Wine Making – Part Deux

Hi, Wine Lovers!

Since we last posted we racked our wine.

That is not to say that it went as smoothy as it could. Yours truly is not exactly a non-clutz, so there was some wine-thief spillage that sullied the table, my initial SG readings and dining room walls, but hey…you live and learn, right?

So last Tuesday was when I posted about what we had done to that point.

You have NO idea how good this smelled!

You have NO idea how good this smelled!

Wednesday was when we actually racked the wine.

Now, wine racking is up for debate on the Glorious InterWebz. Some sites say you want to rack and re-rack several times over the life of your secondary fermentation. Some sites say you don’t want to re-rack at all. Now… MY DAD SAYS (and you know that most Daddy’s Girls are going to listen to what their fathers say) that repeated that re-racking is unnecessary. (Yay, Dad, because, OMG, what a pain in the ass would that be…and, never mind messy…especially since wine thieves spill really easily. Just sayin’)

So the night after we last posted, I pulled a sample of juice from the must (yanno, after redecorating the immediate vicinity in purple because the wine thief can be messy if you’re like me), and the specific gravity was 1.10, which was on the 5th day, and when our “recipe” said we should rack, and it seems that all the planets aligned correctly. However, when I saw that SG level, I also read that the potential alcohol was at 0%. Yes, that’s right; ZERO percent. Not a wine lover’s ideal potential alcohol level. Like….AT. ALL.

Having never done this before, I figured we’d just rack and let the secondary fermentation do its thing, except that the air lock bubbled, like, once every few hours. Where the hell was my dad? Yeah, I know he had said he was going on vacation to the Panama Canal, but, OMG, how much canal can you see in a month (okay, so maybe only three or so weeks, lol)?

I had left two, maybe three (maybe twelve?) voicemails asking him to call me because I was seriously worried about a potential alcohol level of zero. (Wouldn’t you be? I mean, c’mon…don’t judge. If you’re making wine, you obviously aren’t making grape juice, okay?)

So this brings us to present. Dad called me tonight and I regaled all that I just told you and he was totally okay with what I told him.

To date?

  • 6 gallon carboy;
  • 5 gallons (+/- a few cups) of actual purple stuff; (spillage, people…sorry!)
  • Air lock that hasn’t really DONE anything since we racked last Wednesday night;
  • A whole lot of space in the carboy; see picture above.

So I told Dad everything to date, and he assured me that things are okay. I told him that I could find any answer I wanted on the Glorious InterWebz, and that I have seen everything from use-spring-water-to-use-distilled-water-to-use-tap-water, and I was just blown away by all of it.

He assured me that this was going to be a taste and adjust process from this point forward kind of thing.


It was dry; it had terrific flavor, but it also lacked alcohol.

It was dry; it had terrific flavor, but it also lacked alcohol.

What he recommended was that I steal a bit of wine from the carboy and taste it, and if it didn’t taste, um, “boozy” enough, that I should add some sugar; about a cup per gallon since the fermentation seemed to have come to a halt.

Which I did, because, while it had a really nice flavor, it was almost too dry, and didn’t have the alcohol content I am used to when drinking even a really dry red.

So, per his instructions, I added a cup of sugar per gallon (just under five) and replaced the air lock.

He recommended I wait a week and re-taste-test. So this is going to be a “hurry up and wait” scenario.

So, several hours after adding the sugar to the mix, nothing happened, so I called him back. He told me to quit stressing, and I’m totally down with that. He said that it would take a while for the sugar to intermingle and do what it does with the remaining yeast in the “wine” and to taste again in a week or two. So fingers crossed that we didn’t totally blow our first batch. :)

I’ll keep ya posted…

Until next time….

*Quickie update: this morning I got up and found the airlock bubbling away like crazy. This is why I tend to listen to my dad. ;)

Posted in HomeMade, In the Yard, Of Interest, Wine | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Wine Making 101 – Part 1

Just a portion of the grapes...

Just a portion of the grapes…

So I mentioned a couple posts ago that we obtained about a hundred pounds of Noble muscadine grapes.

My dad made crap-tons of homemade wines. So did my grandfather…and my great-grandfather actually had a pretty cool winery in Sicily, which is another story entirely, saved for another day. So that makes THIS GIRL a fourth generation vintner, because it is obviously in my DNA, which is why I fervently pray that I do my dad, grandpa, and great-grandfather proud.

That said….

We ordered a wine making kit (thanks, Dad! Best birthday check, EVER), and it came in on Thursday evening, after having washed and de-stemmed grapes for several evenings prior, fighting off the spiders and other bugs that came in with the grapes.

Our auto-siphon arrived split in two, so our vendor is replacing… I hope it gets here soon, because we are cruising up on secondary fermentation. That said…

Crushing grapes...

Crushing grapes…

I spent Friday evening with a plastic potato masher crushing grapes. It was like a sweet smelling bubble-wrap popping fest. Seriously.

It took about two and a half hours to crush the entire batch, but I only used about 30-35 pounds for this batch of wine. The rest went into Zip-Lock gallon-sized freezer bags (which, when over-filled and placed in a freezer WILL explode, leaving a nice purple-y/lavender cast to a lot of your previously frozen items…trust me, I speak the truth).

5 gallons of grape hulls and juice with seeds...Smelled heavenly.

5 gallons of grape hulls and juice with seeds…Smelled heavenly.

This is the must-bucket (aka primary fermeter, which is 7-some gallons) full of mushed up grapes and juice. Or partially full…I can’t actually remember when I took this particular picture.

Once we got all the grapes and juice into the bucket (primary fermenter) we had to test for acidity, and used our little kit with the chemicals. Our acid was a little low, so I ended up placing ALL of our “acid blend” powder into the must. We were a few grams shy of what we needed, so planned a trip to the wine supply store (we use American Brew Master in Raleigh for our chemical and local equipment needs. If you’re in the area and need supplies? These guys. Seriously. Love them!).

The must-bucket....

The must-bucket….

Then we tested the specific gravity…which, initially, confused the hell out of me, but thank goodness, I know how to use Google. We were a little off, so we added sugar by way of dissolving in water. I then gave it a good stir, (the hubs commenting on how I resembled a witch stirring a cauldron, thanks, Hon), and covered it up and walked away. Yeast wouldn’t go in for another 24 hours.

Activated yeast with juice added, part one.

Activated yeast with juice added, part one.

Fast forward to Saturday. We activated five packets of yeast in hundred degree water and created a “starter” by putting an equal amount of juice to the liquid we used to activate the yeast.

This is not a hurry-up kind of step. You have to give the yeast up to about 30 minutes (but no more than that) to activate. Then, once you add the juice, it takes about another twenty minutes to really get going. The reason for adding juice to the yeast/water mix is to ease the transition of the yeast (which is alive after reactivation) to the must. Apparently, if you just throw your activated yeast straight into the must, it over-stimulates the yeast culture and throws it into a yeast variation of a nervous breakdown, and that is no bueno.

See how the foam tripled?

See how the foam tripled?

This is what our starter looked like after about fifteen minutes. See how the foam tripled (or more, because I cannot math, as I permanently has the dumb, which is why I rely on Google and a good calculator. Just sayin’).

So what you do next is to pour the yeast starter over the top of your must. You should spread this out evenly as you pour, because you can’t actually stir this until the following day. Ours immediately started to do its thing, which made us feel pretty darned good…Because, you know…all that work? It would suck to have a pitching yeast fail. :)

The next day (Sunday), we ran back to American Brew Master, because I needed a test jar (which is basically a graduated cylinder), some more acid blend, a wine thief, and the doo-hickey that lifts a filled carboy off the ground. Okay, and since this place is only a few blocks from Mom’s house, a cup of tea and a visit with Mom and Sis. <3

We got what we needed (did I mention how ridiculously NICE these guys are?) and went to Mom’s for tea and a visit.

Got home and re-tested for acid (which was low) and for specific gravity, which was off. Turns out that we needed to add two pounds+ of sugar. This isn’t one of those things where you just TOSS a couple pounds of sugar then stir into your bucket, which, btw, is starting to smell a little boozy by now. Nope. You need to use your wine thief to grab a sanitized pitcher full of stirred juice and gradually add sugar until it’s all dissolved.

Did I mention just how important sterilization is? OMG…

Yes…sterilization…You absolutely need to sterilize everything your must/juice/wine comes in contact with. Sterilizers come in no-rinse and you-need-to-rinse powders. I like the no-rinse ones, because you can make up batches and put them in spray bottles to sterilize the little things (test jars, stirring spoons, etc) after you wash them. This especially comes in handy when we will get to rubber tubing. I have both…rinse and no-rinse, and will save my no-rinse for the tubing.

See how cool chemistry is?

See how cool chemistry is?

Ok, so after stirring, testing and adding the recommended amount of sugar, we watched the juice and yeast combination in our must bucket start to literally bubble. I have not seen a chemical reaction like that since chemistry lab in 2003. Seriously.

We are stirring twice daily. We are also testing the SG (specific gravity) daily, as well, so that we will know when to take the strainer bag out of the juice and be able to siphon our “wine” into our secondary fermenter, which is a six gallon glass carboy.

So this brings us up to speed to this point. Stay tuned…there is more coming. :)

Until next time…


Posted in HomeMade | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Down-Side to the Electronic Age

Sometimes there IS too much information...

Sometimes there IS too much information…

This isn’t going to be one of those happy-go-lucky posts I usually try to do.

Yesterday I had an “ah-hah” moment, and not a good one.

A friend of mine received a text message yesterday morning after breakfast break conveying sympathy over the loss of a family member. She was obviously stunned, and we did a little online research to see where this information was coming from. Sure enough, there was enough information online to be able to piece together some of what had happened. After numerous phone calls we were pretty certain the sympathies texted to my friend were the real deal.

Not long after that, two uniformed highway patrol officers arrived at our office to talk to my friend, who was already beside herself over the half-information we had been able to obtain. The officers confirmed what we had put together based on news web site images and calls to various agencies and her family member’s place of employment.

The long and the short of this post is this…

Please, news agencies, be mindful of what you post online. If family members have not been notified, and “victims’  names have not been released,” people can still put two and two together and come up with four, especially when pictures with identifying factors are added to your online news story. We shouldn’t have been able to come up with the information the way that we did as easily as we did. My friend should have been informed by law enforcement first. Yes, if a road is closed to through traffic because a crime was committed or there was an accident, absolutely post that, but pictures? C’mon…a quick zoom and a license plate number can be recognized.

Please, well meaning friends, be aware that oftentimes it takes more than a few minutes to notify someone’s next of kin that something has happened. In this specific case? It took well over three hours, half of that my friend spent beside herself trying to get information to either confirm or deny what she had heard. In this case, the texter was correct, but the family didn’t find out until well after witnesses had pretty much spread the word. Did you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who the deceased was? Did YOU identify the body? No? Then maybe it would be a good thing to keep things to yourself until it has been confirmed, and maybe, just maybe, keep it under your hat until you either hear it from the family or see the victim’s name released in the news, because they don’t DO that until next of kin has been notified.

Granted, we live in Small Town America, and if we don’t know each other, we are probably related to each other. This was traumatic to my friend and her family, and the emotional ups and downs that she (and we, her friends) experienced could have been avoided had things played out the way that they should have.

While the media wasn’t the catalyst (small town life probably was), it still played a very large part in our ability to put pieces together. Granted, we probably shouldn’t have delved into it the way that we did, but when someone we are close to is absolutely to pieces and wanting answers? What do you do? Playing dumb isn’t an option for me, as I’m known as the “Google Queen” in my circle, and if it is out there, everyone knows I’m going to pretty much find it fast. Sadly, this time, I was able to, and it wasn’t pretty.

Yeah, I’m old fashioned. Am I alone in wishing for the good ol’ days where media saturation wasn’t such an issue? We didn’t get our information until the morning or evening papers came out, or until the 5 or 11 o’clock news.  We didn’t have a play by play, up to the minute breakdown of what was going on in the world. We were clueless until the news came on…and believe me! Ignorance was bliss. I wish we could have been ignorant until 11 o’clock yesterday morning.

To my friend? I’m so sorry for your loss. My heart breaks along with yours. We may “only” work together, but you ladies are my family. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

To everyone and anyone reading this? Live like there’s no tomorrow. It’s not guaranteed, and this particular situation drove that point home like nobody’s business. Oh, and think before you text what you do or might know regarding someone’s personal tragedy.

Hold your loved ones a little tighter tonight, because they are around for you to do so.

Until next time…

Posted in Friends, Suckfest, The Day Job | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments