Saturday, May 3, 2014

Did the Gallo brothers start this way?

Since Christmas, we’ve made 75 bottles of wine. Damn good wine. Piesporter. But I had help from Chuck, my mentor. He produces 125 bottles at a time twice a year.

This time, I tried to go it alone. How hard could it be? I had printed instructions, plus the experience gleaned from making three batches this year, and I had Chuck’s phone number. Good thing.

There are not many ways to screw up making wine at home. But I found three.

First, I strangled the yeast. That’s what everybody said at the wine store. It seems I forgot to add one little quart of water at a critical juncture. So the air lock wouldn’t bubble. No incentive from fermentation gasses. No fermentation either. The fix – more yeast, more water.

Next, the room was too cold at 68 degrees. We live in the mountains. Wine likes 71 to 75 degrees. Too hot for us, so we wrapped the fermentation bucket in a blanket and sat it on a heating pad. Damn near baked up a grape casserole. Too hot. The fix – turn the heating pad to “low.”

Then…mix in the flavor packets, stir like hell, and add the clearing agent that magically makes the floating particles settle to the bottom. The problem – I mixed the concoction in the opaque plastic bucket rather than the see-through plastic jug (called a carboy for some reason). If you can’t see the mixture, you don’t know when it is ready to bottle. The fix – siphon the five gallons of elixir back into the carboy. I haven’t used a siphon this much since I left Oklahoma.

With luck, we’ll have new wine in a week or two.

Chuck says I can hang up the phone now.

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