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Drum It Up! Steel Drum Industry News, Trends, and Issues

Archive for 2018

Bringing Cooperage In-House

January 16th, 2018 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

In the latest edition of Wines and Vines, we learn that a Napa Valley winery is making their own oak barrels. Caldwell Vineyard winery is located in a cave dug in the mountains of the Coombsville AVA in southern Napa County. John Caldwell founded the winery in 1999, after selling grapes to other Napa wineries from his namesake vineyard for more than a decade. When Caldwell purchased his Napa Valley property in 1974, he had envisioned a real estate development, but Napa County’s agricultural preservation ordinance nixed those plans, and he opted to plant vines instead. A trip to France—and a visit to Chateau Haut-Brion, in particular—inspired a passion for winemaking, and Caldwell has done much to emulate the venerable Bordeaux winery. Haut-Brion has its own small cooperage, and that is something Caldwell wanted to bring to Napa as well, but it took years and only came together after he was able to find someone from the United States who could make barrels in France. Everything came together in 2014, when Herrera was able to build the first 50 Caldwell barrels in time for that year’s harvest. Since then, the barrel program has steadily increased, and the barrels are now used for nearly all of the winery’s production. Petiteaux purchases the stave wood in France and focuses on finding oak with both tight grain and exceptional grain structure. Marke said they want staves with at least 30 months of air drying. While they have enjoyed good results with wood from the Jupilles forest, grain tightness and structure is more important than forest of origin, Marke said. Petiteaux was able to purchase a log during a recent auction, and that stave wood is currently seasoning. Marke expects to receive those barrels for the 2019 vintage, at the latest. Each year, Herrera flies to France and spends several weeks at a leased cooperage space in Cognac assembling and toasting the Caldwell barrels from wood purchased three years prior. Herrera also toasts and assembles puncheons for the winery. “The big win for us is we have one guy who does all the toasting,” Marke said. That same guy is also at the winery the rest of the year to handle any issues with the barrels he put together himself. ”After he makes the barrels, he’s here,” Marke said. “He’s the one that is popping off the heads before putting in the grapes, so he’s here for the whole thing. Any issues, any leaks, he’s the guy and he’s here on-site.” It also means Marke is assured he’s going to get exactly what he specifies when he wants some barrels toasted a certain length of time or assembled in a certain way. The lines of communication are much more direct. Transitioning to essentially a single cooperage has required Marke to reevaluate the barrel program once more. “My role is to basically try and get it to replicate the success we had with multiple coopers,” he said. “It’s quite an interesting project. I’m learning more about barrels—even more than I had.” The trials are ongoing, as Marke constantly evaluates what toasts and techniques, such as water-bending staves, he needs to add to the barrel lineup to get the right mix of oak influences that match the Caldwell wines. The toasting is done over a traditional flame, and it’s up to Marke to determine what type of toasts and techniques are used. He’s working with all the Bordeaux varieties plus Tannat, Syrah and Pinot Noir. He buys barrels from a few coopers as reference points so he can decide how to adjust the Caldwell line of barrels. White wine barrels are still a work in progress. Total yearly barrel production is now around 300, and Marke admits it’s not the most cost-effective program. He doesn’t know exactly how much each barrel costs but was willing to bet it was significantly more than just buying a new, French oak barrel from a cooper. Marke said it is worth it to Caldwell to maintain the investment. “John is a guy who, when he’s committed, he’s all in,” Marke says before adding, “I’m the guy who keeps trying to hold him back.” Since the transition to estate cooperage, Marke said he’s noticed two significant changes: The barrels have become quite consistent and are also much more structurally sound. Back when Marke was using several coopers, about 10% of the barrels he used for barrel fermentation would prove to be leakers. “That was the bet John was making: If one person is doing all the toasting, it’s all more consistent, and structurally the barrels are much better.” A reminder that Skolnik will be showing our complete line of stainless steel wine barrels at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento January 24 and 25, 2018. Visit us at booth number 1205.

No Matter What, A Spill Response Plan is Crucial for Worker Safety

January 2nd, 2018 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: Safety

While the end of December is a great time to look backward and take stock, it’s just as important to look ahead to make sure that 2018 is a successful, productive, and most importantly, safe year. The barrels we produce here at Skolnik are thicker, heavier, and stronger than industry standards, and their durability can help prevent spills. No matter the precautions taken though, accidents are an inevitable part of any workplace, and absolutely it’s crucial to have a spill response plan in place. Training, proper equipment, and products such as drum spill containers are important for starting the year out on the right foot.

The first component to any response plan is preparation. Thoughtful warehouse organization can minimize the damage done by a spill. For example, segregate anything that could react and produce harmful vapors or combustion. By keeping acids on one side of the warehouse and oxidizers on the extreme other side, you reduce the chance that they’d ever come in contact with one another and make an accident that much more dangerous.

Proper spill stations are also a key part of a safe workspace. Make sure each include absorbent pads, instructions, and PPE such as masks, gloves, goggles and face shields. These stations then need to be distributed strategically across the warehouse, paying extra attention to high risk areas such as receiving and shipping areas.

Spill response plans aren’t effective unless your employees know how to use them, and training is the most important element of any preparation. Awareness of the chemicals used in a workplace and adequate training on how to handle them will reduce a lot of potential accidents. Then, when the inevitable spill happens, your employees need to know what to do in an emergency, who the emergency contacts are, and how to effectively utilize spill stations. Safety data sheets also ought to be easily accessible.

The next component of a response plan is containment. When a spill occurs, the workers need to notify their supervisors, then carefully work on creating a perimeter. Using such products as an tube of absorbent material, or “snake”, they can prevent the spill from spreading further. From there, they can determine if they can manage the spill themselves or if it requires a third party company that is certified in handling the clean up.

If the spill is most appropriately handled by your employees, then the clean up process can begin. Most clean ups involve putting down absorbents, which come in various types. There is a range of absorption capacities, as well as general purpose products and specific use ones. With corrosive spills, neutralizing agents need to be used. Weak acids are used to neutralize bases and vice versa, but no matter the chemical, it’s important to work slowly to insure that the chemical is fully neutralized. Depending on the type of spill, you can recover some of the product and store it in containers such as Skolnik brand salvage drums.

While a good spill response plan is focused on the safety of your workers, a well crafted plan is also mindful of the environmental impact of the spill. Always be aware of the drainage system in your workplace to ensure that no dangerous chemicals wind up escaping out to the public at large.

As 2017 winds down, we here at Skolnik want to thank you for your partnership; we’re very proud of the work we done this year to help you and your company be the very best, and safe, it can be. It’s been a good twelve months, and we’re looking forward to another amazing twelve ahead of us. See you next year!