The Chardonnay is on its way!

Kevin adds juice concentrate to fermenter.

Kevin adds juice concentrate to fermenter.

We started the California Chardonnay this weekend!  While Chardonnay wines are being increasingly sought after as “naked” or fermented and/or aged in stainless steel rather than oak barrels, we decided this kit will be fermentation oaked with the included heavy French Oak shavings.  On a process note, one of the things that George at the Winemaker’s Toy Store highly recommends is to fill your primary fermenter with water to the 23L mark after installing the spigot with its gaskets.  We have made it a practice to do so and it paid off this time around.  Within an inch of the 23L mark, the spigot started dripping from the outer gasket…..so we emptied the water into another bucket, fixed the spigot and checked again.

After finding leak at spigot, we transferred the "test" water to another bucket to re-install the spigot and test again.

After finding a leak at the spigot, we transferred the “test” water to another bucket to re-install the spigot and test again.

Had we gotten the fermenter filled with our must or this problem occurred after fermentation began it would’ve been far more of a problem.  Worried about wasting 23L of water?….we just fill our watering cans for our garden when done testing the fermenter for leaks.  This also drills home another point that having too many buckets in your winery is not possible!

Tim mixing up the cleanser.

Tim mixing up the cleanser.

Kevin cleans the primary fermenter.

Kevin cleans the primary fermenter.

The kit items required for Primary fermentation.  Clockwise from top left:  French Oak shavings, yeast, 2 packets of bentonite, a clay used to help clarify the wine.

The kit items required for Primary fermentation. Clockwise from top left: French Oak shavings, yeast, 2 packets of bentonite, a clay used to help clarify the wine.

Bentonite mixed and dissolved in hot water.

Bentonite mixed and dissolved in hot water.

Kevin adds juice concentrate to fermenter.

Kevin adds juice concentrate to fermenter.

Tim rinses remaining concentrate out of bag with hot water.

Tim rinses remaining concentrate out of bag with hot water.

Tim tops up fermenter to 6 gallons.

Tim tops up fermenter to 6 gallons.

Tim stirs the must (juice concentrate, bentonite, and water).

Tim stirs the must (juice concentrate, bentonite, and water).

Oak shavings are added.

Oak shavings are added.

The yeast is pitched....must becomes wine!

The yeast is pitched….must becomes wine!

Stoddary Street Winery with Merlot in clearing, Chardonnay in primary fermentation.

Stoddary Street Winery with Merlot in clearing, Chardonnay in primary fermentation.

See ya CO2

Using a drill mounted mix-stir to remove CO2 produced by fermentation from the wine.

Using a drill mounted mix-stir to remove CO2 produced by fermentation from the wine.

The Merlot is moving right along.  We recently de-gassed and moved it into the clearing stage adding chitosan and keisol…..now it sits until mid July when we will bottle!

Kevin uses a wine thief/test cylinder and hydrometer to measure the final SG.

Kevin uses a wine thief/test cylinder and hydrometer to measure the final SG.

Merlot goes to Secondary

We’ve racked our Merlot from the Primary fermenter to a Better Bottle carboy for the Secondary fermentation.

Equipment for this step ready for cleaning and sanitizing.

Equipment for this step ready for cleaning and sanitizing.

 

While we likely won't need them, Steve (volunteer winemaking assistant) cleans the glass marbles just in case we need them to take up any headspace in the carboy.

While we likely won’t need them, Steve (volunteer winemaking assistant) cleans the glass marbles just in case we need them to take up any headspace in the carboy.

 

Racking started.

Racking started.

 

Still going!

Still going!

 

Carboy is full, enzyme blend added, and air lock installed for the next 10 days during which fermentation will finish.  The enzyme will ensure the yeast have enough nutrients to complete the fermentation.

Carboy is full, enzyme blend added, and air lock installed for the next 10 days during which fermentation will finish. The enzyme will ensure the yeast have enough nutrients to complete the fermentation.

 

The purpose of racking is to take the wine off the sediment generated during the primary fermentation.  The sediment contains primarily dead yeast and oak.

The purpose of racking is to take the wine off the sediment generated during the primary fermentation. The sediment contains primarily dead yeast and oak.

 

These are what's left of the crushed grapes (from the crushed grape pack) after primary fermentation.

These are what’s left of the crushed grapes (from the crushed grape pack) after primary fermentation.

 

One more wine for the summer!

We will make one other kit this summer, a California Chardonnay.  This is another kit by Cellar Craft…..part of their Sterling Collection.  Grapefruit, green apple, and pear aromatics dominate the nose. The medium body is clean and crisp with flavours of green apple and citrus which continue through the wonderful finish.  Since we already have a “naked” (un-oaked) white in the cellar, we will add toasted French oak to this wine.

We decided to start our adventures in wine making with wine kits as they are a great way to learn the process and understand the basic chemistry involved.  That said, kits do not allow the home winemaker to work with the actual fruit…..a process that requires more in-depth monitoring and control of chemistry (wine kit concentrates are balanced by the manufacturer).  They also do not allow the winemaker as much creativity in regards to wine style and varietal (or blend) beyond what they offer in kits; no matter how extensive the product line.  So be watching this Fall, we will be trying a small batch of wine from sourced grapes as well as an Apple wine made from scratch using cider sourced from the Godard’s Red Hen Farm / Mineral Hills winery.  Larry and Susan have created a wonderful winery and craft some absolutely beautiful wines…..including mead and apple (sourced from their farm).  If you live in or visit western Massachusetts, a Mineral Hills tasting should be on your to do list!

No matter what we try next, kits will always be part of our winemaking simply because unlike harvested fruit which comes around but once a year, we can get and run a wine kit ANY time of year when the winemaking bug bites!

Below 1

Crushed grape skin bag is now floating, thermometer on the right, hydrometer on the left, floating very low in the now less dense wine.

Crushed grape skin bag is now floating, thermometer on the right, hydrometer on the left, floating very low in the now less dense wine.

We checked the SG of the wine after KRide yesterday, it is now well below 1 at 0.996.  The brew belt has been removed and we will be able to rack it to a Better Bottle carboy for secondary fermentation this week.

Washington Merlot

Primary Fermentation underway. 

This past weekend we started a new wine kit, a Cellar Craft Showcase Washington Merlot sourced from the Yakima Valley.  It is currently at the tail end of the active stage of Primary Fermentation.  We will rack over to the secondary next week before our trip to California to visit family, San Francisco, and the Napa Valley.

 

Primary Fermentation supplies and notebook.  The cheesecloth bag will be used to hold the crushed grapes.

Primary Fermentation supplies and notebook. The cheesecloth bag will be used to hold the crushed grapes.

 

Mixing in the Bentonite, which assists in fining.

Mixing in the Bentonite, which assists in fining.

 

Tim stirs in the Bentonite

Tim stirs in the Bentonite

 

Grape Juice bag in kit.

Grape Juice bag in kit.

 

Juice added to Bentonite in primary fermenter

Juice added to Bentonite in primary fermenter

 

Kevin rinses the remaining juice from the bag with hot water.

Kevin rinses the remaining juice from the bag with hot water.

 

Tim adds the oak powder and the must is ready!

Tim adds the oak powder and the must is ready!

 

Kevin opens the yeast packet.

Kevin opens the yeast packet.

 

Must becomes wine as the yeast is pitched!

Must becomes wine as the yeast is pitched!

 

Brew belt heater added to keep the temperature up near 70 in the still relatively cool basement.

Brew belt heater added to keep the temperature up near 70 in the still relatively cool basement.

 

During the Primary Fermentation we stir the wine once per day.  This helps to increase communication between the crushed grapes and the wine…..and also removes the frothy “cap” to help control temperature and oxygen for the yeast.  The picture below was about 18 hours after pitching the yeast, a better time to test the SG and temp.  Starting SG was 1.083….with these Showcase reds usually going completely dry down to 0.997 or lower, I estimate a finished ABV of around 13%

Primary Fermentation underway.

Primary Fermentation underway.

 

Active stage of primary fermentation

Active stage of primary fermentation

 

Still going!

Still going!

 

Froth is gone, grape skins are floating....this means the active stage of the primary fermentation is coming to an end.

Froth is gone, grape skins are floating….this means the active stage of the primary fermentation is coming to an end.

 

-Kevin and Tim.

 

What ever happened to the Riesling?!

IMG_8577Wow, so it was October that we last posted to this blog…..fear not however, the winemaking has been going strong and we look forward to starting our next run soon, but more on that later!  If you recall at the end of our last post we had just pitched the yeast to put the Auslese Riesling into Primary Fermentation and our winemaking friends in Lenox had crushed their season’s run and also started the primary on that beautiful red as well.  A lot has gone on since then…….we’ve bottled the Riesling and started an icewine style Cabernet Franc and bottled that too!  Our friend Matt joined me in Lenox to press Clyde’s fermented grapes with his wife and sister-in-law.  OK, enough blabbing, here’s the good stuff with descriptions where pertinent!

First thing is first, what HAVE we been doing?  Well the holidays were one thing….which was another great opportunity to try our Malbec.

Stoddard Street Malbec at Thanksgiving with the family.

Stoddard Street Malbec at Thanksgiving with the family.

One of my (Kevin) other hobbies is amateur astronomy…..and I’m also an amateur telescope maker.  The other project that took center stage for a while was to finish a telescope I had been building for my friend and fellow amateur astronomer Steve.  We had been into the project for a bit more than a year and wanted to be done for him to enjoy it during the Spring months.  We finished it this past week!  If that type of project interests you, the pictures from the entire build are here.

Steve with his new 10 inch truss tube telescope the day we finished it.  Now back to winemaking!

Steve with his new 10 inch truss tube telescope the day we finished it. Now back to winemaking!

OK, so here we go…..

Primary Fermentation of the Riesling is complete and ready for racking to the secondary.

Primary Fermentation of the Riesling is complete and ready for racking to the secondary.

Wash and Sanitize!

Wash and Sanitize!

Equipment ready for racking.

Equipment ready for racking.

Racking in progress!

Racking in progress!

Dead yeast left behind after racking.

Sediment / dead yeast left behind after racking.

These are the stabilizing and fining agents that will take care of any remaining yeast and clear the wine.  The large packet on the right contains a flavor reserve that will help give the fully fermented wine it's off-dry sweetness.

These are the stabilizing and fining agents that will take care of any remaining yeast and clear the wine. The large packet on the right contains a flavor reserve that will help give the fully fermented wine it’s off-dry sweetness.

Ready for degassing.

Ready for degassing.

All ingredients and fining agents added, ready for clearing stage.  We also added our glass marbles to top up the carboy.

All ingredients and fining agents added, ready for clearing stage. We also added our glass marbles to top up the carboy.

Riesling after about a week of clearing.  You can see it is progressing quite nicely.  Notice the sediment on the marbles at the bottom as it drops out of suspension.

Riesling after about a week of clearing. You can see it is progressing quite nicely. Notice the sediment on the marbles at the bottom as it drops out of suspension.

While the Riesling was clearing, my friend Matt and I had the opportunity to visit Clyde, his wife Irene, and sister-in-law Ana in Lenox for his pressing!  This is the batch mentioned in our previous post that Clyde sent pictures of them crushing after bringing his grapes up from his supplier in Brooklyn.

Matt (L) and Clyde talk beer and wine making before work begins.

Matt (L) and Clyde talk beer and wine making before work begins.

Clyde's fermented wine and skins, ready for pressing.

Clyde’s fermented wine and skins, ready for pressing.

The press, very nice!

The press, very nice!

Carboy with oak chips ready for the pressed juice.

Carboy with oak chips ready for the pressed juice.

Clyde sets up the press.

Clyde sets up the press.

Ana is ready!

Ana is ready!

Clyde preps the press.

Clyde preps the press.

Kevin and Ana get the grapes ready.

Kevin and Ana get the grapes ready.

Clyde begins to scoop juice and grape skins for the press.

Clyde begins to scoop juice and grape skins for the press.

In they go!

In they go!

Skins and juice in fermenter before pressing.

Skins and juice in fermenter before pressing.

Clyde begins the pressing!

Clyde begins the pressing!

And out comes the juice!

And out comes the juice!

Ana helps Clyde fill the press again.

Ana helps Clyde fill the press again.

Skins after pressing.

Skins after pressing.

Kevin takes a crack at pressing.

Kevin takes a crack at pressing.

Matt, Kevin, and Clyde with the press.

Matt, Kevin, and Clyde with the press.

Matt’s day of playing wine maker wasn’t quite over, we selected him to help start our Cabernet Franc Icewine Style wine.  It is called an Icewine “Style” because while it tastes very much like an icewine, it is not made the same way.  The differentiation was made in part to discourage wine makers from developing and selling wine this was as true Icewine.  As you can imagine the “style” process is much less involved and much less expensive.  From experience I can tell you that these Icewine Style kits come VERY close to the real thing, but the real thing still has its own discernible difference of course…….and true Icewines are WELL worth their cost and are a very unique wine.  So what is Icewine anyway?  To make Icewine the wineries leave the grapes on the vines well into the freeze/thaw cycle.  This process essentially concentrates the sugars in the grapes making the juice very, very sweet.  At a time determined by the experience of the winery’s vintner, they are harvested and the winemaking process begun like any other.  The end result is a wine that is extremely sweet….sweet enough it could be a dessert in and of itself.  There are many ways people consume Icewine…..drizzled in ice cream or pound cake, or in the glass by itself.  Either way, it’s richness lends to relatively small amounts being consumed at a sitting.  As such, Icewine is often bottled in 375 ml bottles, half the normal size.  This of course was a very basic description, you can read in more detail about Icewine here.

So, what is an Icewine Style kit?  For this kit a Cabernet Franc wine kit is fermented as usual to produce a dry Cabernet Franc.  Just before the clearing stage a Flavor Reserve Pack, high in sweetness is added to return the sugars to the wine that were removed during fermentation.  The end result is an extremely sweet Icewine-like (style) wine…..and again, they are very close, and to some, imperceptible from the real thing; just made a different way.

Matt cleans and sanitizes.

Matt cleans and sanitizes.

Pulling grape juice from kit to hydrate the yeast.

Pulling grape juice from kit to hydrate the yeast.

Matt puts juice into Primary Fermenter.

Matt puts juice into Primary Fermenter.

Matt stirs the must.

Matt stirs the must.

After pitching the yeast, the Cabernet Franc Icewine style heads into primary fermentation on the wine making table next to the still clarifying Riesling.

After pitching the yeast, the Cabernet Franc Icewine style heads into primary fermentation on the wine making table next to the still clarifying Riesling.

It's Riesling bottling day!  On this table is all the bottling equipment from the racking cane to Buon Vino filter, bottle tree, and sanitizer.

It’s Riesling bottling day! On this table is all the bottling equipment from the racking cane to Buon Vino filter, bottle tree, and sanitizer.

Riesling after filtering.

Riesling after filtering.

Auto-siphon in carboy for bottling.

Auto-siphon in carboy for bottling.

Kevin fills the bottles.

Kevin fills the bottles.

Tim drives the corks.

Tim drives the corks.

Nice!

Nice!

Back to the Icewine.....here we rack the wine off the sediment in the Primary Fermenter to our 3 gallon Better Bottle carboy for the secondary fermentation.

Back to the Icewine…..here we rack the wine off the sediment in the Primary Fermenter to our 3 gallon Better Bottle carboy for the secondary fermentation.

Kevin checks specific gravity to determine if the secondary fermentation is complete.

Kevin checks specific gravity to determine if the secondary fermentation is complete.

Hydrometer reading confirms fermentation is complete.  The wine is now dry and has an Alcohol by Volume of about 12%

Hydrometer reading confirms fermentation is complete. The wine is now dry and has an Alcohol by Volume of about 12%

Racking the wine off the last sediment into a larger 6 gallon better bottle to make degassing and the addition of stabilizers and clarifiers easier.

Racking the wine off the last sediment into a larger 6 gallon better bottle to make degassing and the addition of stabilizers and clarifiers easier.

Almost done racking!

Almost done racking!

Tim adds and stirs stabilizers and clearing agents.

Tim adds and stirs stabilizers and clearing agents.

Wine ready for the clearing stage.  At this point the Flavor Reserve Pack, used to return the sugars to the wine that the fermentation removed.

Wine ready for the clearing stage. At this point the Flavor Reserve Pack, used to return the sugars to the wine that the fermentation removed.

Clearing was to occur during a VERY cold month in our basement....so the carboy was moved upstairs and wrapped to keep light out for the next 22 days.

Clearing was to occur during a VERY cold month in our basement….so the carboy was moved upstairs and wrapped to keep light out for the next 22 days.

Ready for bottling!!!!

Ready for bottling!!!!

Kevin cleans equipment for bottling.  We will rack via the Buon Vino filter system from the small 3 gallon carboy to the larger 6 gallon carboy for bottling.

Kevin cleans equipment for bottling. We will rack via the Buon Vino filter system from the small 3 gallon carboy to the larger 6 gallon carboy for bottling.

Tim cleans the half size 375 ml Bellissima bottles.  We will fill 30 of these.

Tim cleans the half size 375 ml Bellissima bottles. We will fill 30 of these.

Filtered wine in 6 gallon carboy, ready for the bottles.

Filtered wine in 6 gallon carboy, ready for the bottles.

Sediment after racking.

Sediment after racking.

Kevin fills, while Tim corks.

Kevin fills, while Tim corks.

All done!

All done!

So that’s a lot of wine we have now….both ours and those we’ve purchased.  For Christmas this year we put a large capacity wine rack on our list.  My parents came through with this nice 144 bottle rack which is now down in our winery and beginning to fill!

Wine Rack in our Winery.

Wine Rack in our Winery.

For Christmas they also gave us a nice sign for the winery that they had designed and made!

Sign2

So what’s next?  We are in the midst of ordering our next wine, a Washington Merlot…….and will follow that with a special, crisp summer wine.  Stay tuned!