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 wrote last weekend that I loved Tony Coturri’s wine, was generally not impressed by my own cheap-kit attempts (surprise), and planned to nab some of the yeast from Coturri despite that it was virtually guaranteed to not translate any of that wine’s character. Smart.
It started with a starter, however. To create a starter, you need to have something for the yeast to eat, namely sugar. In my previous experience with apples, I’d often pitched commercial yeast in a small mixture of cider and honey just to kickstart it before pitching into the juice. It always worked reasonably well, but this time I would use organic, preservative-free grape juice as the base. I could only find Concord grape juice, so that’s what I used. I figured this would be enough sugar to get any yeast in the Coturri going again.
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.
One piece of advice you’ll read and hear as a novice home winemaker is “keep good notes.” I’m not good at that and don’t think I ever have been.
When I started my alcohol crafting journey with liqueurs: no documentation; when I continued it with cider and it’s derivatives: nothing but the end results remain; gin: nothing; the first year and half of basement wine: just a bunch of bottles aging.
But, this season I’m planning on buying some real damn grapes for real damn money (i.e. more than a single carboy’s worth). Figured it’s time to shape up.
Time to start a blog for the (illusion of) accountability.