Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Say Hello to My Little Friends...

For those of you who think I'm completely obsessed with winemaking, well, you're right! And to prove it, I'd like to introduce you to my latest winemaking toys. I call them Bertha and Greta, and they are two of the loveliest 80-gallon (290-liter) stainless steel variable capacity tanks. Bertha is on the right and Greta is on the left in the picture.

I ran into a fellow winemaker & wine distributor a couple of weeks ago while he was pouring wine one Saturday afternoon at a local wine store. He's in the process of starting a licensed/bonded winery in his basement and was needing to increase his capacity. So he was looking to unload his used 80-gallons tanks and buy some larger ones before the Chilean grapes arrive next month. I had some tax refund money burning a hole in my pocket and had been thinking about upgrading from carboys to tanks, so I went out and took a look at them. I wasn't originally thinking of 80-gal tanks (more like 30-40 gal), but decided that this would be a relatively cheap investment for the future. These tanks would give me the option to ferment enough wine to fill a full-size oak barrel and the ability to do an extended maceration without much fear of oxidation. Plus, they are large enough to be of use for fermenting smaller batches when I make the jump to commercial production. I may not want to make several hundred gallons of a particular varietal if I intend to use it as a blending wine. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

As you can see, Bertha and Greta are lovingly ensconced in a cubbyhole nook in my basement, awaiting their first vintage at Aaronap Cellars!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

BlackElder/Elderblack Quick Update

As of 11:00 PM this evening, the Elderblack is safely in a carboy and in the basement to starting clearing. This wine fermented in crazy style. Not sure I've ever seen such a vigorous fermentation! Which is kind of good because it had to take care of itself. My schedule got crazy busy and I was forced to leave it sit by self for days at a time. Fortunately, the little yeastie buggers found enough food to keep themselves busy and now I have 5 gallons of a gorgeous reddish-black wine!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blackberry/Elderberry or BlackElder/Elderblack?

As many of you are well aware, MA had a bit of rain this weekend. If you call 10 inches of rain a "bit" of rain! While I was in the basement anxiously checking to see if I still had a dry basement, I noticed for the billionth time that I had some cans of blackberry & elderberry puree that I had purchased over two years ago. Well, it's raining cats & dogs, what's a winemaker to do? You guessed it, he makes wine! Decided to finally go after the bold, dry fruit red wine that I've been contemplating for a couple of years. I had to go play for church on Sunday morning, so I stopped by the grocery store on the way home to get a few more ingredients and then started mixing things together while doing laundry & cooking my annual St. Patty's Day dinner of corned beef & cabbage.

Now, I'm a little perplexed of what to call this wine. It's about 50/50 elderberry & blackberry based, so could call it Blackberry/Elderberry or Edlerberry/Blackberry.... Or how about just plain simple BlackElder or Elderblack? The BlackElder could lead to interesting label designs with take-offs from the cult classic TV series "Black Adder". Maybe I can get Rowan Atkinson to do celibrity endorsements. Hmmm.... Going to have to think about this one for awhile, so let's move on to the wine.

BlackElder/Elderblack Recipe
2 49 oz cans of Oregon Fruit Products Blackberry Puree
1 96 oz can of Vintner's Harvest Elderberry wine base
4 gallons 100% Niagra grape juice
1 tsp Scottzyme Color Pro Enzyme
6.5 g Laffort Tannin VR Supra

I mixed all of the above ingredients together to make about 5.5 gallons of must. OB = 14.2
Added 5.4 lbs sugar to reach OB = 22.0 (PA = 12.5%)
At this point, I took a pH reading. pH = 3.27. That's pretty much in the optimal range (perhaps a little low for a red wine) so I chose to make no further acid adjustments.

Have to say that the must tastes yummy. Lots of blackberry flavor with a husky undertone from the elderberry! I let the must sit overnight to allow for the SO2 in the grape juice to dissipate. The next evening I hydrated a packet of Llavin BM45 yeast (8g) in ~175 mL of distilled H2O with 10.5 g of Go-Ferm nutrient. After about 4 hrs, there was a good amount of bubbling and burbing in the starter so I added it to the must. Within 24 hrs, I'm observing visible signs of fermentation.

At this point, all systems are go! BM45 is a nitrogen hog, so I'll need to add a couple of good doses of FermAid K as the fermentation progresses. Will keep you updated!