Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Help a future winemaker, get some wine

I recently had an opportunity to donate to the American Wine Society Education Foundation to help fund a scholarship for a student in the oenology field.  What sparked this occasion was that the AWS had a little wine left over that had been donated for the AWS 2011 Annual Conference that was held in Rochester, NY in early November.  Enough wine for 35 cases--just a wee bit of left-over wine.  We really must do a better job of drinking the place dry at the 2012 conference in Portland, OR!  So they decided to offer a case of wine to whomever would donate $100 to build a $3500 scholarship.

Well, I'm a sucker for helping young students, so I dashed off a check.  Couple of weeks later, the wine arrived today!  And I'm tickled pink about the contents

Dessert Wines
Ochoa Moscatel 2010 (DO, Spain)

White Table Wines
Firehouse Cellars Riesling Lake Erie (Geneva-on-the-Lake, OH)
Sheldrake Point Dry Riesling 2010 (Finger Lakes, NY)
Chateau Ste Michelle Dry Reisling 2010 (Columbia Valley, WA)
Concannon Conservancy Chardonnay 2009 (Livermore Valley, CA)
Leonard Oakes Estate Winery Chardonnay 2009 (Lake Ontario, NY)
Rooster Hill Traminette 2008 (Finger Lakes, NY)
Isidoro Polencic Collio Friulano 2010 (DOC, Italy)
Hera Vinho Verde 2010 (Portugal)

Red Table Wines
Swedish Hill Optimus 2007 (Finger Lakes, NY) 
Piera Martellozzo Tab Bor Rosso Friuli (DOC, Friuli Grave, Italy)
Crasto Douro 2009 (DOC, Portugal)

I think it's pretty clear that the conference attendees really went for the red wines and left the whites alone!  These will really add to the tasting spreadsheet that I've been keeping of wines that I've recently tasting.  Sweetest donation I've ever made.


It's Mitt Romney Beer!

This is only tangentially related to wine, but it was hilarious so I have to share!

A couple of weeks ago, I invited some old friends from my Ann Arbor, MI days over to watch the Detroit Lions vs New Orleans Saints play-off wildcard game.  Even though I admittedly have a goodly stock of booze in the basement, I decided that wine just doesn't cut it for football watching so I stopped into a local package store to grab some beer.  The place I went was next door to the grocery store so I wasn't expecting a big selection of craft beer but figured they'd at least have Sam Adams.  To my surprise, the craft beer selection was actually pretty good and, low and behold, there on a shelf in the fridge aisle was a 6-pack of Stone Brewing Co.'s Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale shining like a beacon.  My mouth started to water and I decided that I just had to buy it, especially (or ironically) as I was wearing my Arrogant Bastard Ale t-shirt that I had gotten while visiting Stone in 2010.  I ignored the price tag (a gasp-inducing $18) and grabbed it along with a couple of other beers (a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA & a Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale for those keeping track of my beer tastes), since there was no way I was sharing the Stone with anyone.  I may be a nice guy, but I'm not that nice, darn it!

Making my way to the cash register, I handed the beer over to the clerk who scanned the barcodes of my selections.  "Oh my god," he exclaimed.  "Didn't know we had a 6-pack so expensive.  Hell, this is Mitt Romney beer!"


P.S.  Ironically, my friends wanted to sample my wine during the game, so we actually didn't touch the beer.  And believe me, the Romney-ish Oaked Arrogant Bastard ale tastes extraordinarily good!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Football vs Wine Bottling---the bottling won!

For those not following the news, or simply living on the planet Neptune, Tim Tebow (I believe some other members of the Denver Broncos also came) was in town yesterday for a play-off game with the New England Patriots.  I think most of the northeastern US came to a grinding halt while everyone hunkered in front of their TVs for the evening to watch the battle of Tom Brady vs God.

But not at Aaronap Cellars!  I had some wine to bottle and a lovely assistant to help, so to heck with the game.  If you scroll down the blog, you'll notice that I mentioned some experiments with sparkling cranberry wine in my last post.  The primary fermentation for the base wines were all completed, so it's time to filter, bottle, add the liqueur de tirage, and get the secondary fermentation underway.

Sounds simple, huh?  Well, friends & acquaintances know that nothing is done simply at Aaronap Cellars and this was no different.  I didn't have just one cranberry wine, but THREE! 

1) Cranberry base made from cranberries and water (2 lbs cranberries/gallon)
2) Cranberry Cider made from cranberries and Carlson Orchards Premium Cider Blend (1 lb/gallon)
3) Cranberry-Niagra made from cranberries and Welch's White Grape Juice (1 lb/gallon)

All the wines were filtered in sequence through coarse, medium, and fine filters until they were polished & crystal clear.  And then the fun began...

I had read about an innovative secondary fermentation method that avoids the laborious process of riddling & disgorging during sparkling wine production.  To give proper credit, Zac Brown had posted this method on WinePress.US and I really wanted to give it a try.  Essentially, I placed 1g of a QA-23 yeast that has been encapsulated in alginate beads (sold as Pro-Restart) in the hollow portion of a plastic champagne cork.  A 3/4-inch disk of stainless steel screen (sold as faucet aerator or smoke pipe screens) was then wedged in the top of the cork to hold the yeast beads in place.  This was actually harder than it sounds as the screens are pretty stiff, but after some flexing and slow pressure, it was actually possible to push the screens in.

For the liqueur de tirage, I used Coopers carbonation drops (made of ~3 g invert sugar) that are normally used to carbonate beer.  I further complicated matters by splitting each batch of wine into half and adding 2 Coopers drops to one half and 4 drops to the other to give a frizzante-style lightly carbonated sparkler and a full-blown carbonated sparkling wine.  After the drops were added, each bottle was capped with a yeast-filled cork and covered with wire hood, and then inverted to dissolve the sugar drops and place the wine in contact with the yeast.  At the moment, the bottles are sitting in my guest bedroom closet hopefully beginning to undergo the secondary fermentation that produces those lovely "bubbles"


p.s.  And in case you're completely out of media touch:  Tom Brady won.  Actually, not so much as won, but crushed, obliterated, demolished, stunned, bowled over, etc.   He even punted for pete's sakes!