What’s Happening in the Home Winery: May 2022

Michael writing here.

Sometimes I get the Itch – the Itch that says “Make Wine” – even when there are no fresh grapes. There are kit wines, but that’s another post. So, what do I do?

photo of cherries becoming wine
Cherries in process

Find a fruit that will make a tasty wine even in a small batch of a few gallons and are relatively cheap to buy. This year, I am making a batch of cherry wine for the first time in 15 years or so. Why so long? No reason really, except that there is a bit of work involved that I wasn’t interested in pursuing before.

What work? Sorting cherries to get rid of any damaged or moldy fruits. Removing pits. Manually squishing them. Adding enough water to cover them in the clean and sterilized bucket. Measuring sugar, acid and and preparing whatever additions of sugar, acids and nutrients to bring the numbers up to allow the yeast to ferment. Grapes are the only fruit that can produce enough sugar to ferment on their own. All other fruits require some assistance in additives of sugar, acid, and nutrients. Anyone telling you their fruit wines are native ferments are liars. There – I said it.

What kind of wine will this make? Maybe a dessert wine or perhaps a sparkling wine for later summer or fall enjoyment. Right now, I can go either way but that will change with a couple of decisions over the next few days.

I’ll keep you informed as to what I decide.

What’s Happening in the Winery: April

Michael is writing this one on his own. Anne doesn’t have much to say about the home winery, except when there’s quality control to be done.

Many things are seasonal in the winery – whether it is a commercial operation or a humble garage operation such as mine. Spring is generally when white wines are being processed in preparation for bottling for summer enjoyment and beyond.
So I am finishing cold treating my white wine in advance of blending (an art in itself and another show). Filtering is the next step to remove any elements that can cloud a wine such as dead yeast, fining agents such as bentonite and tartar crystals which appear as bits of glass in your wine.
Home winemakers have the blessing of equipment scaled down to smaller batches of wine – the Buon Vino wine filtration system is my equipment of choice.
Filters of cellulose are soaked in water and wine is sucked through them into a new container releasing CO2 gas while trapping tartar and debris.
The beauty of filtering in the Spring is that it frees up tank space, allows me to turn off a spare fridge until harvest, reducing my electric bill, and allows me to schedule blending trials and bottling before the next harvest in September.

What’s Going on in the Home Winery

One of the reasons we love writing and talking about wine so much is that Michael is a home winemaker. So we see a lot of what the professionals do, although on a much smaller basis, and starting this month, we’re going to pull the curtain back on how wine is made. Or at least, how we do it.

A home winery – or in our case, a garage winery – runs on a calendar similar to that of a professional winery.

Fall, of course, is harvest, when the grapes are picked, and the wine is made. It’s a busy, almost frenetic time, with fermenting going on, wine getting pressed off of the grapes and put into whichever containers it will be spending time in – steel beer kegs, glass carboys or wood barrels.

But after all that’s done, there is a different sense of time. Our wines move from one container to another either when space opens up or when racking needs to happen.

So, this March, we’re looking to make some space in barrels for wine sitting in steel kegs. Red wines benefit from barrel time thanks to a bit of oxygen from the wood breathing and a bit of concentration from water evaporating through the wood. Our white wines are being subjected to 32 degree refrigeration to stabilize them before filtering and blending and eventually bottling.

All of this requires a schedule. And in our home garage space, it normally works like a game of Tetris with moving pieces fitting just so. Timing and having supplies in advance to complete an operation in one sitting. Does a domestic life allow for this? Stay tuned.