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:

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!

How many pounds?

We’re getting closer to the crush now (2-4 weeks away), and I’m working on the winery every chance I get. Here are some updates…please call or email me if you have some time to help or answers to any of the questions/problems below:

  • We ordered 1500 lbs of grapes. I’m thinking this is way to much. Read this: Also, I don’t really have a way to transport more than 1000 lbs (not enough containers). I may just make an executive decision and cut our grape order to 1000 or 1200 lbs.
  • I’m having a hard time keeping the winery under 85 degrees when it’s so hot outside. I really need to install some insulation.
  • I bought a truck. It’s a diesel 1993 GMC Sierra 3500. It’s a monster. It has a gem top, and I’m going to need some help taking that off before we go get the grapes.
  • I’ve been trying to work out the logistics of the whole process. Certain parts are starting to come together…but I’ve never done wine on this scale and so I’m pretty confused and a bit frightened at this point, actually. I’ll write up another post later and try to map out the whole process.
  • Several more people have expressed an interest in getting involved. I’ll be writing an email very soon with a list of things I need help with.

Going to Napa?

Are any of you planning a trip to Napa over the next few weeks? OR, does anyone want to take a day off work and go to Napa with me? We need yeast, primary fermenters, and some chemicals. From what I hear, we may need to make a pilgrimage to the valley (oh poor us) to get them…

Some Cabernet Sauvignon Facts

I’ve started doing my Cabernet Sauvignon and Elk Grove research. Did you know:

  • Although Cabernet Sauvignon was long thought to be an ancient variety, recent studies (1997) at U.C. Davis determined that it’s a hybrid offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc (you’d think people might have gotten a hint earlier on from the name!)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon berries are small and spherical, with black, thick skins. The thick skins make them resistant to disease and spoilage.
  • taste characteristics: dark cherry, cedar, black currant, tobacco
  • Often blended with Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, or Malbec
  • In parts of France, this grape is also called Bouche, Bouchet, Petit-Cabernet, Sauvignon Rouge, and Vidure