2007 Cab is in barrels. Here’s how it all went down.

Wednesday night we were at 1 brix. I don’t have any idea why the fermentation went so fast…the must never got above 80 degrees, and the air temp was not too bad (plus, I was running the A/C the whole damn time!). I’m sure more insulation, and the new PVC strips that just came in will make a big difference for next year, especially in our electric bill. But still, it just doesn’t make sense to me why we were dropping 6+ brix per day.

Anyway, yesterday morning, I drove out and rented a #40 basket press and brought it back to the winery. Sam, Margaret, Zach, Jeff, and I pressed it. Only one of the 5 fermenters was REALLY stinky. We kept that wine separate.

Once the pressing was done, we added ML bacteria, then proceeded to splash rack everything to start getting rid of the H2S. The wine was still fermenting a little, so we’re not worried that we introduced too much oxygen.

The racking was very effective and afterwards the H2S was only noticeable in the 1 fermenter that started out *really* stinky.

After the racking, I returned the press. On my way back, I got the idea of picking up some copper pipe and running the wine through that to further reduce the stink. I don’t exactly know how this works, but I’ve heard people suggest treating H2S with copper, so I figured what the heck. Now that I’ve had more time to research this, it looks like the most common thing to do is to add copper sulphate.

I got a 2 ft section of copper pipe from Home Depot and clamped it to the end of our racking tube. We splash racked the stinky wine through the copper, which seems to have eliminated the smell. We did a blind tasting and Margaret (the official “nose”) couldn’t figure out which was the “stinky” and which was “not stinky”. Then, we racked it again into kegs.

By the way, here’s a great article about preventing and treating H2S.

After that, while Sam prepared the steaks and put them on the grill, we racked the rest of the wine through the copper into a 60 gal. barrel and had enough left over to fill a 15 gallon keg.

So, there it is. We have about 100 gallons of Cab now, which will probably go down to 85 or so once we rack off the gross lees in a few weeks!

Dry Ice and Cooling Wine

So, my wine is at 6 brix now and the ice all melted so I took it out because I was afraid that some of the bags might start leaking. I was looking into dry ice and found this: http://www.barrelblasting.com/dry_ice_info_sheet.pdf
They say that 7.3 lbs of food-grade dry ice pellets lowers the temperature 1 ton of grapes by 1 degree.
So, if I wanted to lower the temp of 1000 lbs of grapes by 10 degrees, I would need 36.5 lbs of dry ice pellets…or, 7.3 lbs for each of my fermenters.
The question is: is it worth it, and would that slow fermentation significantly more than just the fact that there’s less sugar is already doing? I’m guessing not. Still, this is good to know for the future.

Day 4: September 18, 2007

Today is the part of our drama where something goes wrong and everyone gets scared, but they know that our hero will find some sort of way out of the jam and we’ll live happily ever after with wine.

Yesterday, I started detecting a sulfur smell in the winery (and, for once, it wasn’t because I had been eating Thai food again…jk). I did some research, and it turns out that the yeast wasn’t happy and was/is giving off Hydrogen Sulfide. It’s a common problem, and one that’s curable if you identify it and treat it. Treatment just involves giving the yeast more food (nitrogen in particular) and then aerating the wine before fermentation stops, but after you press.

I added more yeast food this afternoon, and I’ll add more late tonight. The smell has started to go away. With some aerating, everything should be back to normal.

The other problem is that the wine is going to be ready to press tomorrow, but I want to give it a little more time on the skins (to get more color). So, to deal with this, I need to slow down the fermentation by cooling down the must. So, today, I went out and bought 5 30lb bags of ice and lowered them into the fermenters (inside of other bags so that we don’t accidentally water down the wine). This has already lowered the temperature by 4 or so degrees.

I’ve rented a press for Thursday. Are any of you available to help during the day? It’s possible that we could do it after work Thursday, but not ideal…because it would be dark.

Day 3: September 17, 2007

The wine was fermenting up a storm this morning, and I had to turn on a fan to get some air into the winery before I could punch down the caps.

Things are going a little hotter than I want right now. At 7:00 this morning, the winery temp was 69 degrees, the cap was 85, and the wine was at 75. The one fermenter I tested this morning was at 19 Brix. So, that’s a drop of 6 brix in 24 hours. Not unusual, but faster than I want.

So, we’re going to cut back on the mid-fermentation addition of nutrients, and we’re going to turn down the thermostat in the winery to try to bring things a bit more under control.

All that said, I’m extremely happy about this wine.

I’m thinking about getting some more grapes this weekend. Is anyone interested in helping with picking and crushing on Saturday? Give me a call if so. At the very least, we’re going to drive down to Delicato winery this weekend or next and get some juice to make a couple carboys of white wine, and maybe some red too.

Evening Update:

Tonight, 3 of the fermenters were at 13.5 brix, and 2 were at 14. I turned the thermostat down to 66 and moved the fermenters a little bit towards the back of the room, where it’s about 2-3 degrees colder. We’ll see where we’re at in the morning.

The must tastes great and the color is starting to look wine-like.


Day 2: September 16, 2007

I didn’t wake up until 10:30 this morning, but I felt great when I finally did.

Temperature at 10:30: 68 degrees F. Each fermenter had a think cap, which I punched down. Then I tested the sugar and pH of each. They were at 25 brix this morning. Sam tells me it went up because of the sugar in the skins coming out.

pH ranged between 3.32 and 3.54. Because I’m using a cheap pH meter, I figure that an average of the readings (which turned out to be 3.426) is probably closest to the truth. I’m very happy with that.

I’ll punch again this afternoon, and then again tonight. I’m planning to take a pH and sugar reading from each fermenter once a day. Tonight I’ll check again, because I’m anxious to see the Brix go down so that I can confirm that fermentation is happening and so I can get an idea of how quickly it’s happening.


Punched down and tested one of the fermenters: 22.5 brix!


Punched down and tested all 5. All were between 22 and 22.5 brix

Day 1: September 15, 2007

Joe and I drove the truck out to Deer Creek Vineyard in Elk Grove this morning to get the cabernet sauvignon grapes. When we got there, the crushing was well underway. Most people were getting 125-250lbs. We talked to the vineyard manager and showed him our macrobin and said we ordered 1000. We got about half of that from the grapes that had been picked earlier, but then they ran out of grapes and had to send the pickers out for more.

Eventually we got our 1000 lbs and drove back to Sac.

Initial Readings:

23.8 Brix
21 ppm free SO2
pH 3.23
TA .7
Temp: 76 degrees F

When we got back, we added 17g Potasium Metabisulphite, which raised the must up to about 35-40ppm free SO2.

We split the must into 4 44 gallon primary fermenters and brought them into the winery. The fermenters were too full at this point, so we moved must from each of the 4 into a 5th. Each primary has about 30 gallons in it.

We tested and recorded the brix and pH of each fermenter separately.


125g Lalvin D254 yeast (25g / fermenter)
13.5g Pectic Enzyme (2.7g / fermenter)
Superfood…I think 12.5g / fermenter…does anyone remember exactly?

Thanks to Zach, Joe, Kevin, Margaret, and Sam for helping out!

Later, we had an incredible BBQ (thanks to Piper and Dave for the food!) and drank an incredible amount of wine.

Wine Time!

The winery is looking great (mostly thanks to Sam!), I’ve been helping out a little with Sam’s Shenendoah Zin, and we’re almost ready for starting our wine on Saturday. I’m going to post some pictures soon. I’ll be spending just about every spare minute I have for the next few weeks in the winery, so if you want to learn about winemaking or help out, stop by!

The latest decision we need to make is how to handle our barrel situation. We currently have access to two good, but neutral (meaning, they will impart very little oak), barrels. If we want our Cab to have some oak, we have several options:

1. use oak sticks in the neutral barrels
2. help Sam bottle some more of his wine and then pay for it to be refurbished
3. buy our own barrel this winter (maybe January or February).

Save the date! September 15 is grape day….probably

I just got word that the grapes were at 22 brix on thursday and will probably be picked on the 15th, with the 22nd as a backup day. Please keep the 15th open and plan on a fun-filled day of activity.

We’ll be getting the yeast this weekend. Let’s figure out how we’re going to rehydrate it and how much we need now….

Some good links:


Wine in Space

So, tonight, I was doing some research on Wine and Space (this being the Bad Astronauts Winemaking Club and all) and I came across this old site for a project done by some highschool kids in 2001 as part of an international project to study changes in liquids in microgravity. They sent wine into space on the shuttle and then studied how it was different when it came back.

The problem is, their web site says that they did all these tests and that the full results are there, but the full results aren’t there at all….I don’t think: http://gbn.glenbrook.k12.il.us/GADGET/experiment/map3/wine/index.htm

Can someone else take a look and see if they can find the results of these tests?

Or, can someone send an email to someone and see if you can get the results? I’m really curious.

Working Draft of the Plan / Schedule

Here’s the current plan. I will update this as I get better information and ideas. If you haven’t read it already, click here for a good guide to the whole process. Here’s even more info.

Mid-to-late September: We’ll get a call saying that the grapes are ready and will be picked on the coming Saturday or Sunday (hopefully). The grapes will be ready when the sugar content gets to be about 23-24 Brix.

DAY 1:

Necessary Supplies / Equipment:

  • Grapes!
  • Truck (have)
  • Primary Fermenters (4-5, we have 4)
  • Potasium Metabisulphite (we have)
  • Pectic enzyme (don’t have)
  • Acid Blend (have)
  • PH Meter (have)
  • Acid test kit (have)
  • Money (~$780…need help)
  • Peroxyclean or other sanitizer (have)
  • yeast (don’t have)
  • yeast nutrient (don’t have)
  • measuring spoons, measuring cups (probably have)
  • buckets (food grade, don’t have)
  • strainer (have)
  • hydrometer (have)
  • refractometer (don’t have)


  1. I and at least one other person will get up very early, wash the 44 gallon fermenters (we have 4 of them currently, each holds about 250 lbs), and put them in my truck. Someone else probably should follow with an extra car or truck with some sort of containers in it, just to make sure that we have enough capacity. Everyone else will meet at the house and start sanitizing equipment and washing everything in site.
  2. We’ll drive to the vineyard in elk grove where they’ll have large bins full of grapes that we’ll throw into a crusher/destemmer machine that will crush and de-stem the grapes and spit them out into our containers. At this point, we’ll try to remove as many leaves, moldy grapes, raisins, and other non-grape things as possible.
  3. Pay for the grapes: 65 cents per pound.
  4. Then, we’ll strap down the containers as best we can and drive slowly back to my house, where we’ll move them into the back yard.
  5. We’ll test the temperature, PH, total acidity, and sugar of the must .
  6. If necessary, we’ll adjust the acidity.
  7. Add pectic enzyme?
  8. Prepare the yeast starter. .45-.9 grams per gallon? (IMPORTANT: We want to make the starter using juice from before we add the sulphite.)
  9. Add enough sulphite to get SO2 level to 30-50 PPM. This inhibits wild yeast, prevents browning, and kills spoilage bacteria. The amount of sulphite we need to add depends on the PH of the must. 1 tsp / gallon = 50ppm
  10. Clean and sanitize all equipment.

LATER (not sure yet how long…maybe an hour, maybe 12 hours…need more research):

DAY 2 – 10ish:

Equipment / supplies:

punch-down tool (have)
thermometer (have)


  1. punch down the cap 3 times per day.
  2. keep an eye on the temperature
  3. measure the brix daily

WHEN BRIX = 3-5 (maybe after 7-10 days):

Equipment / supplies:

  • Wine press (don’t have)
  • barrels (don’t have, but working on it)
  • buckets (don’t have)
  • big funnel (have)


  1. Press the wine to separate the juice from the skins
  2. Put the wine into our less-good barrel and the extra into carboys

WHEN Brix = 0


  1. start Malolactic fermentation



  1. 2nd Racking. Move it into the good barrel.
  2. Test Acidity and SO2 and adjust as needed

EVERY 3-4 MONTHS for a year or so:


  1. Taste, Rack, test, adjust

After 1-2 Years:


  • Bottles
  • Corks


  1. Bottle!