Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 Old Vine Zinfandel

Two years ago, the old vine Zinfandel was a winner, and decided it was worth 10% extra a case to get the better, or perhaps supposedly better, grapes. The grapes were big and juicy, which is good and bad. Juicy grapes are usually less flavorful and have lower sugar -- think about it raisins make the sweetest juice since they have hardly any liquid. On the other hand, the skins were very flavorful, so I need to count on transferring flavor from the skins to the juicy for this to be successful.

Since the juicy was watery, I needed to add sugar (cane sugar) to make the wine strong enough. 

2012 Old Vine Zinfandel Wine Recipe

144 lb Valley Beauty Old Vine Zinfandel Grapes (crushed)
1100 g cane sugar (approx 2.4 pounds)
9 g potassium sulfite (to kill wild yeast)
16 g yeast energizer
1 Packet Red Star Pasteur Red Yeast and 1 Packet Red Star Montrachet

The juice had a refractive index of 23.4 degrees Brix. On this batch, I gave up on doing the density measurement. The density almost always agrees with the refractive index, and the refractive index is much easier. This would produce 12% alcohol. [My 2010 Old Vine Zin had much higher sugar so this is a little disappointing. ] 

Not everyone knows how to do this calculation, so I'll go over it. You need a sugar-to-alcohol table. 

I want 13.3% (28% sugar), and so I added 1100 g sugar.  I use a table in Pambianchi's Techniques in Home Winemaking, but an online table is here. At 23.4 Brix, I have 25.6% sugar and I want 28% sugar (for 14.5% alcohol). I need to add sugar for (28-25.6)/100*144lb = 3.4 lb = 1570 g.

The juice fermented quickly, and I pressed it. I got 33 liters or 8.7 gallons that is 8.25 L/case or 2.2 gal/case. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

2012 Merlot Wine

Its the first day of fall, rainy, and a good day to make wine. It was crowded at the California Wine Grapes, our local wine grape vendor up in Detroit.

I did a wine tasting on my 2011 batches before I left, and I decided that the Old Vine Zinfandel was best; however I bawked at the price when I got to the store.

2012 Merlot Recipe

106 lb Merlot Grapes (Smiling Baby, Lodi CA)
6 g sodium bisulfite
added immediately then wait for the juice to warm
12 g  yeast nutrient
185 g cane sugar
1 pack Pasteur Red Yeast (Red Star)

I crushed the grapes, and got 1.107 g/ml density and 24.6 degrees Brix (refractive index) which give 13.9-14.1% alcohol.  That was what I got last year. This years grapes seems sweet, so that is promising.   Since I thought hearty is better than weak, I added enough sugar to raise the sugar content by 0.5% or 185 g.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fuggle & Kent Amber Ale

After a lot of debate, I am plunging into beer-making this Labor Day weekend. Mother-in-law Pat gave me two beer-making books for my birthday. I went to the beer store to get ingredients.

Beer ingredients are simple compared to wine-making, because you don't have to deal with making juice. While some wine is boiled, generally one sterilizes with sulfite. In beer, the boiling is part of extracting the flavor from the hops. Boiling is obviously the biggest hassle.

Beer-making and wine-making have one thing in common, and that is cleaning, washing and sterilizing. The beer guys seem more anal-retentive, but beer is less alcoholic and less acidic so it is more prone to bacteria. Also the home-brew guys don't use sulfite or sorbate which might help.

Beer-making has some of its own nouns like other age-old crafts: two are "wort" and "pitch."

I started out with a recipe, but I get bored with recipes, so I arrived at this.

Fuggle & Kent Amber Ale

2.25 gallon water
200 g Crystal Malt, crushed
Allow to steep 30 minutes at 150-160F, and then remove.
1800 g Dried Amber Malt Extract
Heat to boiling, then add
8 g Fuggles hops
13 g Kent Goldings hops
Boil for 30 minutes
4 g Fuggles hops
13 g Kent Goldings hops
Boil 15 minutes more
8 g Kent Goldings hops
Boil 2 more minutes.
1 gallon water, after cooling further dilute to 15 deg Brix (see below)
Allow to cool to below 100F.
1 packet Safale US Dry Ale Yeast

Allow ten minutes to rest on surface, then stir in. Transfer to carboy. Wait 7 days
90 g corn sugar 

Allow to ferment 7-10 days


I checked the specific gravity, and it was 1.070 after the temp correction. I also checked the refractive index RI, and it was 17 degrees Brix.  This means about 9% alcohol, so I added just over a quart of water. This brought the RI down to 15 deg Brix, and alcohol to a manageable 6.8%.  Still strong.

I tasted the wort, and it did not taste great. I did not like the burnt flavor from the Crystal toasted barley -- why do people use this? The hops give it  distasteful bitterness.  Third, it was barely sweet despite the fact that it was overloaded on malt sugar -- I suppose I was comparing it to my mead or cherry wines which were quite sweet.  Hopefully the fermentation will mellow the burnt and bitter flavors.

Nine hours after pitching the yeast, the wort is fermenting nicely. I hope to rack the wort into a secondary fermenter in four days.