winemakers clean testarossa


Mar 11, 2024Jason Wagg

If you’ve ever been inside a cellar, you’ve probably seen ample evidence that winemakers are clean freaks. From workers hosing down tanks to pristine wine thieves, the clean machine is in force at today’s wineries.


Why Sanitation is Important During the Winemaking Process

The reason? Microbes can ruin a wine at various moments during its production. Levels of oxygen or the pH can be accommodating for certain bad actors. Some will die off when alcohol appears; some will not.

Chief among them is Brettanomyces. This one can “dumb down” a wine by eliminating the marvelous complexity that terroir brings to the bottle. “Brett” completely defeats the purpose of wineries such as terroir-driven Testarossa in Los Gatos, California, where founders Rob and Diana Jensen work with 18 top growers in Russian River Valley and Monterey to express the wonders of terroir in their wines. They are not alone. Terroir is paramount to small artisan wineries.

Other bacteria do their own damage. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are behind stuck vintages and bitter flavors. Acetic acid bacteria (AAB) are the spoilers that cause vinegar flavors.

Testarossa Winemaker Bill Brosseau is a noted cellar clean freak ready to combat a multitude of microbes just waiting to gain entry into hoses, tanks, barrels and drains. They might ride in on a contaminated bin or valve, or even on the grapes themselves. That is one reason why Bill and his team are careful that grapes are pristine – rips and tears give microbes an easy way to hitch a ride.

What happens once bad bacteria gets into a winery?

Once inside, bacteria can hide and lurk in the nooks and crannies of winery architecture where they might survive for years. They’ll make use of a winery’s humidity, ambient temperature, fermentation regimens and more in order to live another day.

With his team, Bill takes every step to clean out barrels, tanks, hoses and drains. Testarossa uses filtered/reverse osmosis for its humidifying system and bottle rinsing. As an extra precaution, when Bill ages wine, he designates certain barrels for each vineyard. Every year, wines sourced from a specific vineyard are aged in the barrels reserved for that site.

“We are kind of like doctors,” Bill says. “We see the dark side of things but also have the glory of correction. Or fire fighters; we detect the fire, then put it out.”

So, the next time you enjoy a beautiful wine with layers of fragrances and aromas, toast the dedication of that winery’s clean machine and the workers who prevent, detect and eradicate microbes on the move.

Not a member of our wine club? We invite you to give our wine club a try.

Try one of our five wine club levels and each month enjoy a new winery adventure.

About The California Wine Club

Discover great wine with The California Wine Club. Since 1990, it’s been our wine club’s mission to help artisan wineries share their small-batch wines with wine enthusiasts everywhere. At The California Wine Club we happen to think these wines simply taste better than the mass-produced wines that dominate store shelves. Signature Series members will enjoy  Elkhorn Peak Cellars’ 2018 Estate Grown Reserve Napa Valley Pinot Noir their next delivery.

We visit the wineries, meet the families and winemakers behind the wines and then invite them to share their favorite wines with our wine club members. Every wine featured in our wine of the month club comes from a real-working winery.

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