Rough plan for sourcing fresh grapes

Fingers crossed

A motivating factor for getting this blog going and documenting my first attempts at winemaking was that I plan on doing a batch with fresh grapes this coming harvest season — not just pressed juice like last year, or frozen grapes and concentrate-based kits previously. And, not just a 5 or 6 gallon carboy’s worth, but (hopefully) about double that.

That feels like a daunting goal that I’ve set for myself. It’ll take a few pieces of new equipment, the straining of existing capacity (especially given the size of my press), and probably a good number of bumps in the road — one hopes none critical.

Adding to the complexity a bit is that I want to make a skin contact white.

I really enjoy wines made in this style. Maybe it’s the heightened complexity and texture. Or, maybe it’s simply the cognitive dissonance of a funny looking white/orange wine that tastes more like a red. Whatever the source of my thinking, that’s my goal as of today: Source a couple hundred pounds of a white varietal and conduct a skin contact fermentation.

The first issue I’m facing is the sourcing of those grapes. Last year, I was able to buy pressed Chardonnay juice through Brehm. (Another post about that later!) So my first stop was asking Brehm if they would be selling any unpressed chardonnay or other white varietal this year. Though the folks at Brehm were quite responsive and helpful, it seems they won’t be selling any unpressed whites this year.

So, next up, I reached out to the vineyard Brehm had worked with and from which I got the Chardonnay juice directly to see if they would take pity on a tiny home winemaker and sell me a bit. While I received friendly, encouraging responses, I suspect that it’s too early in the season to make these kind of drop-in-the-bucket commitments. Maybe if the season looks strong in a couple months and they’re feeling generous, I’ll be in luck.

Another resource that the good folks over at the Wine Making Talk forums pointed me toward, is Cal Wine Broker. CWB appears to contract with East Bay vineyards and organize groups of home winemakers to go out and pick with a few days/week notice. This seems like a handy solution for someone like me. So this may end up being what I do if nothing else pans out.

But perhaps the most promising outcome is buying a couple hundred pounds off of a local winery. I lent them a hand bottling on a couple days this year and broached the topic the winemaker. This is the most promising because I can rely on my trust that they’re focusing on the quality of their grapes, the organic/biodynamic vineyards that they source from, and the fact that this place has put out some pretty awesome releases the last couple years. Like, the Chardonnay vineyard however, I don’t want to hang my hat on something that will turn on the season’s productivity and gratuitous generosity. Fingers crossed.

In the end, I’m left with a range of options from the promising to the unlikely. Depending how things are looking in August, I may be pinging my network to see who’s connected in the wine industry and can pull some strings.

An accountant for vineyards I was talking to at a wedding a few weeks ago likened a couple hundred pounds of grapes to a rounding error for most commercial wineries he deals with. So, it shouldn’t be that hard. Right?

[Note: I’ve left the winery and vineyard’s names off of the post since I don’t think they want to cater to folks like me looking to score tiny amounts of grapes.]

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