Friday, August 27, 2010

Red, Red Wine

So, how long do you think it would take to bottle about 18 gallons of wine? Well, it takes a lot less time than it used to for me. Why? A handy-dandy little device called the Enolmatic, which was my birthday present this year.  The picture to the right is from the Tenco website, who manufactures the Enolmatic.

We used this device to bottle four different wines, those wines include our 2008 Syrah, 2008 Cabernet Franc, an "accidental blend" we are calling Cab Fusion, and our "on purpose blend" we're calling Howling Good Red.  Earlier I mentioned that I was going to make 3 gallons of the Howling Good Red, but I decided to up it to 5 gallons.

This was the first time I got to use the Enolmatic for bottling.  I cannot stress enough how much easier this device made the whole experience.  The Enolmatic uses a vacuum pump to move the wine from the carboy to your bottle.  You just put your bottle up against the nozzle, the Enolmatic will suck the air out of the bottle, while pumping in the wine at the same time.  Bottling wine can be done by one person now!  The old method was using an auto-siphon and a bottle filler.  Someone would have man the auto-siphon, and someone would have to man the bottle filler.

Overall, we ended up with about 16 bottles of the 2008 Syrah, 15 bottles of Cab Fusion, 26 bottles of 2008 Cabernet Franc, and about 25 bottles of Howling Good Red.

One last thing about Enolmatic, you can also use it for racking between carboys.  Unless you are using those new plastic carboys, the vacuum would likely make those implode.  Yet another reason why I prefer glass carboys.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


We've changed our wine label.  Before we used a picture of one of our dogs on the label, which dog depended on whether the wine was a white or a red.  This was a little confusing, so we wanted to simplify it.  The goal was to have something more generic, so that every label appeared the same, and thus we'd have a "brand identity."

Below is an example of our new label.  The image of the beagles is actually a trace drawing made from two separate photographs of each of the dogs.  The traces were put together and then colored in.

This label I feel accomplishes the goal of having a brand identity while still retaining some sentimental value to us, as these images of our dogs are representative of their personalities.

New Sink

I finally have a sink in the basement winery!  It was installed a couple of weeks ago, and it has really made a difference.

As anyone who makes wine knows, most of winemaking is keeping everything clean.  With carboys, you clean them before you use them, and again after they have been used.  In order to clean those carboys before the sink, I had to carry them along with everything else that needed cleaning, up and down the stairs to the kitchen.  My wife was very patient with me cluttering up her kitchen.  Well, no more!  I can do everything I need to do in the basement.

Thanks to the guys at Minyard Plumbing for doing such a great job!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blending trials

I have three red wines that need bottled within the next week. Before bottling them as stand-alone wines, I thought it would be a good idea to explore the idea of doing a small portion of them as our first blend, to be dubbed "Howling Good Red."

The batches of wine to be bottled and to evaluate for blending are:

A) 6 gallons of 2008 NC Cabernet Franc
B) 8 gallons of 2008 NC Syrah
C) 5 gallons of 50% 2008 NC Cabernet Franc & 50% 2007 CA Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine C is already a blend that came about from a storage crisis. I only had a 5 gallon carboy available, and 2.5 gallons of Cabernet Franc and 2.5 gallons of Cabernet Sauvignon leftover after racking the wine.

The procedure for developing a blend is most often referred to as a blending trial. The first step is to take small portions of each individual wine evaluate it based on appearance, color, aroma, acidity, tannins, and the overall flavor. Based on the information gathered, you decide what to blend based on the characteristics of the individual wines and the end-product you are trying to achieve.

The next step is to measure out portions using a cylinder of the various wines to mix. It's important to measure because you want to be able to adjust and re-create. After measuring and mixing the wines into what you believe to be a suitable blend, you taste and evaluate. Basically the process is adjusted and repeated until you feel you have achieved your desired blend.

When we evaluated each wine, my wife and I both agreed that the best was Wine A (the 2008 NC Cabernet Franc), it was well balanced and tasted fantastic. Wine B (2008 NC Syrah) was a little acidic, but had good tannins and aromas. Wine C (the unintentional blend) was not acidic enough, and very fruity in flavor. We'll probably add some acid to Wine C for the portion of the wine that will be bottled on its own.

The first blend "guess" was a 50/50 blend of Wines B & C We figured the acid from Wine B would help balance out Wine C. Considering that Wine C is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, the breakdown by varietal for this blend would be 50% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. That blend was pretty good, but lacked that well-rounded full-bodied wine we were trying to acheive.

The second blend was 41% of Wine B, 41% of Wine C, and 18% of Wine A. The varietal breakdown would be 41% Syrah, 39% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. That was better than the first blend, but still needed a little more acidity.

We tweaked that blend a little bit by using more of Wine B in the blend. That blend was 54% of Wine B, 36% of Wine C, and 10% of Wine A. We both agreed this was the best iteration, and decided to use those proportions for our final blend. The varietal breakdown of this blend by varietal will be 54% Syrah, 29% Cabernet Franc, and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon.

I plan on making about 3 gallons of this blend, which will equate to about 14 bottles. The remainder of each of the wines will be tweaked and bottled as a single varietal wine.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting ready for fall with yeast selection

August is the month I usually use to make sure I have all the supplies I'll need for both picking grapes and making wine from them.  Yesterday, I mapped out the type of grapes I am going to have this year, and based on the kind of wine I want to make, picked out the right yeasts.  A lot of people in the winemaking world think that different yeasts don't make a difference.  This past May, when I was at the Winemaker Magazine Conference, I discovered how untrue that statement is.  Different yeasts enhance different aspects of the wine's flavor and aroma, and they can also diminish other aspects.  Yeast isn't the most important aspect of making a great wine (the quality of the grapes you use is), but they are an important part of the process.

The grapes I believe I will be able to get this fall include:
  • Syrah, ~500 lbs, should come out to about 30+ gallons
  • Zinfandel, ~500 lbs, should come out to about 30+ gallons
  • Cabernet Franc, ~120 lbs, will make about 6 gallons
  • Chambourcin, ~120 lbs, will make about 6 gallons

I'm planning to split up the Syrah and Zinfandel grapes into two separate fermentation batches, as I will be getting so much of them.  For the Syrah, on batch will be fermented with D254 yeast, and the other batch will be fermented with RP15.  The two different yeasts will enhance different aspects of the grape in each batch.  The D254 will round out the tannins, give it more body, give it a dried fruit flavor and enhance the spice of the fruit.  The RP15 will emphasize the fruit, and give the spice flavor more of a black pepper note.  After fermentation, I'll combine the two batches into a single barrel, giving the wine a very complex flavor, more so than either of the two separate batches on their own.  The Zinfandel will be done the same way with BM45 and RP15.  BM45 yeast will give the Zinfandel a big mouth-feel, a jammy flavor, along with enhancing the plum and berry flavors.  RP15 with the Zinfandel will have the same sort of effect it had on the Syrah.

This year, I think I will make the Cabernet Franc into a rosé wine, using the traditional French method.  All red wines get their color from the skins of the grapes.  To make a rosé, you restrict the amount of time the juice and skins come into contact, giving it some color, but not a deep, dark rick red.  It comes out more of a pale red.  So I'll crush and de-stem the Cabernet Franc grapes, and ferment them on the skins for only a short period of time, then press the grapes into juice and let the fermentation finish.  For this I will be using the yeast ICV-GRE, to give it stable fruit characters, and good body.

For the Chambourcin, I'm either going to use the MT or the D254 yeast.  I haven't decided yet.  Chambourcin is a French/American hybrid grape, and I've had it several different ways.  Some are very acidic, and some are very rich in flavor.  The MT yeast is recommended for Chambourcin, and it is supposed to emphasize berry flavors, along with strawberry jam.   I'll have to continue to do some research on this one before I make my final decision.  However, I ordered both yeasts, so I will have them on hand when the time comes.

So remember, when making wine, yeast selection is important.  The best way you can prove it to yourself is to split a batch up and ferment with different yeasts.  Taste each one and see how much it differs in flavor.