Every once in a while you get to do something really cool, something completely unexpected. And it is in those times that you are happy you stepped outside the normal day. Last week while hanging out with the brewers from Right Brain and Paw Paw we made the trip across the street (literally) to St. Julien Winery and did an impromptu visit of the winery.
St. Julien is Michigan’s oldest and largest winery. Mariano Meconi, an Italian immigrant (stopping first in Canada) brought the winery that became St. Julien into Michigan in 1933, then moved to their location in Paw Paw in 1936.
In the 1990s they also became a distillery under the guidance of Cellar Master and Master Distiller Larry Gilbert. In the distillery they make ports and brandies as well as gin and vodka using grape spirits.
Of course you can’t spend some time with a craftsman without a couple samples. I go on record to say that the gin we sampled that day was amazing. Mind you, it was uncut at roughly 90% alcohol so it was quite warming. But you would think that gin from grapes would share something in common with wine. But their gin is incredibly clean, the juniper berries carry the alcohol well.
Of course this is what most would think of when they think of a wine cellar. This is the traditional way it is done. A modern winery still has their steel tanks as well though and St. Julien is no exception.
The bladder press. This is where grapes are pressed before heading to fermenters. During harvest season this beast is put through the paces, pressing up to 33 tons of grapes in 2.5 hours. Imagine trying to do that with your feet.