BENTON CITY, Wash. - The traditional form of crushing grapes was physical foot stomping but these days that's not the norm. Most vineyards use machines now and Kiona Vineyards and Winery in Benton City has a very sophisticated one.
"The macro steps for making better wine happen pretty quickly. Winemakers get equipment, they get familiar with the block of grapes, they know what to do with them. Then it's better barrels, better aging, better equipment," said owner and manager Scott Williams.
Better equipment is Kiona's latest step in their quest for quality wine. It's a high-end de-stemmer and crusher.
"It separates the material that's not grapes. The stems, the leaves or the blades and it kicks them out one end and grapes come out the other," Williams said.
The grapes come out crushed: mangled skins, seeds and juice.
"That's where the color of the red wine comes from. However, the seeds can impart a real rough character to the wine and if you can get them out, that's a good thing," Williams said.
This is a rather unique piece of machinery. Williams is only aware of three or four of them in the entire northwest. Less sophisticated versions don't separate as well.
"This equipment actually allows us to separate out a fair number of the seeds before we even start fermenting. Which will still give us a great big powerful Red Mountain Wine but it'll be softer and easier to drink," Williams said.
Once the grapes are crushed they go straight to fermenters where winemakers add the yeast and they eventually turn into bottled wine.