Sunday, December 30, 2007

Winexpert Santa Ynez Syrah--A little wood makes a strong wine!

Note: This is a copied post from a previous blog to consolidate into a single space.

Earlier this year (2006), I bought a Winexpert Santa Ynez Syrah kit with a grape skin pack as a way to practice with making wines from grapes before I tried the real thing. Didn't have a grape press at the time, so I used the siphon filter. Boy, was that a good way to waste a gallon of wine! If I ever do that again, I'll pour the must into a fine mesh straining bag and squeeze out as much wine as I can. After clearing and degassing, I left the finished wine over the oak saw dust that came with the kit and some additional dark toast French oak chips for a little too long and ended up with a very heavily oaked wine. OK, the stuff tasted and smelled like I was drinking a tree. Yuck! I was thinking that I had ruined the wine and decided to bottle it anyway to free up the carboy for other use. Maybe I could put it in the corner of the basement and forget that I had wasted $140 on that kit.

About 2 months after I bottled, I opened a bottle more because I didn't like the bottle size and wanted to empty it and throw the bottle away. Wow--what a change! The oak aroma and taste is still there, but GREATLY reduced! The dark fruit and tannins are beginning pushing their way forward, while the oak is really beginning to mellow out. I'm going to try to let the other 2 cases sit for another couple of months to see how much more the oak aroma & taste will lighten. As it is, I think this wine will be a really good everyday wine.

2006 Crush Plans

Note: This is a copied post from another blog to consolidate into one place.

Just a brief note on my crush plans for this fall. I may be going a just a tad overboard if I end up making everything I like. If so, my friends had better be prepared for getting a lot of samples! I was really wanting to make wine from fresh grapes this fall. I've made 3 grape wines from kits so far, a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and a syrah. Most kits are concentrated, pasteurized grape juice and require dilution with water. The chardonnay kit was pure sterilized juice and the syrah kit came with a grape skin pack, so that's as close to working with fresh grapes or grape juice that I've been able to come (neither one has been bottled yet--still aging). This spring's late frosts dealt a small blow to my plans to acquire local grapes. Fortunately, there is a U-pick vineyard north of Detroit that had a reasonably good year, but they don't have a lot of red grapes that I'd like to make wine from. If I can get to the vineyard in mid September when their white grapes are ripe, I'd like to get ~90 lbs of seyval blanc and vidal blanc. That'll be enough to make 5 gals of each wine. I'm debating about their reds--baco, De chaunac, & marachel foch. I have yet to taste a wine made from those grapes that I've really liked, so I'm hesitant to spend the effort on a wine that I'm not really looking forward to drink. Searching farther afield, I've come across a vineyard in the NY Finger Lakes region that sells the red vinifera varietals that I'd really like to try. Of course, that's about an 8 hr drive away, which means I could only make 1 trip. After careful perusal of their harvest dates, I'm going to make the trek on Oct 14-15 to pick up 100 lbs each of chambourcin, cabernet franc, and chelois. I'm most interested in the chambourcin and cab franc, but the chelois will be harvested the same day, so I decided to take a chance. I've been told that chelois makes a merlot-like wine, full bodied with lots of cherry flavors. Sounded delicious, so I splurged! I'm also going to pick up 5 gals each of gewurtztraminer and vignoles. So the sum total is that I'm aiming towards at least 7 wines this fall: chambourcin, cabernet franc, chelois, gewurtztraminer, vignoles, seyval blanc, and vidal blanc. I'm excited, but a little bit nervois--that's a lot of wine (35 gals!). I have enough carboys to hold everything while it's fermenting and aging, the only big piece of equipment that I still need to buy is a grape press. I still have a couple of possible sources for other white grape juices from California and Ohio. I'm waiting to see what they offer before I commit to making any additional wines. I also have 20 lbs of blueberries in the freezer to play with this winter, and I'd like to get some fresh cider from the Dexter Cider Mill for an apple wine. Lots of yeast will be flying around my house.
The chambourcin is a recent infatuation. I first tasted a wine from that grape at Pentamere Winery in Tecumseh, MI. Delicious! Full-bodied, with some tannin backbone. They make their version in a chianti style--easy drinking, full bodied red. I just recently tasted a chambourcin wine at a winery in Maine (yes, Maine) that was more like a cabernet--more pepper and fruit flavor. This is a cold-hardy red hydrid that does very well in the Eastern states. Frankly, I'd say that more wineries in Michigan need to forget trying to make cab sauvignons and go after chambourcin as a way to differentiate themselves from California wineries. Cab Sauv grows very well in California's climate, but Michigan rarely gets warm and dry enough to truly bring out the flavors in the grapes. On the other hand, chambourcin was bred to excel in our climate, and it does! So if you go wine tasting at a local winery and see chambourcin on the tasting menu, don't shy away from the unknown. Drink away and discover an eastern treasure.