2018 “Squashington” Apple Dessert Wine

For my first winemaking effort since moving to the Oregon coast, I decided to make an apple wine. Actually, I had planned to make apple hard cider after being inspired by the wonderful things our local cider house, Reveille Ciderworks, is doing. But, in a happy accident, I miscalculated the sugar and ended up making a sweet and very high-alcohol apple wine.

Technical Details

I started with 6 gallons of organic apple juice, to which I added 10 pounds of organic cane sugar. Whoops! To make hard cider, I should have left that sugar out or added about 10% as much.

The acidity turned out to be almost exactly where I wanted it, so I didn’t mess with that. I used an English ale yeast and the fermentation took off within 24 hours.

Fermentation lasted about a month, which is awesome. It would have taken around 7 days if I had tried this in Sacramento in July. When the alcohol content of the wine had exceeded the tolerance of the yeast I was left with somewhere around 15% alcohol (but maybe more…I’m still saving up for a proper lab).

I aged the wine for a month with French oak and fortified it a bit with gin. Today was a warm day in Astoria, so I tasted it and made the decision to bottle. I prefer to bottle when it’s warm, so that the wine shrinks in the bottle rather than expanding. I don’t know whether this makes much of a difference, but it’s one of the things I think about.

Tasting notes

I’m really happy with this wine. It has good acidity (less than green apple, more than a red apple) and the high sugar balances the high alcohol. The oak and gin flavors and aroma are noticeable, but not overpowering. It pairs extremely well with cheese.

2010 Wine Update!

It’s been a crazy wine year, but I feel good! This year, we got about 3/4 of a ton of chardonnay from Clarksburg, which we picked in mid-September. I like my chardonnay like I like my…well, actually, I’m not crazy about Chardonnay. Because of this, I like to make it taste as much like a wine that I do like as possible! For example: Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.  So, I keep it un-oaked, pretty acidic, dry, and I avoid malolactic fermentation. The French, and anyone who likes Chard would laugh me out of town for this heresy. Most of the time when I drink white wine, it’s while I’m cooking. If I’m cooking, I like something crisp, dry, and fruity. What this means in terms of winemaking is that I do very very little to my white wines other than make sure that the acidity is where I want it at crush and keep it all clean. Filtering is nice for whites, in my opinion, because of how important the appearance of a white wine is. But, to tell you the truth, I’ve made really really beautiful and tasty white wines without filtering. It gets cold enough in our winery that the wine gets pretty clear all on its own.

The whole group suffered from a lack of funds this year and so we really didn’t get it together to make a deal for some good red grapes earlier in the year. Nevertheless, in mid-October, I got a hankerin’ to do some red. So, last weekend, Sam and I headed up the hill to investigate some leads on some last minute grape deals.

Through a winemaker connection, we ended up finding out about an organic grower in Fairplay who had some grapes that were supposedly ripe and that he’d sell for a pretty good price. Normally, ripeness is not a problem at all in California…but this was a very cold year, and a lot of grapes never made it to a level of ripeness that’s adequate for making good wine before the vines shut down. We didn’t get a good look at the grapes before making a deal to pick them the next morning (it was pretty much our last chance, and it was a good deal, so we took a chance).

When we showed up at the vineyard the next morning, the ripeness and condition of the grapes was all over the place. Some clusters looked great. Some were all raisins. Towards the top of the vineyard (it’s situated on a hill), things looked ok. But, at the bottom, there was a LOT of mold. We ended up picking about 500 lbs (in 4 hours of picking, some of it in the rain) and brought it back to crush.

A week later, we pressed it…and I’m actually feeling like we might make a decent wine out of this. The most award-winning wine we’ve made to date started its life as very troubled grapes and a very troubled fermentation. So, it’s not out of the question that this will be great.

After the press, we kept the skins and seeds, added about 45 pounds of sugar, a pound of tartaric acid, and 30 gallons of water to it and started making a 2nd wine, as we did with our 2008 Zin. We have some new winemaking volunteers in our group who seem to think they have a good use for this stuff….

So, we’ll do one more pressing this year (of the 2nd wine), and then we’ll put the big equipment away for another year. Here’s hoping that 2011 is a HOT SUMMER!

The 2008 Wines are Coming Fast!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but much has been happening in the Bad Astronaut Wine world, so I think it’s about time I got back to it and filled you all in!

First of all, the 2008 Wines are incredible! We bottled the Zin a little while back, and I’m having to hide it from myself so that I don’t drink it all before it reaches it’s peak.

If you participated in the bottling, and/or if you have some of the wine, I would say that it’s just about now fully over the bottle shock and is tasting really good. I’m really looking forward to how it will taste next year!

Pretty soon, we’ll be bottling the 08 Merlot, the 08 Petit Sirah, some 09 Charonnay, and perhaps a couple other surprises!

Bad Astronauts Merlot

Here’s the merlot status so far:

I drove to northern Sonoma county (Kenwood) Monday morning to get the grapes. I got to downtown Sonoma at about 6:00, had some coffee there, and then drove up highway 12 for another 20 minutes or so to the vineyard.

Morrison Vineyard is the most beautiful place in the world. Ian Morrison, the owner of the vineyard, grows only Merlot, and he does it very well. He’s also a very nice man.

After chatting with Ian for a while, I walked the vineyard. The grapes were ripe and delicious. The yield per vine was definitely much lower towards the top of the hill, and I think I preferred the taste of the grapes at the bottom of the hill.

The picking crew started picking at about 8:00, and I had my grapes loaded into the truck by 9:00. I drove back to Sacramento, and arrived back at the winery at around 11.

Initial numbers:

24.5 – 25 brix (depending on testing method)
pH 3.66

After crush (thanks Priscila, Sam, Jim, Zach, and Dave for your help!) I added enzymes and potassium metabisulphite.

Tuesday, I threw 20lbs of dry ice on the grapes.

Wednesday, Margaret and Priscila put 20 more lbs on.

Wednesday night, the must temperature was 50 degrees. I added superfood, followed by yeast, and 800g of tartaric acid. My goal is to get the pH down to about 3.4.

Thursday, I added 2 lbs of untoasted oak chips (in a nylon straining bag).

Friday morning, fermentation was underway, but slow. I added my phase 2 superfood and DAP addition.

Everything’s looking great, and I’m very excited about this wine.

pH, TA, and Malolactic info

Red wine pH should be between 3.4 and 3.6. TA should be around 7 g/L. Malolactic Fermentation (which converts malic acid into lactic and makes red wines smoother and more awesome) has the following effects on acidity (according to this site: http://brsquared.org/wine/Articles/MLF/MLF.htm):

* a pH increase of between 0.1 and 0.45 units (more typically 0.1-0.25)
* a chemical deacidification usually reducing titratable acidity by about 1-4.6 g/l (as tartaric)

So, our wine currently has the following stats:

pH 3.5
TA 8.5 g/L

After ML, it could potentially have the following stats:

pH 3.6 – 3.75
TA 3.9 – 7.5

I’m not ok with the risk of the pH being over 3.6, which makes me think I should adjust pH to 3.4. However, I’m also not ok with a TA over 7, which makes me think I shouldn’t adjust.

After some more reading, it sounds like what we’ve got is a higher concentration of Malic (a weaker acid) than of Tartaric (a stronger acid). This explains why the pH (which measures the effect or strength of the acid in the wine) is high (less acid strength) and the TA is high (more acid).

So, if I adjust with Tartaric acid, I think it will decrease the pH and increase the TA, but the Malolactic fermentation will have a larger effect because we have a relatively high concentration of Malic.

If you’re a chemist, please let me know if I’m on the right track here!

If you’re not familiar with TA and pH, here’s some reading.