusters for harvest.  Of course, mother-nature has an enormous influence on the cluster number and size during the growing season, so it’s not quite as simple as described above.


3" spur with 2 buds

In addition to pruning the vine to meet yield goals, we also must leave spurs properly positioned and spaced from one-another.  Crowding spurs together will cause shoots and clusters to grow too close together.  This crowding of vegetative growth and fruit is not ideal, because it restricts sunlight and amble air movement, which are both absolutely necessary to produce high quality winegrapes. 


Newly pruned row of Old Vine Zinfandel

Finally, pruning is absolutely a skill and an art form.  As most things in viticulture and winemaking, it is an amazing marriage between science and art in order to influence that vine to produce a desired result.  I have pruned many vines in my day, but not nearly as many as some of the incredibly skilled pruning masters that work with us at LangeTwins.  When you pick up that glass of 2017 vintage LangeTwins wine, know that Step one to that tasty beverage was a dedicated team of skilled vineyard managers and crews working all winter long!


Vineyard Manager, Kyle Brown, pruning Old Vine Zinfandel 

Feb 1, 2017 at 12:00 AM