From the vine to the glass
When you think of wine, you probably think about it in a bottle. You probably don't think about the process it takes to make it.
And as Tawnya Bach and Dave Pylant discovered, there's more to it than just crushing some grapes.
In Oronogo, Mo., 67 rows of grapes cover six acres of land at Keltoi Winery and Vineyard. Eight different varieties of grapes, five reds and three whites, help make an estimated 2,000 gallons of wine each year.
"13 years ago or so, we bought the land, and we started putting an acre in at a time, and it just kind of fell together," Erv Langan, owner of Keltoi, said.
"Did anybody tell you that you're crazy to be trying this?" Pylant asked.
"My wife. All the time, especially early on. This is a hobby that's really gotten out of hand," Langan said.
Langan spends a lot of time doing the leg-work in the vineyard picking the grapes.
"How do you tell if the grape is ready and ripe to be picked? These have a little yellow in them, so that's good?" Bach asked.
"These are all ripe to pick right here," Langan said.
The entire process may start on the vine, but it doesn't end there. It's only the beginning.
"You'll see in there what Andrew does, is on the white grapes, we take those, we go in there, we crush those. We got that new crusher we're proud of. It will take 400 lbs at a time," Langan said.
Andrew Pennington is Keltoi's head winemaker.
"When did you first become interested in wine-making?" Bach asked.
"Back when I was a junior in college working down at the Missouri Southern Alumni Association as a student employee. I really loved growing grapes, and I just wound up inside one day, doing some chemistry work in the back. Always loved wine, and one thing lead to the next, and I was at the right place at the right time I guess," Pennington said.
Pennington says a great wine starts with de-stemming the grapes and pumping the juice and skins in to a large tank where they sit for 24 hours without any alcoholic fermentation.
After that first day, yeast is added, and the primary fermentation process begins.
After sitting for two to three weeks to let the yeast activate, the concoction is tested before it moves on to the next stage.
The mixture is then tested for its concentration of acids and sugars, something which requires a bit of mathematics and chemistry.
Once everything checks out, the skins and juice are poured into a press where they are separated.
"This is all nice and clean. Sanitation is the most important thing, so the buckets have been food-grade sanitized," Pennington said.
The juice is then pumped into another tank for secondary fermentation.
"After a year, sometimes two years, depending on the variety, then it goes to this side of the room, and these are my polishing tanks. So this is kind of active wine or wine that's just about to be done," Pennington said.
"You talked about having everything really sanitary. How important is it?" Bach asked.
"It is dramatically important. You can go years on aging a premium vintage, and if you barrel sample it with a dirty pipette, or you get in a rush and don't want to clean your bottler that day, you can potentially ruin that years and years of labor," Pennington said.
"And the sad thing is -- you don't find that out until two years down the road, " Bach said.
"Down the drain it goes, and that is a sad sight to see," Pennington said.
As soon as it has finished aging, the wine is filtered, transferred to another tank and bottled.
"How about wine in the box?" Pylant asked.
"Uh, I drank a lot of wine in the box in the past, but I don't think we'll go there. We'll just have it in bottles, and we'll keep corks," Langan said.
Tour the winery
"Do you do tours?" Pylant asked.
"Yes we do. We have people come back all the time that will go back, and we'll show them the winery back there. We'll take them out there in the vineyard and show them that, cause that's sort of the education process about what we are about out here," Langan said.
Keltoi Winery is located at 17705 County Road 260, Oronogo, Mo., 64855 and is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
If you're driving from Joplin, take 171 Hwy. At Mo-Kan Dragway, go East on M Hwy. for five miles. At County Road 260, go North 7/10 of a mile. The vineyard will be on your left.
If you're driving from Pittsburg, go east on 171 Hwy. At Mo-Kan Dragway, go left on M Hwy. 5 miles to County Road 260. Turn left. The vineyard will be approx. 7/10 of a mile on the left.