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Getting up close and personal with Bacchus the Wine God Volatile Acid, Barrels and all.

2014 April 15

barrels

 

 

 

 

Back in the Sunshine State Beautiful! I have to tell you a few outcomes to wit occurred after the Bacchanalia. During the week prior to the Bacchanalia, Anthony and I were adding 1 additional 60 Gallon Barrel to his cellar. We have been using Re-Coops ( the real ones) and this latest barrel coopered by a very prestigious French Cooper was the latest to add to the collection. While we have a few more in the garage waiting to go on line this one was around for about 2 years. Needless to say one could expect this one was not going to seal up quickly as most of the moisture in the wood would be long gone. Even with this assessment I have been fooled before finding an equally older barrel stored in worse conditions seal up from the get go with no problem. This was not going to be the case this time.

Now I know many have their rituals about how to do barrel re hydration. Personally I think most of it is bunk. Barrel plus water equals sealed barrel. Anyway… It is a bit cold in Katonah NY and the well water is very cold as well. Anthony attempts to fill the barrel on Sunday. It is leaking worse than a 1957 Chris Craft Lapstreak Boat in the Spring time. He can’t even get the water level 1/4 way up. He leaves the water on for 4 hours to no avail. Worried about his Well and Well Pump he shuts the water off for the evening and attempts to fill it again on Monday morning. No Luck, water is pouring out everywhere. He shuts the water off and in the afternoon he then tries again for a few hours. This time he gets the water level up to 1/4! Progress! Again forced to shut the water off he does not try to fill it until the morning and again the barrel is empty and he is able to get it up to 1/4 before going to work. After work he gives it another try. Same results and again the water is shut down for the night. Wednesday arrives and Anthony and I have a day of bottling ahead of us. When I get to the house in the AM I find the barrel about 1/2 way filled. I think good it is getting better. We bottle all day and by the afternoon the barrel is now filled only with the hose on full blast. Well I think things are getting better but the water is squirting out the sides like in a Cartoon. Then I think the best thing to do, thinking of Sandor, is to use hot water. Unfortunately there is no hot water available where we are. Still concerned about running the Well all night we decide Anthony will take the barrel to my winery where I have hot water and city water as well if I want to let it run. That is the plan. It is now Thursday the night of Bacchanalia. The Barrel has been in Anthony’s car all day and he brings it to me that evening.

Leaving the Barrel empty we go to Bacchanalia. Now we all know about Baccus the Wine God and his Bacchanalia. Anything can happen as it often does at these events. As we are all tasting samples of wine from the winemakers , Al Battista shares his 2012 Lanza Gamay. I taste, others taste, we all taste again and say VA Holy Cow Al this wine has VA. IF you know Al he is fastidious about his cellar operations. Make no mistake about that. It really can’t be but there is no doubt this wine has VA. Most of us are shocked and saddened by the thought that this lovely wine has a VA nose. It hadn’t gone to the taste yet. Well of course Al is upset and looking for advice what to do. Some of us offer to SO2 the shit out of it and bottle it and drink it quickly, blend it to get it below the sensory threshold and get rid of the barrel too. All good advice, now left up to Al the Winemaker.
What Bacchus gives he takes away.

The next morning I go into the winery and look at the 57 Chris Craft and wonder it this thing will ever stop leaking. Not wasting any time I run a hot water hose out and begin the fill the barrel. I wait for the leaks to start. No leaks. I look inside I am ½ way up . Still no leaks. ¾ no leaks. Filled no leaks and better NO DAMP SPOTS either! Wow! And I know it is not the hot water either. It sits all day and not a drop not from the heads not from the staves nothing. Why I wonder. Did the day in Anthony’s Car in the heat swell it? OR was it Bacchus shinning favorably on us.

Later that morning I hear from Al. He has decided to scrap the barrel and make a planter out of it not wanting to take any chances with a new wine going in. Good idea I think. Then he says he is going to remove the wine and put it in carboys while he decides what to do with it. I remind him to give it a healthy dose of So2.
A few hours later Al calls me and is excited. The VA is no longer in the wine! It is good. I say hmmmm wishful thinking? I suggest he take a bottle and have it for dinner and have others taste it. Just to be sure. He calls the next day and reports the Wine is fine. Confused about this I will admit, I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth either. Thank you God Bacchus.

So what have you learned by reading this? Me, I have learned Bacchus takes a barrel for a barrel and fixes a wine because we honored his presence at our Bacchanalia.

I just wish he would just fix the freekin 2013 Chilean Malbec. Praying everyday.

Springtime Bacchanalia 2014

2014 April 11

Holy Cow! What an evening at Restorante Chianti for the Westchester Amateur Winemakers Club.    All winemakers attending, no guests, wives and  or insignificant others invited.  Purpose, to taste wines of 2013, wines going in Barrels and wines just coming out.  Taste, compare, discuss, just give honest feedback.  Say what you think, no holding back an opportunity to get feedback and learn.  Perfect.  Bottles in attendance 80 at least.  Glasses who can count but I am sure the dishwasher is glad we don’t do this every week.   The food, what can you say besides excellent as usual, I think we are spoiled.  But Chef Paul Caputo spoils us every time.

So what stood out.   The fellas have the Lanza grapes down to a science.   One is better than another.   The latest grapes brought in by Frank Musto and M&M from Napa are no slouches to Beckstoffer in any way.   The level of quality of the wines produced in general really begs the use on the moniker “Homemade”  I hate hearing it and I try to never say it.   They are simply seriously crafted  wines made by winemakers who have foregone  commercial winemaking employment.  I like that better.  But Amateurs will do.   There could be pictures coming, cells phones were popping but I have no idea who took them.   Maybe they will email them to me and I can post them here.

Thanks to all who came and we look forward to our Fall Extravaganza.   For now we digest and use what we learned going forward.   In the meantime I will pray for another shot at Silverado Six and hope we get a Sonoma Cab Sav which at this time I cannot reveal the name.  And I didn’t, I guess I wasn’t that inebriated after all.

2014 Spring Time Racking and Bottling…Successes, Trials, Tribulations, Failures and Mysteries

2014 April 2
by Gene Fiorot

We all have wine chores to accomplish during the Spring and for me this Spring is no different.  With some members help, I bottled my 2010 Beckstoffer Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2011 GSM this time from French Oak and my 2011 Beckstoffer Los Carneros Merlot.   We also racked 2013 wines into barrels and racked and filtered the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio for bottling this upcoming weekend.  With all this accomplished all that is left to do is to check the refrigeration and make an list of supplies that will be needed in the Fall.

I did have refrigeration issues last  Summer and I had some concerns about the wine.  All turned out fine and I can tell you I am relieved.   I racked the infamous 2013 Malbec into a French Barrel.  It is earthy and I am not sure it is 100% cured of H2S.   We shall see what the  Barrel can accomplish.   I remind myself of a 1997 Sangiovese that was the same going in to a barrel and came out 1 year later and won a Gold.  So I am hoping patience will be the cure.   All else is fine in the Micro Winery.

One thing about making wine just when you think you have it all figured out every so often something comes along to remind you that you are not infallible.  Sometimes I think some of our members think this way, I try to warn them but they don’t listen. Now on to a failure and mystery.   One of our new members made wine from fresh juice.  One of the two varietals one was a Petite Sirah.  He followed all the directions and followed the protocols to the Tee.   Last month he called me and said of all the juice wines he had made in the past this was the best wine ever.  I was happy for him.  He came down to the winery this past weekend with samples.  The wine was undrinkable.  Swamp Water is being kind.   Pickling Juice and maybe sauerkraut could come to mind.  Not only Taste but odor as well.   Was it all the 10 Carboys we have yet to learn this.  I can tell you it was not the VA thing nor was it oxidized.  At least it didn’t follow the typical nose for those flaws.   But this is beyond a flaw.   How can a wine do this in 30 days?  What is the cause? Is it a bad lactic bacteria from MLF?   It is a mystery to me.  Any thoughts?

Winemakingtalk.com The PumpkinMan’s demise

2014 March 30

Those of you who read that forum for grins might have noticed in the past months a new contributor and moderator named PumpkinMan.  This Pumpkinman was a quick study, rising from a contributor to Super Moderator within weeks.   Quite an achievement since the moderators on that forum usually are threatened by anyone who posts intelligently.   And make no mistake PumpkinMan did exactly that.  His posts were both educational and helpful to Amateur Winemakers who had the misfortune to find WinemakingTalk.com and believe in some of the lousy advice constantly reported there.   But like anything which might be positive and good for Amateur Winemaking it has a very short life on that forum. Typically and expected PumpkinMan was BANNED FOR LIFE.   He joins an austere group of Amateurs who met the same fate at the hands of the morons who run that forum.  But PumpkinMan fear not you are in good company now.   I also think it is worth mentioning there are 2 moderators from WinemkingTalk.com who for lack of their own expertise have discovered a new way to provide information.  They regularly go to WinePress.us and pose a question and then return to their forum and post as if the information was theirs.   At least they could site their source.   I guess at least they are disseminating good advice which in its self is progress. But with all the bad information there how could anyone tell.  Now it is my understanding one of our members Gaetano has some very interesting information on PumpkinMan’s demise..  We wait with baited breath to here the sordid details……..

Sourcing Chilean Grapes in 2014 from the M&M Grape Company

2014 March 28
by Gene Fiorot

I was speaking to Frank Musto the other day and he informed the M&M Grape Company was gearing up for the Chilean Grape Season. He was excited as it has been an excellent growing season and could prove to produce some very fine wines. He also mentioned he had obtained some Argentine Grapes. I know some of you are wondering if I am going to make wine from Chilean Grapes this year. The answer is no. The only way I can make these grapes is to have them destemmed and frozen as I am not in New York when they arrive in the Spring. This involves additional cost. If there is a real call by the Club to make Malbec, which is special to Chile and can’t be duplicated in California, then I would consider making the wine. Furthermore we had H2S problems last year and it is not fun. But you can encounter H2S with any grapes from anywhere so that should not be a reason to not make these grapes. We have made Chilean Malbec without issue in the past.

Click Here to Download the Report

poor man’s wine bottler

2014 January 12
by John Crosas

Step-by-step recipe for a poor mans wine bottler

 

Hello,

 

I am sure some or most of you have one of these, but I figured I would throw in my two cents.

I have put together my own two-spout wine bottler (based on Genes original 3 spout build) and included here a list of parts and my suggestions for your own easy build.

List of necessary Parts and tools:

  • Vacuum pump
  • In-line Vacuum pressure regulator (optional)
  • Complete Enolmatic Nozzle (part number 1020 – $65.00, available at stpats.com)
  • 18” 3/4 inch ID galvanized piping (amount of pipe will depend on # of spouts)
  • 2 2×4’s cut to a minimum matching length, I suggest 10 inches for two spouts.  Or if you have some scrap 4×4 lying around that will do just fine.
  • 1/4 and 3/8 inch ID food grade hoses (1-2 foot length for the 1/4 inch hose)
  • A ½ inch deep plastic cutting board (for a base) or a piece of scrap shelving
  • Spray paint

Tools

  • Pipe cutter, to trim the threaded ends off the pipes to 16”
  • Circular saw (adjustable depth to 1&1/8 inch)
  • Powered drill, not a battery powered one – you will need the torque
  • 1/2 inch drill bit, 5/16 inch drill bit capable of boring thru metal

 

 

 

 

 

For the purposes of this conversation, I will refer to the two-spout bottler I built.

 

1.         Cut the pipe threads off to make the pipe(s) 16” end to end.  File to take the edge off.

 

2.         Take a 1/2-inch drill bit (to cut metal) and drill a hole one inch on center from what will be the top of the pipe – straight through.  This hole will hold the nozzle assembly.  Rotate the pipe so you are drill square against the top hole.  Take a 5/16-inch drill bit (to cut metal) and drill a hole 6 & 1/2 inches from the top, this is for the tension spring on the nozzle assembly.

3.          From the bottom of the pipe, using the 5/16 inch drill bit drill two more holes, again, square against the top hole at ¾ inch height and 2 inch height.  These will allow for the screws to attach the pipe to the support block.

 

4.         Take your 4×4 block and cut a 1&1/8 inch square notch into the block to stand the pipe into.

 

5.         Take some construction adhesive (I have been watching too much DIY) and attach the block, pipe and nozzle assembly to a cutting board.

 

6.         Run 3/8 ID tubing from the side of the nozzle assembly to a 3/8 ID vacuum tee.

 

7.         Run 1/4 ID tubing from the top of the nozzle assembly to 1/4 x 1/4 x 3/8 vacuum tee (found them online at granger supply – available in a pack of ten only!)

 

DSCN1249DSCN1248

Notes:

 

After several minor adjustments, I left extra tubing around the sides to allow for play when taking bottles in and out of the assembly.  I originally had the tubing much shorter and found that the nozzle assemblies would shift against each other with the shorter tubing.

The galvanized pipe will be slightly over sized for the assembly, so you will have to use zip ties to keep the nozzles attached to the pipe.  The proper nozzle assembly attachment pieces will not be long enough to accommodate the pipe diameter.

easy port

2014 January 9
by Zac Brown

Making a faux port . My source of ethanol fell through so I  used the sugar feeding method . Albeit a modified version of it.

Unlike a traditional method where you add a big dose of high alcohol to raise the alcohol level to 20% and kill the yeast stopping the ferment and leaving 10% residual sugar ….
The sugar feeding method works by using a high alcohol tolerant yeast , in this case ec1118 , large dose 25 grams.

So I took 150lbs of my base crushed grape must , Cabernet franc ( because I had more than I needed for my blends) and adjusted to 28 brix .
You can use sugar but I like to use some concentrate , a bag from a wine kit works. This gives the must more color , intense fruit flavours, some acid and tannins. I’ve found when concentrate is in the minority of a grape must it doesn’t give any KT.
I had a port kit on hand , I’ve been meaning to make for ages.
So I used that but you can use any red kit , a cheap 4 week one is fine but the better the raw materials the better the port
A bag from a wine kit is about right to tweak 100 lbs of must.

The adjusted must is now 28 brix , I added some oak powder , 4 grams of lallzyme EXV which is about 4 times the standard dose ( I want to really extract the grape skins) some optired stirred like mad and the next morning pitched the ec1118

Ec1118 has an alcohol tolerance of 18% but I’ve seen it go to 20 .

28 brix will give you about 16% alcohol.

Once I saw a cap start to rise I added 1/2 g per gallon of fermaid K . I added another dose when it hit 20 brix.

punch it down 4 times a day .

When it hit 10 brix i brought the brix up to 14 brix using sugar dissolved in hot water to make a simple syrup ,then when it got back down to 10 I  bumped it up again. Repeat until the yeast dies and the brix won’t drop . No movement over 2 days .

When it dies you should have about 18% alcohol and 8-12% residual sugar depending on when it stopped fermenting.

Keep punching it down and press when the cap sinks .

Rack off the gross lees after a day .
Add a bottle of brandy adjust sugar if needed , so2 and then barrel age for a year or more.

A couple notes , if your base must is something like a California Zinfandel for example where it starts at 28 brix then there is no need to make an initial sugar adjustment , save your concentrate for the first sugar bump ( if you don’t have concentrate sugar is ok) then use sugar for following bumps

I’ve made port this way a few times and find the results better than letting a wine go dry then fortifying and back sweetening

I’ve pressed and racked this port , it stuck at 12 brix residual sugar and based on the sugar the yeast consumed it should be 18% alcohol. I’m letting it settle a bit and I’ve added 60ppm so2 . I ended up with 57 litres of port. I decided not to sorbate it , not needed as its unlikely the ferment will restart. and I’m going to put it in an older15 gallon neutral barrel with some stavin cubes or stave segments , probably a mix of french and american. I’ll let the fine lees settle out and rack as clean as I can , maybe even do a 2 micron filter as I fill the barrel . I will add a bottle of e&j vsop brandy for flavour .

TA Rising Revisited The importance of measuring TA when making wine.

2013 December 27

Inspired by Dan now reading his musings on winepress, I reminded me of a discussion I had with Marty Yule a long time ago on www.Winepress.us ” and this blog. Oh yeah and Greg you are pretty Anti TA in your last post I would take you on with those comments in a heartbeat and truthfully I don’t think they are that helpful for new winemakers either. But no one will argue with you on winepress. Such is the nature of the forum you administer. Actually Greg you sound like Scorch. Anyway Here goes…

You need to experience just once the TA rising after fermentation is complete. Leaving you to wonder if the Tartaric Genie visited your Must in the middle of the night, leaving you at .85 when you were shooting for .67 You might be looking for that to happen, as it did last year with some of the Brutocoa grapes I fermented. Please don’t ask, my NAOH was standardized and 2 PH meters confirmed it and yes, don’t be insulting, even guys like me own a microwave but we warm leftover pasta in a frying pan. Believe me even with the price of heating oil being high, I prayed for a cold winter in NY. It appears the same Tartaric Genie visited Whackfol in a thread entitled: “Cs/merlot Help And Advice?” I love a guy that is confident in his testing methods too. I really do, congratulations Whackfol.

Just the Numbers Please

Let’s look at Mokadir’s Thread “my numbers are a bit unexpected”. Now, here is another example of the unexplained inconsistencies that I am speaking about. By the way, has anyone ever tried to sell you a centrifuge? Look at the numbers Cavilierhome posted. He started out with the Cabernet Sauvignon at PH 3.83 to 3.93 and a TA of .75. On October 2nd he added 2.5 gr/l of tartaric acid and his results were PH 3.52 TA 8.88. Then, on October 5th, his results were between PH 3.47 and 3.52 and a TA of .78 So he was able to lower the PH from 3.93 to 3.47 and had only a rise in TA of .03. Interesting. Is that even possible? Here are a few radical thoughts, as far as I am concerned, the hard rule of adjusting acid at the pre-fermentation needs another review. Using acidulated water expecting to get accurate readings is wishful thinking too. Without more documentation at this point I think if I have a PH lower than 3.65 and a TA of .50 or more I will ride out the ferment without adjustments. I remember well Greg saying to me “Gene just once I would love to see you get grapes you don’t need to adjust”. I heard you Buddy, believe me, I heard you and I didn’t adjust. Look at my numbers for ’08 Mackenzie Merlot. At crush, PH 3.46 TA .50 almost perfect right? Except it is a bit odd to me that the PH could be that low with a TA of only .50, certainly not a Central Valley scenario. At 14 Brix, the results were PH 3.38 TA .73 besides that PH went lower look at the TA, NO TARTARIC WAS ADDED! The Cabernet Sauvignon “Trio” followed suit, starting with a TA of .52 and ending with a TA of .70, could these seemingly unpredictable TA numbers be caused by the superior packing and shipping methods of the grapes we are now buying? Are you finding “hard to remove” deposits building up on your destemmer paddles? I am lately. One thing for sure if you buy from others around here and not M&M you don’t get a 48 degree Must after crushing. Another clue provided by Fred the Bulldog stated the grapes are stacked in a cooling tower at 32 degrees. Mokadir may be on to something after all, a new concept, “Cold Stabilization of the Grape”
- See more at: http://www.westchesterwinemakers.com/2010/01/16/how-to-get-banned-on-winepress/#sthash.y0bSdt0y.dpuf

The Stupidity of Winemakingtalk.com Bungs in Barrels an Apparent Mystery

2013 December 23

I am sorry I know this is the season to be jolly but here is another example of completely stupid advice given freely and with utmost confidence on what has to be the worst Winemaking forum in existence. An airlock in a barrel until you bottle! Right let all that fine airlock juice be blended in your wine when the barrel creates a vacuum and draws it in.

Making wine like a chemist. The Wonderful World of Chemistry Amateur Winemaking making Dupont Proud.

2013 December 22
by Gene Fiorot

It has to be said once and for all. Even if offends the scientific obsessed crowd. SOC, you make wine like Chemists and it sadly tastes like that. With all the talk of “Kit Wine Taste” permeating the winekmaking forum discussions , often overlooked is the taste of wine make by Chemists , Engineers , and Math Majors. I include Math Majors as I have a personal abhorrence to them as a group. My prejudice I admit. Nevertheless all of the above usually suck at making wine. Seriously All of the above need a new hobby. Why? Because they cannot appreciate Art. It is not their fault, they were born that way. Parts per Million always trumps human perception for them. And therein lies the basis for their failure. They have no confidence in human sensory ability even their own. These limited capability artistically challenged individuals rely on numbers as represented in laboratory tests and react to them as such. That reliance makes all their decisions for them. So they usually wind up with a product reminiscent of polyester instead of wool. Not that they actually would be able to identify the difference. Only a Lab can do that. Silly you, you should have known that.

Probably the worst part of their actions if it were not limited to them drinking only their own organic petroleum based creations , they post on Amateur Winemaking Forums on the Internet their worries , fears and worse their advice on how to make wine. Me, I don’t make wine with a paint by numbers formulae. In fact most Artist don’t create Masterpieces with a calculator and a chemistry book either.

If we turn to the Art of Cinema, the Directors of the Masterpieces never relied on Engineering. And so it is for Winemaking. So while we have all recognized this for a very long time, Isn’t it time the Big Kahunna said it on Winepress.us? Or is jousting using scientific knowledge trump more important then the reason for being there?

Is my Malolactic Fermentation Complete? Trouble Getting MLF to Finish

2013 December 10

Is my Malolactic Fermentation Complete?  Trouble Getting MLF to Finish

Reading WinemakingTalk.com you would think a Malolactic Fermentation was like preparing to receive your First Communion under the tutelage of Sister Eugene ( yes there was a Sister Eugene when I received so shut up she was a bitch). If you spend anytime at that illuminating forum of mostly nonsense  you quickly find out a ML fermentation is the most feared procedure a winemaker can take on.   Even the guy who is the resident ALL IN ONE Vacuum Pump Purveyor admitted to me he never does a MLF.   No Shit!  Too Complicated.  And as a retort or innocent question he asked, “is it really necessary?”  For those who know why I lost a job at a Westchester Grape Supplier the answer is, Nope not necessary since you make shit wine anyway.  If you don’t know the story don’t hesitate to ask me in person.  HOWEVER.

There are times when getting a complete MLF seems to give us fits.  Especially Merlot it seems.  I have never had the Merlot Curse prior to this year but it seems we have a full blown case for this vintage.   What is worse is when the Accuvin doesn’t agree with the Chromatography. Then we really have a nightmare.  And that is exactly what we seem to have this year.  So you can’t look at the Chromatography and say “Yeah I think it is half done”  you can’t even say it is three quarters done.   But the Accuvin says you are at 50 ppm not the 30 where you really want to be.  So which one do you believe?  And what if it goes no further after a few weeks at a nice 70 degree environment?  What’s your plan winemaker?

First let’s ask the question.  Are all commercial wines complete of MLF before bottling?  A trade secret no doubt. But where does that leave us? First doing a MLF to remove the harsh malic acid is only one reason to do it.  If we get a wine from 500 ppm to 50 I think it is safe to say we have reduced quite a bit of harshness due to the malic acid.   The other reason is wine stability.   With 500 ppm one could assume stability could be an issue but what is the risk at 50 ppm over getting to 30 ppm.   Can anyone answer that question?  Ok while we wait for that person to appear…

So the other day I get an email from the Beverage Supply Group.  They are selling a product called Bactozym SG.  It is really a product which is a Lysozyme Mixture. And we all know Lysozyme stops and controls ML Bacteria.  But what got me was this statement, and remember this is directed to Commercial Winemakers, “Situations arise in winemaking which require controlling the bacterial charge without using excessive doses of sulfur dioxide.

Hmmm shouldn’t we consider this strategy when dealing with incomplete ML fermentations instead of pulling ones hair out or worse crying on Winemakingtalk.com.   Seems reasonable to me as a tool to use.  Your thoughts….

 

Al Battista has found a new cure for sluggish MLF

al's Cellar

BACCHANALIA Today!!!! 2013

2013 December 8
by Gene Fiorot

I hope you are all prepared for today’s Bacchanalia. Looking forward to seeing you all very soon. Stay tuned…..

Well this was a Bacchanalia that is for sure. Wine, Food, more Wine, more food, and yes wine flowed from all directions. I lost count of the varietals and the vintages. As many as four glasses in front of me with members asking me to taste this and that and this. Members brought cases. I was having trouble remembering what was in my glass. And I didn’t even have a Martini!

And what better place to have a Bacchanalia than Resortante Chianti under the direction of Chef Paul Caputo who did an extraordinary job. Dish after dish arrived in perfect timing and outstanding cuisine from this Master Chef. And so many courses it took over 4 hours to get to dessert. We didn’t care because we drank. We compared. We discussed everything from the differences we tasted in wines made from the same grapes by different winemakers. We appreciated all the efforts of these Amateurs to produce elegant beautiful wines rivaling if not superseding many Commercial wines. We all can be very proud. All these wines and not a disappointment in the lot. I was presently surprised to taste a few excellent wines made with Central Valley Grapes. It brought me back to the days when you needed to have some good winemaking chops to make excellent wines from those grapes. Evidently we have winemakers with excellent chops.

A highlight for me was having a group taste of Zac Browns’ wines. Each one was poured as I went around the room and I read the description Zac had sent me about the wines. We tasted all three with the proviso that tasters would share their impressions here on the blog for Zac to read. I want to relate to Zac your work with Amateur Winemakers does not go unnoticed. It is appreciated and I wish you could have seen the delight in the eyes of the winemakers when I announced I would be pouring your wines. For the record I have my favorite but that will wait until later. I should be getting some pictures in the next few days which I will post here.

Thank you all for coming and I hope you enjoyed the Bacchanalia as much as I did. I just wish Al Battista would have danced the Bacchanalia in tights. Oh Well maybe next time.

Just a few bottles one table.  A conservative estimate of Bottles attending would be close to 100!

Just a few bottles one table. A conservative estimate of Bottles attending would be close to 100!

Did you say Blaufrankisch?

Did you say Blaufrankisch?

Volatile Acid VA in Wine. A flat note for a Beautiful Duet.

2013 December 2
by Gene Fiorot

It is bound to happen to all Winemakers at least once I tell myself. This makes me feel better. Almost better …Well not so much…

In 2012 I made Cabernet Sauvignon using 2 grapes. Having made the Lanza Cab, the Koch Cab along with Tembrink Cab calling it Trio in 2008 with just 2 out of three available in 2012 I called it Duet. The wine turned out fine. Really nice. I put it in a variable top tank in my wine room in December of 2012 and it remained there to be put in a Barrel this November.

We had a very hot summer and my cooling AC was not working properly. Temperature got into the 70.s and this was freaking me out being so far away in Florida. Dave and Anthony were on top of it but the solution in the end was to change the unit which we did not when I was away. Dave did add K meta to the Barrels and Tanks in August.

When I returned in October I tasted the wines expecting the worse. I was pleasantly surprised the wines were all ok. Whew!! I got lucky. At our first pressing for this season in October, during lunch, I went into the Cellar to get some samples for the guys to taste. I drew off some Duet and other wines as well. We enjoyed all of them and I was further assured no harm came to them during the summer.

One week ago I bottled my 2011 GSM and my 2011 Lanza/Musto Sangiovese. I filled the barrels with 2012 Gamay which was in a tank next to the Duet. I still had some wine left in the tank so I filled a carboy with the remaining Gamay but I was a gallon short. I decided just to hook up the hose to the Duet Tank and fill the carboy with it. All was fine, then I grabbed the ladder to lower the lid on the tank. I use a plastic elastic drum cover on top of the tank to keep dust out. When I removed the plastic cover I was hit by an unmistakable smell. OH NO IT CAN”T BE! 25 years of winemaking, on many occasions tasting old timers’ wine loaded with VA and after 25 years now it is my turn. I turned to Anthony my heart sunk in my chest. Anthony I say, the wine is ruined. He looks perplexed ,there must be a solution no? No there is no solution. You mean you can’t fix it we fix all kinds of things he says. Nope we can’t fix it. Amateurs at least can’t fix it. To be sure we have a taste. Not that I needed convincing. So here is a beautiful wine which you can still recognize almost totally obscured by VA. And all this occurred in 8 weeks. Why? I forgot to lower the lid when I took wine out of the tank when we were having lunch is my only guess.

Are there any lessons here to learn? Yes there are many. Let the discussion begin. Those who hate Variable Capacity Tanks are invited and welcome…..

Volatile Acid VA in Wine. A flat note for a Beautiful Duet
A Marty Yule Production

The 2013 Wine Season Going Out with a Big Bang

2013 November 9

OK Get ready here we go….. Today the M&M Wine Grape Company delivers once again and for the last of the 2013 season. This time it is a half ton of Rutherford’s Siverado Six Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Needless to say… well…can we say?…. BStuffer? Yep. That won’t google I hope. And a very nice surprise which I did not expect. Instead of the Paso Robles Petite Verdot we were expecting we received the Atlas Peak Petite Verdot. This represents a first. The first time making Napa Petite Verdot. I am very excited about this surprise development.

Keep in mind personal matters required these two varietals to be crushed and frozen under the direction of Frank K of M&M otherwise know as Frankie Juice. Under his care these grapes were treated with So2 at the crush. Having them taken out of the deep freeze 3 days ago they arrived thawed with some slush at a temperature of 38 degrees. Both varietals dark as night and having the ability to stain your hands with simple contact foretells the future.

Like many grapes this year the numbers are not ideal and will require some adjustment. The samples were raised to 70 degrees for the following tests.

Siverado Six Cab Sav Brix 27.5 PH 3.98 TA ( are you ready for this?) .33
Atlas Peak Petite Verdot Brix 25 PH 3.96 TA .40

Expecting a TA Rise after fermentation and not really wanting one we are going to leave the acid alone. Yes we are not happy with the PH. That goes for both. We expect to adjust later.

We watered back, no acid , to 25 brix.

The yeast selection is still up in the air as we try to raise the temps in the winery with a heater to get these vats in the 60′s.

More to come …….

Co-Fermenting with Malo-Lactic Bacteria New Territory for Amateur Winemakers

2013 October 27

As most of us move into Seconday Fermentation. Whoa Chuckles! Did I just use the idiotic term secondary fermentation? Let’s start again. This year our dealing with Malo-lactic Fermentation is different than others. Most years our mission is to get through it and done with the least problems in a reasonable time frame. This year with the green light given to Co Fementation of ML bacteria with yeast brings us to observe, learn and above all try to document any differences or advantages to adopting this co fermentation protocol.

Here are the facts we are dealing with. We basically have early and late batches. The early Batches were inoculated at 18 Brix the Later Batches at 12 brix with the exception of Gamay which was inoculated at 6 Brix. The first batches were inoculated with VP41 the Later batches with Alpha. There is about 3 weeks difference between the first batches and the Last batches.

The Marty Yule famed Super Cultures were not used. All the ML bacteria was rehydrated at 80 degrees with Acti ML. for 15 minutes before pitching. One Note to Winmakingtalk.com Readers, to correct the advice given in that forum you DO NOT rehydrate ML bacteria with Opti-Malo.

So what are the results as of October 27 2013. In 37 days 3 wines are complete. Two from the first batches and one from the later batches. The Malbec and the Pinot Noir are done. And that was with all the extra racking off the lees dealing with the Malbec H2S problem. The Gamay , a later batch wine is done in approximately 21 days. Let’s assume the Gamay had very little Malic Acid Content as the Lake County Cab, Atlas Peak Merlot are still going strong showing good progress. The laggard an early batch wine seems to be the Sangiovese but it too shows a good deal of lactic and the most recent Accuvin test show a reduction more than half.

As I stated previously I usually think in terms of December 1 to December 15 for Mlf completion. In any case all of the wines which are still going have at least until November 15 to complete using the time frame of the 37 days of the first batches. At this point I think it is safe to say we impacted the MLF time frame in a big way but in 15 days that will be proved even more with results of the Merlot and Cab.

What I am looking for now is the see the progress with Accuvin in one week on the Merlot, Lake County Cab and the Sangiovese. Then in 2 weeks a Chromatography Test of these wines.
Will someone with Primitivo and Petite Sirah do a test. Please! Bunch of Cheapskates.

Dave tending to monitoring this years MLF progress

Dave tending to monitoring this years MLF progress