How to make wine, with Mack & Liam

Mack and Liam have been in the Wine Business since the day they were born. "Our Dad tries to convince people that making wine is an art and a science that takes years to perfect. We think it's easy and a lot of fun. So let us show you how we make wine at Wilridge."

Hi! We are Mack and Liam. We have been the assistant winemakers at WilridgeWinery literally since the day we were born.

Our Dad tries to convince people that making wine is an art and a science that takes years to perfect. We think it's easy and a lot of fun. So let us show you how we make wine at Wilridge.

We think good wine is made first in the vineyard. That's why at Wilridge we work with some of the best vineyards in Washington state. Because we don't own any vineyards, we get to pick and choose where we get our grapes. Here we are on the south facing slope of Spring Valley Vineyard near Walla Walla, Washington.

Here's Mack at age 1 inspecting a healthy cluster of Pinot Noir grapes at Corral Creek Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Mack makes sure yields are kept low - around two tons per acre - at this prime Oregon vineyard.

We make surprise inspections throughout the growing season to make sure our grapes are being carefully managed. Here we are checking up on vineyard manager Fred Artz at Klipsun Vineyards on Red Mountain in the Yakima Valley.

As harvest approaches, it's important to check the grapes frequently so that they can be picked at the peak of ripeness. Here's Liam at age 2 gathering a sample of Klipsun Vineyard Merlot for laboratory analysis. We run lots of scientific tests but, in the end, we decide when to pick based on the flavor development of the grapes.

Ahhh…There is nothing like the taste of fresh grapes! Liam is enjoying Merlot from Klipsun vineyard. Wine grapes taste much sweeter than table grapes. They also make yummy juice, which we have with breakfast throughout harvest.

We pick the grapes into small plastic bins and ship them directly to our winery in Seattle in refrigerated trucks. That way, the grapes are not crushed or damaged on their way to the winery. The small bins are also convenient because we hand sort all of the fruit before it goes to the grape crusher. This is Liam at age 1 inspecting a load of Merlot from Klipsun Vineyard.

Once the grapes are sorted and crushed, they are placed in a fermentation tank and special wine yeast strains are added. As the yeast multiply and consume the sugar in the grapes, they exhale carbon dioxide which causes the grape skins to rise to the surface and form a cap. Several times a day we punch down the cap by hand so that it stays wet and the flavors from the skins are extracted into the wine. Here we are punching down the cap on some Cabernet Franc.

Because Wilridge is a small winery, we can work with small lots of wine. Here we are punching down the cap on a separate lot of a single clone of Nebbiolo from Klipsun Vineyards. By vinifying each wine, or even each clone, separately, we can better evaluate the wines and make suggestions for improving techniques at the vineyard and at the winery.

Once the proper balance of color, flavor, and tannins is achieved, it's time to press the red wine off of the skins. Here's Mack inspecting the free run juice before turning on our Italian basket press. By the way, red wine gets its color from fermenting on the skins. White wines are pressed the same day the grapes are crushed so that no color is extracted from the skins. We made our first white wine at Wilridge during the 2003 harvest.

Winemaking is about 2% inspiration and 98% sanitation. We are constantly cleaning and sanitizing at Wilridge - a trait we acquired from our Mama. This is Liam cleaning up some errant wine that squirted out of the press.

Once the wine has been pressed, we break down the basket and remove the skins and seeds - called pomace. This is the material that the Italians distill to make Grappa and the French distill to make Marc. Mack is scooping the pomace into bags to donate to local gardeners for compost. We give away tons of compost every year and also save enough to grow the best tomatoes in Seattle.

After we press the wine, we transfer it to our French oak barrels for aging. We work with Tonnelerie Sylvain, a small French cooper from Bordeaux who shares our philosophy of quality without compromise. The French oak barrels are expensive, but they are a key aspect of the Wilridge flavor profile. We think the oak should add complexity - like a spice - but not be the main ingredient. We want you to taste the wonderful fruit from the vineyard without being overpowered with wood flavors.

The last step is bottling. We bring in a mobile bottling line in the back of a semi-truck and bottle our entire production in one day. We work hard, but it's really a neighborhood party. Our Mama always makes a big dinner for everyone who helps out.

Our dad says that the best part of making wine is enjoying the fruits of our labors. He believes drinking wine in moderation with meals is part of a happy and healthy lifestyle. We hope you enjoy drinking Wilridge wines as much as we enjoy making them.

Wilridge wines are perfect for any occasion and are always a welcome gift. If you are in the Seattle area, please visit our Tasting Room at the Pike Place Market and if you're in eastern Washington, visit The Tasting Room - Yakima. Purchases may be made on site, or online.