Tuesday, 24. April 2012
With the Drink Local Wine Conference coming up soon I thought about what may be the ultimate drink local wine experience. This experience would be different for everyone. For me, the ultimate drink local wine experience would be a wine made from grapes in my backyard vineyard, just a few feet away from our kitchen. That’s pretty local. While searching my cellar, I found two bottles of a 2010 Niagara that I made from grapes in my back yard. This was an interesting wine. One that I made a mistake in making. We managed to harvest about 15 pounds of Niagara grapes in 2010. We ended up with only a gallon of wine. I accidentally forgot to degas the wine before bottling. When opening it, there was some fizz and an effervescence on the tongue. It was delicious and a mistake that I’d like to make again especially with a small batch of Niagara..
I’d rather make wine than grow grapes. Growing grapes is hard and you’re at the mercy of nature. Last year was an example of nature showing who is boss. We lost all our Niagara grapes. The brix level never went above 12 and the the remnants of a hurricane dumped tons of water on the area. Following the hurricane there was a week long rain train. We experienced double digit rainfalls. The brix levels went down, however the grapes were still sought after by birds. We freed more birds from the netting than tasted grapes from the vines. So last year was a loss. That makes the 2010 bottle that much more special.
How was the wine? I think having the little effervescence helped make the wine delicious. It had the typical Niagara grape aroma.The wine was initially sweet but began to dry on the finish. Kathy and her sister had some of the wine. The grape vines were transplanted from the house where they grew up. They associated the wine with many memories of eating the Niagara grapes while living at home on the farm in Marcellus, New York.
Niagara grapes in early August 2010 about a month before harvest.
We had less than 15 pounds of grapes and had to decide to make jelly or wine. Wine won out.
Not renting a press for crushing just a few pounds of grapes, we went old school and Kathy crushed them.
Tuesday, 6. September 2011
Over the weekend, we started to make two different wines – one from a kit. We thought we would not try a kit wine again after our other experiences. But this kit was a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlboro region. To help create a quality wine, we pulled out the testing equipment including the refractometer, hydrometer and acid test kit. With very careful measuring, it looks like our Cabernet Sauvignon is going to be good and enjoyable drinking.
The other wine is a peach wine that I have been wanting to make for a couple of years. We drove to a nearby pick-your-own fruit farm and purchased fresh peaches. Then we had to decide which recipe to follow and how much peach wine to make. Since we had the peaches and a 3 gallon carboy we decide to go with three gallons.
It was quite simple to cut up the peaches, the peaches were fully ripe and the pits/stones came out easily. We did make sure to cut out the red that surrounds the pit as it might have added a slightly bitter taste to the wine. We added water, measured the specific gravity with the hydrometer, added sugar, and yeast.
This morning both the Sauvignon Blanc and Peach Wine are happily fermenting away.
Monday, 29. August 2011
For me, the most I learned about wine was from making it. Kathy and I made wine at home from kits, juice and grapes. We made a barrel of a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot co-fermented and aged 9 months in American oak at Tin Lizzie Wineworks. We made a barrel of 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon aged 20 plus months in new French oak at Vint Hill Craft Winery in Virginia. The process of making wine is an excellent learning tool.
Our next venture is to learn about cheese and wine vinegar. After learning much about wine from making it, it stands to reason that we can learn about cheese and wine vinegar from making it. We were told at Chaples Creamery in Easton, Maryland to start by making Mozzarella cheese. Numerous directions can be found on the Internet. Most of the lists of ingredients includes rennet. Finding rennet is easier said than done though.
Columbia, Maryland has several different grocery stores. The likes of Giant, Harris Teeter, Safeway and Food Lion carry a good supply of common everyday items. Rennet is not an everyday common item. When in Columbia and you can’t find what you’re looking for go to the only Trader Joe’s in town. The staff is very helpful at our Trader Joe’s. They didn’t have rennet, however, they did suggest that we try an organic food store on Rt 175 called Mom’s Organic Market. Since the electricity was off at our house due to Hurricane Irene, we extended our planned outing. Mom’s is not a small grocery store. They are medium sized and have a large assortment of things organic. The customer service desk is past the fresh fruits and vegetables. We asked about rennet, and they had it. Finally on a winning streak, I thought to ask about red wine mother to make wine vinegar. Certainly a store called Mom’s should have mother. No luck there though, the store had vinegar with mother in it but not red wine mother. Off to the Internet for that item. With rennet in hand, we will soon try making Mozzarella.
Monday, 22. August 2011
Save the date – September 17-18, 2011 for the 28th Maryland Wine Festival. This festival takes place at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster, Maryland. The festival includes food vendors, crafts, wine education, entertainment and amateur wine competition.
More than 35 Maryland wineries will participate in the festival. More than 30 food vendors will provide a wide variety of foods to purchase including french fries, crab dip, funnel cakes and Polish sausage. Crafts vendors include Wooden Creations, Small Farms Ceramics, Pigeon Hills Pottery, Hillside Apiary and many more.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at https://ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/apps/fm_sales/default.aspx?id=FM.
Wine homemakers are invited to enter the amateur winemakers competition. The details for participating are on the website competition page.
This annual wine festival is hosted by Carroll County Recreation and Parks, Maryland Wineries Association and Carroll County Farm Museum.
When planning to attend the festival use sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and eat between tastings. If you may be purchasing wine use a cooler to protect your wine. You may even want to plan to do some Christmas and holiday shopping at the festival.
Saturday, 11. September 2010
I was a bit nervous having others taste the wine we recently bottled. I knew it was better than plonk, but would others agree. It was tested last night when we opened a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot a 90/10 blend and a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon/Tannat an 80/20 blend. Both wines were recently bottled and curiosity got the better of us so we decided to have these two wines with dinner at Bucci Ristorante in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan.
Both Bucci and his wife Shpresa, along with my brothers tasted the wines and passed judgment. Bucci has a great palate and my brother, Tim, has a California Cabernet Sauvignon palate. The verdict was surprisingly good. Just because I liked a wine doesn’t mean that others would like it.
My brother, Todd and his wife Vicki liked the Cab/Merlot blend. This wine has mild tannins, light to medium body and a black fruit and spice taste. The wine is drinkable now however should be bottle-aged for some time.
The Cab/Tannat, however, was the clear winner for the evening. It too offered black fruit and spice taste, however there were more layers on the taste. There were bold tannins that Bucci, Shpresa, Tim as well as Kathy and I liked. Although this wine can benefit from bottle aging it is quite good now. It matched well with food. I recalled that a few California winemakers said that blending Cab and Tannat was not a good idea. That touch (20 percent) of Tannat bumped up the tannins and darkened the Cab a bit. The blend seemed to be married well. The Cabernet Sauvignon was sourced from Lake County while the Tanat was sourced from Virginia.
Although Kathy and I decided to make wine to improve our wine writing and interviewing, now we are faced with a decision of whether to continue to make wines. It’s motivational to hear positive comments about a wine from people who have a good palate for wine.
Monday, 14. September 2009
For wine enthusiasts interested in experiencing winemaking consider participating at a winery that oversees and offers expert advice while you make your own barrel of wine.
These opportunities are ideal for anyone who wants to learn about winemaking and without the equipment necessary. Learning from professionals who produce wine for a living appears to be ideal.
Vint Hill Craft Winery in Vint Hill, Virginia offers this opportunity for the first time this year. Their concept takes participants from helping them choose the wine they want to make to labeling and producing a wine that is available for sale.
Tin Lizzie Wineworks in Clarksville, Maryland is an educational winery whose focus is on creating an educational experience for anyone interested in making a barrel of wine. If a barrel of wine is too much, participants can choose to produce as little as a quarter of a barrel.
Crushpad in California also offers hands on winemaking experiences.
For those do-it-yourself winemakers, Winemaker Magazine is a delightful magazine. Currently they have an article about making a red or white wine at home. You can view the article, “Your First Wine from Fresh Grapes,” on the Winemaker Magazine website.
If do-it-yourselfers are wondering where to purchase winegrapes, there are wineries that understand this desire to create your own wine and offer juice or wine grapes. Another great source if you live on the East Coast is S & S Winegrapes & Equipment Company where they ship in more than 300 tons of grapes each fall. S & S Winegrapes is located in Baltimore.
For those who do not want to deal with crushing grapes, fresh winegrape juice is available at Fulkerson Winery in New York.
Have fun exploring the world of wine!
Sunday, 13. September 2009
Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit S & S Winegrapes & Equipment Co, a family-owned business that is very supportive of home winemakers. It won’t be long before the refrigerated warehouse in Baltimore will be filled with California grapes available for purchase by home winemakers. Customers come from as far away as Virginia and Pennsylvania.
While at S &S Winegrapes we had the opportunity to taste some of the home winemakers’ wines. Of the two, I tried they were wonderful. Of course, what was just as important was the camaraderie among the home winemakers and despite the fact that we were new to S & S Winegrapes, everyone greeted us like old friends.
If you are interested in obtaining grapes and making wine at home, contact S & S Winegrapes for details about the grape varietals that will soon be available for purchase.
Sunday, 14. June 2009
One of the perks of visiting wineries is the people you meet. At a recent visit to Trout Springs Winery and Vineyards in Greenleaf, Wisconsin, we met a group from the Appleton Libation Enthusiasts. This group, ALE for short, make beer. They had an afternoon outing at Trout Spring to taste the wines and tour the winery. We met up with the group on the tour. The members were all interested in wine and beer.
I asked them to explain simply the process of beer making and they were more than enthusiastic to talk about their passion. They were also knowledgeable of the winemaking process. They even had a few wines that they made with them and offered a taste of their elderberry. The wine was in a beer bottle, it’s maker confessing that he didn’t have a wine bottle corker, so he just put the wine in a beer bottle. The aroma and taste was elderberry and had some pepper on the finish. It would pair well with grilled food. What was surprising is the extremely long elderberry aftertaste. This wine’s aftertaste lasted fifteen minutes. This is a delightful group of people who enjoy both beer, wine and friends.
The ALE group has a blog. You can follow along at: aleclub.org.
Tuesday, 19. May 2009
This cooler than average spring is coming on the heels of a cooler than average winter in the Baltimore area of Maryland. This provides ideal temperature growing conditions for the potatoes I planted the first week of April. Assuming that I get a modest two pounds per hill, with the fifty hills of potatoes I should be able to harvest 100 pounds. That will give me a ten-fold increase in my initial investment in seed potatoes. Where else in this economy can you get a ten-fold increase in an investment in four months?
I began to wonder about wine. If one spends a modest $15 a week for wine, in four months the wine’s cost is $195. That will give you 13 bottles of wine. In the same time and with the same price, you can buy a high level wine kit and make 2 ½ cases of wine. This is better that a 50% increase on your four month wine investment.
If wine kits aren’t for you, there are other options. Many wineries, check in your area, have programs where you can make wine at the winery. Costs and quality vary widely. Kathy and I are going to make a barrel of California Sauvignon this fall at Vint Hill Craft Winery in Vint Hill, Virginia. We are hopeful that we can make a wine equivalent to a $60 or higher California Cab at half the cost. However this will take a couple of years. There are other wineries that you can produce smaller batches using carboys. If you enjoy white wines that are not oaked, you can make them in less than a year at a winery and just a few months using a wine kit.
Don’t be worried about making your own wine. Winemakers are the most giving and helpful people in any industry. If you ask ten winemakers for help, you will probably receive help from ten winemakers. Although their ideas may differ.
Just as you can save money by harvesting fruit and vegetables that you plant yourself, you can recession proof your wine by making it yourself.