By Josh Erdman, IT Pro
When you imagine a lab you probably think of white lab coats, test tubes, clipboards, and beakers. In this way, Baker Wine & Grape Analysis is your typical lab, white coats and all, but there is something else going on here that feels very different from what I expect. It’s the culture – professional balanced with fun. An awesome selection of music provides a soundtrack for highly technical work; homemade sparkling lemonade is available for refreshment; a sweet Australian Shepard named Patch keeps spirits high.
It has been 22 years since I donned gloves and safety goggles to sit through a chemistry lesson. As a college student, I always found it difficult to pay attention in lab class. Each time a new chemical was introduced I got distracted by its destructive powers and would sometimes miss the key points of a lesson. So naturally, my imagination is going wild as I drive to the lab of Baker Wine & Grape!
I arrive on a quiet day so my lab instructor Heather is free to give me a full tour. Before me is an assortment of state-of-the-art analysis equipment that measures every facet of wine imaginable and integrates all the data into a computer system that documents the results into their network. Heather explains in detail the purpose of each machine and patiently fields the barrage of questions I have for her.
I learn that for a winery to be successful, winemakers must run a battery of tests to measure acids and alcohol levels, nitrogen and sugars (just to name a few) throughout the wine process. For example, a low amount of sulfur (specifically sulfur dioxide SO2) will cause the wine to oxidize and eventually turn it from tasty wine into expensive vinegar. Tests for sulfur begin early – making sure soil is optimal to produce grapes with just enough sulfur to keep the wine stable.
While country music plays in the background, Heather shows me how to operate some of the expensive lab machinery. I am given the opportunity to walk a sample through the testing process – each step with purpose. I’m impressed by how much thought is put into organizing all the equipment to make sure tests run as efficient as possible with minimal error.
By the end of my visit, I am comfortable with the equipment and have been officially befriended by Patch who wags his tail next to me as I thank Heather and her team for the tour. I may have arrived as a guest but I left feeling like family.