When you sit down at your favorite restaurant and order a glass of refreshing white wine or a robust red varietal, you may not know how your favorite libation made its way from the vineyard to your glass. The wine-making process is intricate and technical, a true intersection of art and science.
We had the opportunity to ask Sarah C. Rhodes-Troxell, winemaker at Galen Glen Winery in Andreas, Pa., some questions about wine making to gain a better understanding as to the ins and outs of the process, and to learn about how the humble grape is transformed into wine.
PA Eats: Who are the winemakers at the winery?
Sarah C. Rhodes-Troxell: I am the winemaker and my husband, Galen, and our daughter, Erin, are the winegrowers. We farm wine, not grapes. All three of us help create our wines, be it in the vineyard or the cellar.
What types of grapes does Galen Glen grow, and which wine varietals are offered?
We farm 11 varieties: Grüner Veltliner (of which we have the second-oldest planting in the United States), Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zweigelt, Cabernet Dorsa, Regent, Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc and Cayuga.
On the current wine list, you can find Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Zweigelt Rosé, Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc and Cayuga. Merlot will join the wine list this autumn. Cabernet Dorsa and Regent are new and have their first harvest in September.
How long does it take for the entire wine-making process to be complete, from vine to bottle?
A typical harvest season is from mid-September through October. The earliest we would start bottling is January, and then we finish bottling most of our wines in August, just in time to refill the tanks again for another September harvest. A few select reds might stay in contact with oak for another year or two.
What is the step-by-step wine-making process?
First, the harvest, all done by hand. We field sort (each cluster is inspected before going into a half-ton bin).
Crush Pad White Wine: Half-ton bins are spilled into the hopper over a piece of equipment called a crusher-destemmer. The destemmer part removes and separates grapes from stems, and the crusher part gently crushes the grapes. The gently crushed grapes and juice are called the must. The must is pumped into the press.
To give you an idea how fast it happens, we can process a half-ton bin from hopper into press, and rinse the bin so it is ready to refill in four minutes. The press holds five to six tons and the press cycle runs for about three hours.
The juice is enzymed and clarified and then pumped into the tank for fermentation into wine. The juice chemistry is reviewed and fermentation is inoculated. Temperature controlled fermentation lasts two to four weeks. Some of the fermentations are stopped to retain residual sugar.
Several months later, the wine is filtered, blended and bottled.
Crush Pad Red Wine: The process begins the same way as crush pad white wine. But, after the must is pumped into the fermentation bins and the juice chemistry is reviewed and fermentation is inoculated, the juice undergoes temperature controlled fermentation and punch downs that last two to four weeks.
After fermentation is complete, new wine is pumped off and skins are pressed. Pumped and pressed wine is placed in the tanks, and malolactic fermentation is started.
Later (months or years, depending on the wine), wine is filtered, blended and bottled.
Where is the wine bottled? Do you do bottling on site?
We have a custom-built French bottling line in the cellar that can close the bottles with screw cap or cork.
How do you go about selling and distributing the wine?
Most of our wine is sold through our tasting room. We also sell direct to restaurants and breweries. Lastly, we distribute a small selection of wines to grocery stores and a distributor, who sells in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.
Now that you know more about how Galen Glen Winery produces its wine, you’re going to want to enjoy a glass or bottle of the refreshing red and white varietals for yourself. Visit the winery in Andreas, Pa. (about 29 miles Northwest of Allentown) to enjoy a wine tasting or glass of wine, and be sure to bring a bottle of Galen Glen home with you at the end of the day!
Find Galen Glen Winery at 255 Winter Mountain Dr. in Andreas, Pa.; phone: (570) 386-3682.
- Photos: Galen Glen Winery