Our primary expertise and interests are in fermentation, distillation and personal hospitality.
Before we get into details of Charbay's winemaking & distillation let me first fill you in on a little bit of history of distillation.
A Brief History of Distillation
Since antiquity, the perfumes, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, along with the alchemy for gold and elixir of life, were among the prime-time fascinations of the learned ones, who at the beginning of the second millenium ultimately gave us the spirits of modern times.
Egyptians and Greeks distilled plants, spices and other matter (sea water). The Romans eventually named the prrocess "de-stillare", Latin for "to drip or trickle down" as the distillate trickled down from the still. Arabs however, discovered alcohol distillation in the early middle ages (1050 - 1150AD)
Sources for Fermenting and Distilling Materials
The sugars and flavors of fruits and carbohydrates from innumerable other plants, when hydrolyzed to simple sugars and the simple sugars themselves, when fermented into alcohol, give us the raw materials for all distilled spirits.
Alcohol and alcohol soluble flavors from grains, fruits, and vegetables give us the following five primal spirits: whiskies, brandies, rum, vodkas, and tequila.
Pastis, gin and liqueurs to name just a few are the sub-categories of the above primal spirits.
Now that we've lined-up all of the above, let's start:
Select-quality whole fresh fruits are brought to us here on the mountain (or to our main production Distillery in Mendocino County).
Here on the Mountain the fruits are destemmed or de-pitted and crushed directly into 1 Ton /240 gallon open-top fermenters, right here at the crushing and fermenting pad.
Special yeasts used for different products are added to fermenters to start fermentation. Each fermenter, during the course of alcoholic fermentation (6-12 days) is hand punched-down and/or pumped-over 2-4 times a day to extract flavors and color and cool the fermenting must.
After the alcoholic fermentation of red wine is finished, (all sugar converted to alcohol), the fermenters are sealed from air for the next 3-5 weeks during which time a malolactic fermentation and softening of young tough tannins extracted during alcoholic fermentation will complete.
Free-run red wine is pumped out of the fermenter and the pomace is hand-pressed into an old basket press! Free-run and pressed wines are combined and barreled into 60 gallon French oak barrels for +/- 2 years of aging.
After barrel aging, the wines are finished, bottled and bottle-aged for months or years before being released to our customers.
As I said, a simple thing!