Saturday, September 28, 2013

2013 Tempranillo Wine

Tempranillo is a Spanish grape grown around the world, and it known as the main grape in Spanish Roja wine.

When I got to the store,  the lady said the Tempranillo grapes had especially high sugar content.  I thought incorrectly that Tempranillo was a kind of Zinfandel. It is really a cross of two ancient Spanish vines -- a red and a white.

It is getting late in the wine season, and I wanted to make a smaller batch of red to complement the Cabernet Sauvignon that I made three weeks ago.  I decided to try something different, and I liked the idea of getting a grape where the fruit looked good, so I got that instead of Syrah.

Mine was sold by Colavita's as Northern Special. Colavita says their grapes are grown in Lodi, Woodbridge, and Linden Hills district # 11.

2013 Tempranillo Recipe

108 lb Tempranillo Grapes (Colavita)
12 g yeast energizer
7 packets of Lipton Tea
2 packets of Red Star Montrachet yeast

I measured the sugar content, and it was pretty high at 25.8 Brix for 13.5% alcohol, which is not as high as they were claiming, but still pretty good. At least I did not need to add sugar. The measured sugar content rises as the must stands because the sugar from inside the dried fruit gradually leaches out. Originally, I measured the sugar content at 23 Brix, and it went up to 25.8 Brix in about a half hour -- after a night of fermentation it was over 26%.   What is the right wine word for this?  Robust?

I added tea since I like doing that more than oak chips. I used two packs of yeast when I could have gotten by with one because I had two on hand, and this is the last batch of the year. No point in letting the yeast go to waste.

March 2014: I added vanilla and oak chips to help increase the flavor. I also added Acid-X to kill the tartness.

March 2015: I tasted it, and it was pretty good. I transferred 2 gallons to bottles. There is a little vanilla taste. This wine is lighter in flavor and more like a white wine than the Merlots and CabSavs I usually make. It has a little tartness that is not distracting. I hope it does not get more tart.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

2013 Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a bit of an experiment; many people like it, but I would have made Riesling if I could have gotten the Riesling grapes. Often Sauvignon Blanc tastes too much like grape skins to me, so I will work hard to get wine pressed quickly. If I were smarter and less cheaper, I'd make it from just the free-run juice, but well, I didn't do that.

The juice was nice and sweet, and I did not need to add much sugar.

2013 Sauvignon Blanc Wine Recipe

144 lb Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes* (crushed) [11.5 gal of juice at 23.8 brix]
325 g cane sugar [adjusted for 13% alcohol content]
10 g pectic enzyme for clarity
Rind from three oranges
5 Celestial Seasonings Columbine tea bags
12 g yeast energizer
1 Packet Red Star Pasteur Cote des Blanc yeast

*Top Brass brand from Vignolo Farms

The fermentation ran fast, and I put it in a Demijohn on the fourth day. The sweetness was gone by that point. It is continuing to bubble of course, but not very fast. It looks like about 38 L yield. 

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

The red grapes came into the wine store, and it is a busy weekend, so I got there early looking for some of those OldVine Zinfandel grapes that were so good last year. The grape truck was late, and they were out of Zinfandel, so I walked through the cooler and found some tasty Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. They looked good, but were on the juicy side, which means they had a little lower sugar than grapes that had dried a bit. On the other hand, they had a good grape-y flavor.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Recipe

144 lb Vignolo Farms Top Brass Cabernet Sauvignon grapes

4 lb sugar to increase sugar content by 3.5%

16 g yeast energizer

8 packets of Lipton tea (decaf because that is what I had on hand)

2 packets of Red Star Montrachet

No sulfite in this year's batch since the grapes warmed up quickly, and I could get my yeast on it on the same day. Also the relatively fresh grapes had no "Noble Rot" which my father and grandfather associated with wild yeast, but which most people think of as fungus.

Initially the refractive index measured at 21.9 degrees Brix. I added 4 lb of sugar and it went up to 25 degrees Brix, which should be good for 13% alcohol. I decided not to try for a more manly 14.5% like I have other years. That is sometimes I like a weaker wine, and sometimes I like a stronger wine. And of course, the stronger the wine, the less I can drink of it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2013 Cherry Wine

My 2009 Cherry Wine was so good! My wife and I said that it tasted like Christmas -- it had all sorts of pleasant flavor associations.

The 2012 Cherry Wine on the other hand was not good. It has a strong off flavor that I attribute to cherry pits. I am not sure what I am going to do with it, but what am not going to do is drink it  -- at least any time soon. Maybe it'll mellow or maybe I'll blend it with some store bought jug wine.  Worse comes to worse, I can make Cherry Brandy. I have 41 liters of it!

I am trying to learn from my mistakes, so this wine is all Michigan Sweet Cherries, and none of the cherries were boiled. I squished all the cherries with wooden plunger, and mixed them all with sugar water. 

2013 Cherry Wine Recipe

23 lb Michigan Cherries -- ripe
3.5 gal  water
6 bags of standard tea
11.2 lb of sugar  (cherries are not as sweet as you think.)
3 g yeast energizer
3 g pectin
1 packet Red Star Premier Cuve'e

It took a few tries to get the sugar up to 28% (started at 25.3 degrees Brix) for a 13% alcohol content.  The 2009 wine was not too strong. 

Right now the fermentation is done, and the color is great, but the flavor may be a little thin.  I am hopeful because it is way too early to be tasting it. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

2013 Strawberry Wine

 My 2012 Strawberry Wine was good, and I decided to try it again. I bought some fresh strawberries since they were on sale. I cut the stems off the fresh strawberries with a knife, and then put them in the food processor to make a puree. I h

10 lb of fresh strawberries (California), pureed
6 lb frozen strawberries, pureed
5 quarts water
3300 grams of sugar (7.25 lb) cooked with the water above into a syrup

Fresh Strawberries
1 large orange (including the peel)
4 g pectic enzyme
5 g yeast energizer
1 packet Cote Des Blances from Red Star

I measured the sugar content; initially very high, so I added water and then waited, the sugar content by refractive index and by density projected a 14.1 to 14.6% alcohol. I used Cot Des Blances so maybe we'll get a little residual sweetness.

Strawberry Puree

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

2013 Pinot Noir Project

The 2013 Pinot Noir is a project rather than a wine.

The story starts with the heart-breaking breakage of the demijohn of 2012 Merot -- of which only three liters survives -- the rest staining the floor red.

I painted the floor to obscure the stain as well as the memory.

Since I was short of wine, and grape season was over I bought fresh refrigerated juice, Melbec. The juice was poor, poor quality making just 7.3% alcohol had I fermented it, but worse it had no flavor.  Adding sugar would have brought the alcohol up, but it would still have tasted bad.

I decided to add dried fruit to add flavor and sugar. This seemed like a good idea, and I don't think the fruit had any additives that would prevent fermentation, but the fermentation stopped early leaving an awful tasting sweet, cherry-flavored mess. I tried restarting several times, but no luck.

One idea from the wine blogs had was to blend it with a rapidly fermenting juice, and that is why I bought Negro Toro brand Pinot Noir in May from Chile.  Wine Village in Hamilton Ontario contracts with growers in Chile to import juice to Canada. Hamilton is between Toronto and Niagara Falls -- our local grape vendor imports a truckload in the Spring -- for which you need to pre-order.

The juice I purchased was actually a wine mix as the label said it had added yeast, tartartic acid, and tannin. I wish I knew how much.

2013 Pinot Noir Recipe

6 gallons (23 L) of Pinot Noir juice
2.1 kg sugar
11 g yeast nutrient
2 packs of Red Star Premier Cuvee

I let this ferment for 2 days, and then I began to add the Melbec/Cherry blend. I added it slowing, and the must kept fermenting. Now it has been four days, and it is still going.  I am hopeful, but well, I have been hopeful before.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

2013 Merlot-Cherry Stuck Fermentation

My 2013 Melbec/Cherry, which itself arose from the sad story of a broken demijohn, hardly fermented at all in the last five months. It is still sweet.

I tried restarting it with Yeast Energizer and a new packet of dry yeast twice.

I got desperate and read up on restarting wine, and learned that the pH should be 3.5-4.5.

I bought a cheap pH meter last year for this sort of problem, but I convinced myself that it did not work, and I threw it out. That left me with pH paper. My pH paper said the pH was over 5.

I decided to add the juice of seven clementines. The same clementines that I used in the mead a few weeks ago. The internet suggested one lemon for every two gallons, so I needed three in my six gallon batch.

I got some new Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast and spinkled it into some luke warm sugar water (about 1/2 cup with 2 T of sugar.) When it was foaming, I added some wine to it, about 1/4 cup. When that was foaming I added more.  When that was foaming, poured it in to the demijohn.

The third idea was to warm the demijohn. It is winter, and it is probably 68F in the basement. I got my seed starting mats used them to mildly warm the wine. Careful to allow headspace when you warm wine, since it will expand.

The next morning, it had foamed up, and was bubbling. The flavor was noticeably less sweet in just a few hours.


Sept 2014: For a second time, I took a liter of my heavily fermenting new wine, and added to about 20 L of the stopped wine. This time it made a difference. When I tasted it in March 2015, the flavor had normalized, and it was not too sweet. :-)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2013 Mead

The 2012 Mead was so good that I was excited to try it again. I needed to ration it because we liked it so well, so I put it into 375 ml bottles!

The secret is the quality of the honey. The better the honey the better the mead. I also like a stronger, sweeter mead -- so use enough honey.

This year I ordered Wildflower honey from two sources in Florida. 20 of the 22 lb that I used were Florida wildflower honey. For mead, the darker honeys are better than the light clover honey that 4 year old like on their sandwiches. Darker honey gives a more complicated flavor.  I order them from

2013 Mead Recipe

22 lb  Wildflower honey
Water - to dilute to 20 L
2.5 t     Yeast Energizer
7 g       Pectic enzyme (about 2 t)
16        Clementines (with rinds, liquified in a blender)
1.5 t     Nutmeg
3 T       Ground vanilla beans (which we just happened to have)
1 Packet   Red Star Premier Cuvee Yeast

In addition to the wildflower honey there was 1 lb of clover honey and 1 lb of buckwheat honey.

The 20L of water was more than I expected based on last year. I needed to add 2 L extra because this honey was sweeter than last years honey. I added water until I had a density of 1.152 g/ml which should make a skull-crushing 18.2% alcohol, but it really won't. It will stop short and be strong and sweet.

Pectic enzyme is added since the clementine rinds have pectin.

I increased the nutmeg this year and skipped the allspice. I don't like the fragrance of allspice, and I don't see how it helps.

I used Premier Cuvee yeast this year since I was out of champagne yeast, but Curvee is good for whites.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pot Pie Recipe

Pot Pie Recipe

1 cup sweet potatoes
1/2 cup potatoes
1 cup mixed veggies frozen
1 cup frozen peas
4 leeks
5 slices bacon
2 CUps chicken broth
1 cup half and half
Handful spinach

Preheat oven for 400 degrees F.

Make crust for bottom, put into pot pie dishes and cook 300* for 15-20 mins - 2 cups of flour and 2 sticks of butter, 8 T of water. Mix using Mosher technique, flatten the dough without mixing it. It is OK if the dough does not cohere. 

Cook the potatoes and some frozen veggies with 3 tablespoons butter for 15 minutes. Sauté the leeks in a T of butter until turning brown.

Cook the bacon. 

Stir 1/2 cup flour into veggies slowly, keep cooking for a minute.

Mix together chicken broth and half and half, stir into the veggies. Stir veggies constantly until thickened and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Stir in leeks and bacon, and additional frozen veggies until mixed in.

Spoon into individual pot pie dishes

Add crust on top, cut some slits for steam

Cook for 30-40 minutes

Based on recipe from