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Eat and Drink

Wine-making secrets: Behind the scenes at City Winery

Behind every bottle of wine is a long and complicated process. But at City Winery in SoHo, guests can opt to try it for themselves. We decided to dive in and get our hands dirty, and the rewards were fruitful, to say the least. Here's what we learned.

Choose your grapes

These are Syrah grapes, sent to SoHo from
Photo Credit: Nina Ruggiero

These are Syrah grapes, sent to SoHo from Mendocino County in northern California. They are described as peppery, meaty and tannic.

Send them up, up and away!

Once they arrive at City Winery, the bunches
Photo Credit: Nina Ruggiero

Once they arrive at City Winery, the bunches of grapes are sent up a conveyer belt, and dumped into the destemmer.

Drop them into the destemmer

The destemmer removes the majority of the stems
Photo Credit: Nina Ruggiero

The destemmer removes the majority of the stems and leaves from the grapes. Stems are high in water and potassium, and, if left in, they take away from the wine's acidity and color. Leaves left behind would create a distracting aroma.

Sort out any extra MOG

MOG is a winemaker's term for
Photo Credit: Nina Ruggiero

MOG is a winemaker's term for "material other than grapes." After going through the destemmer, the grapes are hand-sorted, and any left-behind jacks (that's a winemaker's term for bunches of stems), leaves, and sometimes the occasional lizards and insects, are removed, along with any imperfect grapes.

What about the green ones?

The majority of the grapes in this wine
Photo Credit: Nina Ruggiero

The majority of the grapes in this wine are Syrah, but some Viognier grapes are added as well. This is a nod to tradition; the two varieties grow side by side in the Rhone wine region of France. The blending of complimenting flavors (Viognier has more of a peachy taste) also adds an extra layer to the finished product.

This is a Syrah wine. In the U.S., a wine must consist of at least 75 percent of one grape in order to take on its name.

It's time for fermentation

To kick off fermentation, yeast is added to
Photo Credit: Nina Ruggiero

To kick off fermentation, yeast is added to the grapes and thoroughly mixed throughout the batch. In about one to three days, fermentation will begin. Our grapes will go through a cold fermentation, which takes longer than one done at a higher temperature.

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is the step in the process that
Photo Credit: Nina Ruggiero

Fermentation is the step in the process that converts sugar to alcohol. Yeast will break down the sugars in the fruit, producing carbon dioxide and alcohol, and pushing the skins to the top. Winemakers call the layer that rises to the top the cap.

Punch down the cap

The cap must be broken up and mixed

The cap must be broken up and mixed in with the liquid several times every day so it doesn't dry out. This is called maceration, and it can a difficult and dangerous job, due to the strength of the cap and the massive amounts of carbon dioxide involved.

Keep it comin'

Once it's ready, more wine of the same
Photo Credit: Nina Ruggiero

Once it's ready, more wine of the same variety will be added to the top of the tank. The dispensers are at the bottom, so the oldest wine can be poured first, of course.

Let it age

While some wines at City Winery are aged
Photo Credit: Nina Ruggiero

While some wines at City Winery are aged in steel tanks, others are aged in oak barrels in the cellar. Oak barrels add an extra dimension of flavor, and when treated correctly, they can last for 30 years. The amount of flavor and aroma they are adding to the wine, however, decreases with time.

Drink up!

You can visit City Winer to drink, dine,
Photo Credit: Nina Ruggiero

You can visit City Winer to drink, dine, take in a show or make your own wine. Should you choose to make your own, you'll be involved in every step of the process, from selecting the grapes to designing the label for the finished bottle. Learn more at citywinery.com.

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