Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Wine- #AtoZ Challenge

W starts off many words- winter, water, waste, wily, weather, etc. It also starts the word (hah) "wine". Because you can't turn down a good glass of wine! 

Long story short: my family history is steeped in wine and wine making. My great grandfather was even fined for making and selling wine during the Prohibition era. The story about wine running down the as the men smashed the wine barrels is well remembered. My family owns 10 acres of heritage dry farmed vineyard in Mendocino County, California (if you're curious, check out The Zeni Ranch for more information).

So, true to family tradition, I've started trying to make my own wine. This is made easier by the fact that I have a grapevine in my yard. I know I've talked about it before, in my "How to Prune a Grapevine" blog post, posted some years ago now. This vine is 25+ years old, and was severely neglected when I moved it and started tending to it. It's now a very productive plant.

Wine making is an ongoing process, but I've decided to share my notes so far. They are my observations at the time of working with the wine.

Day 1, March 27

4kg Campbell Pink, plus 1.8kg Walkden Blue
My single grapevine produced 4kg of fruit this year. I have a mystery variety, so I'm calling it the "Campbell Pink", as it was inherited from my spouse's family. I was given about 1.8kg of a dark grape (I'm calling that lot "Walkden Blue", as it's also a mystery grape), to blend with mine, because I want the color from their skins to create a much pinker wine than mine do on their own.

I've pulled the berries off the stems (by hand) and crushed them in a 4+ liter stainless steel pot (a long handled potato masher is your friend), and they'll ferment for a couple weeks on natural yeast, while I see about getting a proper carboy and an air lock for them.

Day 3

Both varieties crushed together
I've punched the cap down. The cap is the crushed fruit that floats to the top on the bubbles of the fermenting juice; punching it down keeps it below the surface,which aerates the mixture and prevents the growth of mold and nasties on the surface- or so I was taught, anyway.

As you can see, the dark "blue" grapes are really making the color pop- the ones I grow do not have such a pink color to them on their own, even when fermented on the skins. The smell is fantastic. Whatever variety of grape that I have, it's extremely fragrant. I have a bit of a fruit fly problem, so instead of just using the lid, which clearly they can get under, I put a cloth serviette over the top and then the lid. Hoping they can't get in under that.

Day 4

Showing off the "cap"- the crushed fruit that floats to the top
Needed a fruit fly prevention method: made one with a cloth napkin over the pot, and on top of that goes the lid. I also wanted to show you what I meant by the "cap" (see photo): I pushed the spoon in to show how it has all floated to the top in the hours since I last "punched it down" (this morning).

Punched the cap down. The color is even more purple than it was last time, I reckon. I love the color. I grabbed a measuring spoon and had a sample or two of the juice. It's like... like fizzy, slightly fermented grape juice. Like, it would probably make an excellent "grown up" grape soda.

Very pretty color!
What I can't be sure of is whether or not the sugar content is correct. I don't have a refractometer, so I couldn't measure the amount of sugar in the grapes before I harvested them, so it's a guessing game on how much sugar the wild yeast is working with. I am not sure if I will need to add more or what. It still tasted mildly sweet, but it has also only been four days fermenting.

Day 8

I'm pressing my wine today. It still has some fermenting left to do, but it was advised in my reading to press at day 8 or so, to prevent off flavors from developing in the wine as the fruit starts to decay. A sample determined that it's a nice fruity wine, still with a little bit of tingle to the finish. I would almost bottle it as is and see if it creates a fizzy wine, but I'll let it finish it's thing. It's much better than last years batch, that's for certain.
The most gorgeous looking wine I've ever made so far.

Day 9
The wine is fermenting happily in its glass bottles (see photo). And that glass is what I'm drinking. It was left over, I kept it in the fridge overnight, and it's delicious chilled. The party balloons? They're my super cheap fermentation locks. I poked a hole in the tops and stuck them over the mouth of the bottles. The wine is still fermenting, even without the skins, so it's filling them up with gas. LOVE that color!

Day 21

Still creating bubbles, but it's fermenting much less vigorously now. The sediment is mostly settled out, and the clarity is improving. The color continues to amaze. Tasted it- it's not bad. Stronger than it was when I pressed it, but still pretty good.

Day 32, April 30

The sediment has settled out a lot, and now rests on the bottom of the bottles. Because leaving it on the sediment too long can result in bitter flavors, I racked the wine today. "Racking" is the process of moving the wine from the first fermentation vessel to a second clean vessel, in order to remove the sediment and let it continue to settle.

I used a 1 meter plastic hose, and siphoned the wine from the bottles to a large container, washed the bottles out thoroughly, then refilled them. A sample taste decided that it was a light, refreshing and fruity flavor, with a slight effervescence still. The color continues to be stunning. I will let it age for a few months and track it's flavor progress.

This is as current as my notes can be right now. It's taken just over a month to reach this point, and it's not completely finished yet. So, call this post "W is for Wine: Part 1", and I'll post "Part 2" when it's ready for drinking, in a few months. 

I'll see you tomorrow! 


Please feel free to share your comments, questions and experiences.