Crush Pad Design Considerations Before Building Your Winery

Wine grapes ready for crushing, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia

By: Thomas J. Payette, Winemaking Consultant

The crush pad design of a winery is one of the most critical areas of the winery.  Much of the hard work, in making wine, happens on the crush pad especially during harvest.  Make sure to design and implement all aspects of the desired needs into the crush pad of your functional winemaking facility.  Below are some broad and expandable review points that apply to most, if not all, crush pads.

Weather:  Often grapes are picked based on weather.  Realistically, if inclement weather is forecasted the vineyard and winery team may make a decision to pick a variety before that forecasted event.  This will often mean that the crushing and pressing of that fruit may happen during poor weather conditions.  For this reason and for protection from all the elements, including hot sunshine, it is recommended the crush pad have a roof or cover over it.    Be sure to have ample ceiling height under the cover so as not to restrict certain activities such as dumping fruit into hoppers by way of forklift.

Cost:  This will be some of the least expensive square footage you will build at your winery.  Make sure to have enough room to handle the bulky mass of grapes so that the fruit may be crushed or processed into their respective least bulky state whether it is juice or must.  Make sure the concrete floor, if used, is thick enough to handle forklift traffic and that the finish has enough aggregate (rough surface) to make sure foot and vehicle traffic will have ample traction on the surface.  Because this will be some of the least cost in terms of square footage be sure to battle building planners that may want to reduce the amount of crush pad space allocated in the plans.

Plumbing:  Think through your operations anticipated on the crush pad.  Then use critical thought as to where certain needs for water are.  Winterizable plumbing, hot and cold, should be placed so hoses can be used but out of the way of foot and vehicle traffic, including doorways.  Size the lines to the area to allow for ample flow and encourage the plumbing contractor to use full port handled ball valves and to not use standard boiler valves for water supply.  Plan mechanical “stub outs” is this area if this area is planned to be the future expansion area of the winery buildings growth.

Wiring:  Make sure to think through plug outlet placement in respect to how it will service each piece of equipment anticipated, use the shortest length of cord and placed so the cords remain out of the way of foot and vehicle traffic.  Examples of operations that will need power are:  Press, pump, crusher, must pump, sorting table(s), shaker(s) and perhaps a few extra outlets if multiple operations will be happening in alternate work areas.  Make sure these electric outlets have weather proof closures and possibly set up on GFI’s ( Ground Fault Interrupters ).  Ample work lighting, including lighting to view into tractor trailers, should be addressed and ample 110 volts outlets should exist.  Review if ceiling fans are desired on your crush pad and if so – place them high above the floor to allow for forklift activity.  Review if any “mood lighting” is desired on a marketing level outside crushing hours.  Make sure to know what power service is run to your building in terms of amps and how many phases (single vs. three phase).  Additional wiring needs may be for internet access, cameras, intercoms, phone etc.

Drains:  A critical feature of the crush pad due to the large volume of water and cleaning used.  Proper sloping floors to these drains should be used so water will gravitate toward them without the assistance of a squeegee   If portions of the crush pad are not covered, make sure to place a three-way valve from the drain to redirect storm and rain water to a more proper location (review local building suggestions).  Review the need for a catch basin to strain solids from the crush pad effluent.  Make sure these drains will withstand the heavy forklift and equipment traffic.

Walls:  The walls on the crush pad should be durable and reasonably easy to clean.  Concrete, cinderblock, tile or other physically strong materials should be considered for at least the first 40 inches of height of the walls.  These are reasonably cleaned and very durable to resist bumping from pallet jacks, forklifts, tractors and other heavy items.  Above the 40 inches, if the masonry is not extended, perhaps look at an easily cleaned attractive and durable surface such a metal or vinyl siding materials.

Flooring Surface:  Mentioned earlier but worth re-emphasizing.  Make sure the surface of the flooring will handle all predicted vehicles, such as pallet jacks and forklifts, in terms of its thickness and PSI ratings.  Also make sure the surface has enough aggregate finish to avoid slipping of foot and vehicle traffic.

Mirrors:  An easy tool to implement, and rarely considered, if certain areas are difficult for forklift and machinery operators to see.  Try and locate a mirror placement that will allow sight to that area.  This could be in, near and around door ways.  Another area nice for mirrors is above any equipment that has high hoppers filled by forklift.  This will allow the operator to remain on the forklift, yet, be able to see inside the hopper to know all the fruit has moved through the hopper before adding more or closing a press door for example.

Catwalks:  Study your crush pad operation to determine if you need catwalks to service, operate and clean certain machinery.  Can these catwalks have dual purpose by allowing winery production staff access the catwalk while also allowing tour guides to accompany tour traffic through the same area?  This can be a great marketing tool as well as a great working tool.  Some wineries have successfully placed their hopper to the press along a catwalk so winery workers may rinse and clean that hopper carefully from that catwalk location. The same area can be used for customer tours.

Crush Pad Access Into Building:  Many wineries opt for a lay out that gives access to the tank room from the crush pad.  Often this is the first place the juices or must will go so that layout makes logical sense.  Try and have easy access to the lab, also, so winemakers can easily assess the fruit and corrections, if desired, can be made quickly and easily. 

Crush Pad Access from Outside:  Makes sure to plan for forklift, pallet jack, truck, tractor trailer and drive on traffic by way of tractor and wagon.  Most designs have at least two tractor trailer loading dock stations so one may park a refer semi on the premise to chill fruit as needed.  Another dock may be used to receive fruit or other items by way of tractor trailer.  If possible include a height to load a box truck or pick up with some relative ease and then make sure vineyard tractors and wagons may drive on the crush pad for delivery and perhaps pomace removal from the crush pad.  Many smart winery setups elevate their presses high enough in the air so that pomace may be dumped directly into a wagon or manure spreader to remove that pomace quickly and efficiently with little shoveling. Think this through when deciding on placement of the equipment.

Building Door Access Placement:  Make sure to have at least one people door, with glass panes , and one larger overhead door, with see though/drive through plastic strip doors added.  The overhead door is usually where large tanks are brought in and out of the winery.  New glass shipments, if arriving at this loading dock will need to have access to the building and this door is often the door of choice due to its proximity to the loading dock.

Thresholds:  Make sure to design most of the crush pad, as well as the complete winery building, with minimal raised thresholds in doorways or between floors so as to allow for easy movements of items by way of pallet jack, forklift, dolly etc.

Vineyard Safety Assistance:  If your winery has vineyard operations on the property or close by, review if one may place the potentially required outdoor chemical safety shower on the crush pad in case of emergency.  Check with someone who knows locality regulations to see if this is an option at reasonable savings.  In many cases this same shower may be enough for the winery lab and production needs.

Non-Stationary Equipment:  If your winery has movable equipment make sure to place electric outlets appropriately to service these pieces of equipment.  Plan to be able to crush reds and to press whites simultaneously if possible.  Many pieces of equipment come with short flexible electric cords to them so take a proactive step, before crush, to replace them with reasonable length cords so as to allow various configurations and flexibility in their set-up.  Not each grape with go through the exact same process and the winery will benefit from this flexibility.

Stationary Equipment:  Make sure stationary equipment is placed strategically to allow it to function properly.  Make sure, for example, that a press is placed far enough away from a wall to allow its juice pan to be moved so a pomace wagon may pull underneath for unloading.

Protective Corners:  Wall corners, by way of some form of angle iron type material, to protect from day to day traffic and worker abuse are a great asset.  These areas often have hoses and cords pulled through them and they wear easily.  It is best to protect them. Other areas to need protection may be around mechanical equipment or winemaking gases such as :  Nitrogen, Carbon dioxide, Argon, Liquid Sulfur Dioxide and now Oxygen.  Pilings best protect these areas from larger traffic issues.

Sight Into Cellar:  If possible make sure the winemaking staff can see into the cellar from the crush pad.  Often transfers are being made and a design that allows visual inspection that the transfer is happening as expected is important.  This function can be a simple as glass paned doors as mentioned above.  Other groups have used cameras to assist the winemaking team confirm their valuable juice or wine moves safely from the crush pad to the cellar or vice-versa.

Hose Access to Cellar:  Many wineries now have openings, usually oversized PVC pipes through the walls, of the buildings so small wine transfer lines may be run through them.  This helps eliminate leaving cellar doors open during the crush allowing cold air to escape and more than likely large amounts of fruit fly access.  These may be used additionally for water hoses and electric lines, if unplanned for in the lay out.  I recommend two PVC “sleeves” with plugs at a minimum place about two inches above the crush pad floor with a slight fall back toward the crush pad so wine, juice and water will drain out on the crush pad for proper cleaning/disposal. 

Gravity:  Keep in mind the crush pad placement if gravity is desired to be used and how that feature will integrate into the rest of the structure and winemaking processes.  Must can transfer into the tanks by way of gravity if the crush pad is elevated higher than the tanks.  Other ways to achieve gravity are by way of forklift.  Be sure to work with all winery personnel and designers to make sure these areas are discussed and completely thought through.   The forklift should be the only machine (see below) that is critical in your process.  This machine is typically easily fixed or replaced on short notice.  Always place a few calls before crush to have a plan “B” as close to your potential needs as desired.

Forklift:  Often the most utilized piece of equipment for moving materials during the crush on the crush pad.  Gravity may be achieved easily with a forklift.  Heavy items are also easily moved from one point to another.  Allow plenty of space for the forklift operator to have adequate space to perform these tasks easily.

Over Thinking Your Processes:  Make sure that your crush pad set up is not so rigid that production on the crush doesn’t have some flexibility.  Imagine if one machine, in a series of machines, were to become broken.  Can a crushing set up plan exist to skip that machine or does the complete process come to a halt?  Make sure the winemaker has enough “stage”, if you will, to have several variations in production choices.

Emergency Processing:  Similar to over thinking the process above.  Imagine poor weather has been persistent for many days during harvest.  Projections of more poor weather are predicted and you are rapidly losing your crop and/or quality.  Contract growers and estate vineyard crews are grumbling.  You can’t keep enough labor at your sorting table and/or you choose not to sort.  Can this process or any other parts in your process be skipped, at will, to not loose or jeopardize the complete vintage?  Perhaps a break down occurs with one of the machines.  Can they be worked around or does this bring the complete processing to a stop?

Equipment:  Make sure when planning your winery and crush pad to think through all the pieces of equipment that may needed.  Make sure ample space is provided on the crush pad for these items.  A starter list of equipment may include but not be limited to :  Press; crusher-stemmer; must pump, pump, sorting table(s); shaker(s) and other(s).  Make sure enough power, light, refrigeration, compressed air or other needs are supplied to the crush area to support these selected pieces of equipment.

Non Crush Pad Use:  I always like to think of the winery as a large refrigerator.  I often will move barrels, on racks by way of forklift, from the winery and work with them on the crush pad when possible.  This allows me to access the barrels fully for a quality control check and to work with them for such activities as racking, stirring, topping, adjustments and making blends.  Working on the crush pad allows more efficient use of the winery square footage inside for storage and minimizing utilities associated with the winery power usage.

Crush Pad Café:  Using this term loosely to suggest other activities can happen on the crush pad area.  This could include tables and chairs, picnics and other winery marketing functions.  Small heaters can make the season longer for this type of use.  Winery personnel often want to hide the machinery associated with processing grapes but we must remember customers often find it interesting if it is clean and safely arranged on the crush pad.

Noise:  Be sure to have mechanicals such as HVAC compressors and glycol units placed with enough distance from the crush pad.  This will assist in better employee communication and help with the use of this area for marketing functions.  Often architects and builders see this ample flat area as a place to station these mechanical units.  Be certain to tackle this topic well in advance to make for better planning and smoother operations both at building and during upcoming harvests. 

Future Building:  If the crush pad will eventually be another part of your winery building planned in the future, make sure to include the infrastructure to support those plans into the mechanical aspects of the crush pad.  This could include footers to code where load bearing walls are projected to be constructed, plumbing stub outs, electrical trunk feeds etc.

Regulatory:  Make sure to review your plat and bonded area before moving forward with some of the operations mentioned above.  In many cases wines being handled on the crush pad means that area should be bonded.  In other cases such as social events taxed wine may not be allowed back onto a bonded premise area.  Review the needs of your winery to see if multiple uses may be possible  in one form or another.

Ancillary Thoughts:

• Will a large water tank, elevated high, be mounted on/near the crush pad to fill a sprayer rapidly?

• If production and tour catwalks are used to service both needs simultaneously?  Will rinsing water overspray be an issue?

• Will employees respect the crush pad space by keeping it organized and not parking personal vehicles on it during working hours?

• Will extra unused pallets be stored on the crush pad and if so where?

  Summary:  When thinking of the crush pad it is best to list everything one may want to do in the space.  Try to think in terms in how each operation can be done with the least amount of physical effort, maximizing quality, and employ those ideas.  “How can I do the best possible job with my fruit, wine and marketing with the absolute minimal effort?”  Make it a pleasure to work at your winery structure with ample planning on the crush pad.

Reach Tom by phone: 540-672-0387 or www.winemakingconsultant.com.

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2 thoughts to “Crush Pad Design Considerations Before Building Your Winery”

  1. Hi there,
    I’m doing some research of the building of a crush pad for the winery I work at in Boise, Idaho. The local government has preemptively told us no but I have reason to believe it’s more because they don’t know what the requirements should be for drainage issues.
    Would it be possible for you to steer in the right direction of other states requirements for incorporating a crush pad in the building of the production facility?

    Thanks!

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