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How Patz & Hall Achieves Efficient, High Quality Whole Cluster Pressing with Willmes SIGMA

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Background: Expanding capacity for a growing Chardonnay program

Patz & Hall’s highly regarded Chardonnays gain much of their acclaim from the winemaker’s ability to foster the unique expression of the grapes from each small, family-owned partner vineyard. The vineyard crews harvest grapes in the early morning in coastal vineyards from Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley and from Mendocino to Monterey. As trucks arrive with bins, crews sort the grapes and immediately press the whole clusters to preserve the delicate aromatics and full flavors of the Chardonnay fruit.

“Juice quality is the first consideration for winemakers in luxury programs,” says Patz & Hall’s winemaker, Tom Klassen.

Klassen guides the grapes through pressing and every step after that, ensuring consistency in the winemaking approach that has been refined to highlight each vineyard’s signature qualities. The importance of quality and consistency is why, when the winery decided it was time to add another press to their crush pad, it was critical they find the best solution on the market. To do so, they reached out to Scott Laboratories for guidance.

Solution: The Willmes SIGMA Press

“When Patz & Hall called us,” says Ira Cohen, Equipment Sales Manager at Scott Labs, “they were looking to add another press to their existing set up for additional capacity. As a quality winemaking facility doing Chardonnay, they wanted the best press for whole clusters. We recommended the Willmes SIGMA press, which was specifically designed to improve the quality of juice when pressing whole cluster grapes of all varieties.”

“It’s the industry standard for high-quality Chardonnay,” agrees Klassen. “Scott Labs was here the first week after installation to help the cellar crew learn how to use it most effectively. Since then, their service team and technical knowledge base have been great resources when optimizing the flexible, customizable controls and getting cellar staff up to speed on the technology.”

Key features of the proprietary Willmes SIGMA technology include the Flexidrain® juice channels that run along the center of the press from top to bottom. This vertical draining design relies on gravity, resulting in gentler fruit handling and a higher net yield.

“With the vertical drain, the loading and pressing positions are the same,” Klassen explains, “so the weight of the berry rolling off the stems provides all the pressure we need for the first third of the pressing. The fruit tumbles in on itself, which starts to squeeze the juice without any added mechanical pressure.”

Another unique feature is the patented double-membrane technology that allows the juice to drain more quickly. “As we progress through the cycle,” Klassen continues, “the membranes apply lateral pressure, stacking taller fruit columns. Those tall columns mean enough pressure is applied at the bottom of the column to release the juice out of the bottom of the drain.” It also requires less rotation, achieving up to 10% higher net yield at pressures of less than 0.8 bar.

Results: Cleaner juice from a faster, more efficient crush

“For winemakers in luxury programs, the first two considerations are juice quality and speed/efficiency,” says Klassen. “We get the juices at lower pressures, which means the juice is fairly clean. As the pressure increases, you start picking up more things from the skin – more solids and more bitterness. With the Willmes SIGMA press, the amount of solid separation is very efficient, and the press cycle is rapid compared to other presses of similar size.”

The press can handle a big truckload of grapes since the filling material automatically sinks downwards during filling, crushing the grapes and discharging the juices through the vertical drains. This process frees up space for further filling, enabling up to 30% larger filling quantities.

“During harvest, you can rarely have too many hands,” adds Klassen, “so that built-in efficiency is a wonderful thing. And the press is reliable – no mechanical failures mean no lost time at harvest.”

It’s also easy to clean up after pressing off fruit since the draining channels can be quickly removed and installed from the outside for rapid Clean in Place (CIP) protocols, a far safer solution than climbing into the press.

“We’re very happy with our Willmes SIGMA,” Klassen concludes. “It’s been a great tool for the program. It’s a real luxury to have a dedicated press for our Chardonnay.”

“Many customers have also purchased the SIGMA press to handle their red wine pomace,” adds Cohen. “The Willmes SIGMA offers myriad advantages and can be used across varietals, regions and terroirs. From Chardonnay to Cabernet, large production or small, the flexibility of the Willmes press can meet your quality and quantity needs.”

Since inventing the pneumatic grape press in 1951, Willmes engineers have mastered the art and science of pressing principles – technology which now serves as the backbone of all current presses on the market today.

To learn more about the SIGMA and other Willmes offerings, to schedule service or receive a quote, contact Scott Laboratories today.

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