Project updates

Looks like it’s 63 degrees

Minimal Additives Riesling Kit

This is the kit I had hanging under my desk for a few months and got it going at the end of April. It’s gone through some ups and downs over the past few months, but today I figured it was time to give it a racking. Possibly its last.

It had developed a thin, but notable layer of yeast down at the bottom of the carboy. The bubbles from the degassing CO2 at the top were starting to dissipate as well. I figured that it would be good to get it off the yeast residue and that the racking would speed up the degassing process. I grabbed a sip as I racked and was pleasantly surprised. It was certainly still bubbly but pleasantly acidic and not overly sweet.

The racking process left me with a bit of headspace again, but I fortunately had a bottle of Frey white hanging out in the basement. I used about half that bottle to get the level back up. (Does that count as an additive?)

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Effect of the heat

After clearing out the airlock, but still up to the stopper.

Regardless of the season, San Francisco is almost always between 50–70 degrees. So, the past few days have been a surprise. It’s been in the 80s (reaching 90s at some points) during the day and it’s even been warm at night.

When I went to check on my no-additive kit attempt last night, I was met with another heat related surprise. I had left a very small amount of headspace in the carboy with the intent of reducing oxygen exposure. There was maybe an inch to an inch-and-a-half of space there. But, last night, that space was gone and the wine was creeping up the airlock tube. Judging by the color of the water in the airlock, it had also overflowed at some point.

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My Last(?) Kit

I started off my winemaking with cheap kits I bought off of Amazon. I then moved on to frozen must from Brehm’s and fresh pressed juice from the 2018 harvest. Between those points, I had the idea to give a higher quality kit a try. So, after a good amount of research, I chose the Washington Riesling kit by Wine Expert. I was looking for a white variety since of my first two attempts, the white was drinkable right off the bat and I wanted a kit that might kick out a product that would be pretty decent. Online reviews I read pointed me in this direction.

And yet, just as soon as the kit arrived in the mail, my interest had moved toward planning for the frozen must. At the same time, I was starting to bust out of the closet I was making wine in before moving to the basement. This all meant that the kit sat under my desk for a year, untouched.

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Looking back at my first two attempts

My first two forays into winemaking were with the cheapest kits I could buy on Amazon (even cheaper than this): first a white (“Chardonnay”), next a red (“Merlot”). (Quotation marks added because, at least with the Merlot, the packaging clearly called out that it may not actually be Merlot, but grapes like it instead.)

I already had most of the equipment from my apple fermenting days, so the initial investment wasn’t huge. I did, however, need to get some new, wine-specific tools along the way, like a degassing power drill attachment, a bottle-filler siphon attachment, corking contraption, and a couple carboys. Carboys in particular, because I only used buckets for the apple fermentation, since it wasn’t hanging out long exposed to oxygen, and was destined for other ends.

With the wine, the idea was to follow the kit instructions as closely as possible and not screw up. I mean, I should have known better. If there were a lesson I learned from all my other alcohol making projects it was that it’s kind of hard to screw up. Hell, I made Welch’s grape juice wine 12 years ago on instinct alone. Wasn’t great, but it was wine.

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