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Making wine – a labor of love

"Ah, the labor I love," said Marc Nail, winemaker for Tehachapi Winery. "The wine maker prepares 10 months for the start of harvest, waiting patiently for the grapes to ripen. Then it starts – harvest time. Long hours turn into long days, which become a month, then two with no days off. Harvest begins before sunrise with arrival at the winery around 8 a.m. Everyone is busy cleaning and sanitizing the equipment. Everything is stainless steel or food grade materials – conveyors, destemmer, sorting tables, pumps, hoses and fermentation vessels."

This is just the beginning of Nail's day during harvest season which, for Tehachapi Winery, began the week of September 28 with the harvest of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot grapes grown on the winery's two acres on Cherry Lane.

On October 3, harvesting began on the winery's 18 acres in Cummings Valley and owner Mike Chan expects that when all is done, they will have harvested about 60 tons of Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Malbec grapes. Each half ton container of grapes is weighed and recorded before it goes to be crushed. One ton of grapes will produce about 60 cases of wine or 720 bottles. Any way you look at it, that's a lot of wine.

Tehachapi Winery's first crush actually took place a week earlier when Chan and Nail processed a special order of two tons of Cabernet Sauvignon from a vineyard in Paso Robles. It made for a perfect test run of the equipment that had been ordered from Europe in 2017 for this very purpose. Half ton bins of the tiny sweet grapes are poured onto a conveyor belt where they go to a destemmer. Any remaining stems are removed by hand on the way to the crusher. The Must (freshly crushed fruit juice that contains the skins, seeds and remaining stems of the grapes) is pumped to new bins or stainless steel tanks to rest. The Must is fermented, then pressed and then put into tanks to be clarified before going into barrels for aging. The last stage is bottling.

Mike Chan and Marc Nail are excited about the future of Tehachapi Winery. Chan said that he and Nail recently submitted some of their wines to Wine Enthusiast Magazine and were pleased to learn that their 2018 Merlot had received a 93 rating and Editor's Choice and their 2018 Malbec had received a rating of 91. Not bad for Tehachapi's newest winery.

Tehachapi Winery is currently open for tastings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. at 22136 Bailey Road in Cummings Valley. From Cummings Valley Road turn right onto Bailey Road (the dirt road) and follow the sign to enjoy a unique winetasting experience.