Sunday, July 29, 2012

Aaronap Cellars is MA latest Farm Winery!

I was planning on sitting down at the computer this afternoon and muse about the cork choices that I've made since I began making wine.  Even had a killer title picked out:  "Corks......"

But life threw a little curve at me so we'll put that post off until later....


Yep, you read that correctly!  Aaronap Cellars is now officially licensed to produce and sell wine by the Federal and State licensing authorities!

I chuckle because it was a rather anticlimatic ending.  I had had an inspection visit from the MA ABCC (that's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission for you non-MA natives) scheduled for this past Monday afternoon.  I stressed out all weekend and spent Sunday afternoon rearranging the basement in attempt to clearly delineate that the winery space would be since I haven't started construction yet.  Then the inspector spent 5 minutes in the basement to verify that I had 2 exits/entrances and gave the same answers to some questions on the application, and boom, done.  After signing the inspection report, he said he'd clear the application off his desk as soon as he ran the background report and I'd be hearing from the licensing folks in 1-2 weeks.  Given that timeframe, I wasn't expecting any word for awhile and didn't bother to check the Aaronap Cellars email account until Saturday when I had a few moments....

Turns out I had received an email from the ABCC on Wednesday and they would be mailing the signed license to my business address.  After staring at the screen for a few minutes, I went running out of the office in search of Shawna to share the news.  A quick series of hugs & joint exclamations of joy, and then I dashed to the mailbox where, low and behold, was the signed license!

Lesson learned--check the work email account more frequently after inspection visits!

I do believe we are going to celebrate with a bottle of sparkling wine tonight while cooking dinner.  Perhaps a local sparkler from Westport Rivers to go with the local haddock from Cape Ann Fresh Catch??  Seems appropriate, don't ya think?


Monday, July 16, 2012

10,000+ Page Views

Just noticed on the blog stats that we've crossed the 10,000 page view metric in the past day or so!  Many thanks to all my viewers.  Keep on comin' back--I'll keep on posting!


p.s.  Might just open something nice to celebrate this evening.  Pop open something yourself and join me!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A new friend joins the Aaronap Cellars ranks

In the midst of architect designs, regulatory filings, bottling, and basement clearing, I decided that I needed a new barrel.  Wasn't originally planning on purchasing a new barrel before starting to make commercial wine, but I ran into reality when I became aware that all of my current barrels were going to be full for at least 9 months and I still had wine in the tanks in acute need of removal.  So, I purchased a 26-gallon Hungarian oak barrel from Vadai Wine Barrels primarily to store the 2011 Syrah.

The barrel arrived in excellent condition on Thursday this week.  This afternoon, I ventured into the heat of the garage to build a wheeled barrel dolly.  I've built similar dollies for all of my barrels so that I can move them around the basement freely.  Sure beats having them stuck in one position and wrangling hoses across the floor between the barrel & pump/filter/bottler/etc.  I used some old cedar wedges as barrel holders and to make the carrier easier to build.

After completing the carrier, I started to hydrate the barrel with boiling water.  So far, the heads don't seem to be leaking and the staves seem to be soaking up the hot water for swelling.  Later this evening, I'll fill it completely and allow it to swell for a couple of days.  Barring any leaks, I should be able to fill it with wine on Tuesday evening.

I do have to say that the barrel looks quite happy and at home on it's dolly.  For some reason, it's speaking to me that it's name should be "Millie".  No idea why, but that's the feeling I'm getting.  So say hello to Millie--the latest member of the Aaronap Cellars team.


That very first "from grapes" wine

Do all of you fellow winemakers remember the very first batch of wine that you made from grapes?  Still have a bottle?  Is it any good?

All very interesting questions to reflect on how far you've come on your winemaking journey.  I had a chance for some personal reflection this weekend while I was continuing to clear out the basement so that the architect can start making his plans and construction can begin this fall.  I came across 2 cases of 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon that was the first wine that I made from grapes still sitting on the shelves.  This wine was made back in Michigan when Aaronap Cellars was known as Hidden Lake Cellars.  I honestly don't know where the grapes were picked, but I purchased them from Home Winery Supply Company in Dundee, MI.  2006 was the first year that they supplied fresh grapes from CA so I'm guessing that these were pretty cheap grapes from the Central Valley region of CA.

I have no desire to disparage Home Winery Supply, but I wasn't all that thrilled with the grapes when I got them.  They were grapes--about the best that could be said for them.  Didn't taste all that great but that was the nearest place I could buy fresh grapes.  So I crushed them, fermented, and cleared, etc (my back still aches from the memory of hand destemming 100 lbs of crushed grapes).  I thought the wine was not that great 5 years ago and the resulting time has not improved it.

Blech!  In fact, I tried to offer a sip to Shawna but she refused to come within 20 ft of the glass because she thought the smell was horrid.

Light color (almost rĂ³se-like), no tannins, rancid flavor--just plain yuck.  Ironically, the wine was still sound.  No hint of vinegar or other spoilage odors, it just plain did not taste good.  Of course, I blame the grapes!  :)

I think I've bared my soul to the world now that, yes, I have made really bad wine.  What have we all learned?  YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!  Buy the best grapes you can, folks.  Just like you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you can't make good wine without getting good grapes.  Doesn't have to be Beckstoffer Vineyard, but buy the best grapes that you can within your budget.


p.s.  The 2 cases of wine went down the drain to feed the bacteria in the septic tank while the bottles ended up on the curb.  Took about 2 days but someone finally took them away.  I simply couldn't trust putting anything else in those tainted bottles.