RJ Cole Winery

Insights into the world of an amateur home winemaker.

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

Cole Wines anagrams to Senile Cow.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Strawberry Day 2

I couldn't wait to get home from work yesterday to check my Strawberry wine and see if it was started! So, I got in the apartment and set my stuff down, opened the closet door, turned on the light, untied the top of the trash bag (I set the primary in a trash bag and pull the top up and tie it just in case there are any violent foaming mishaps), and looked to see if the airlock was bubbling away like crazy.

Not so much. But... there were some bubbles, and it smelled slightly of fermenting wine. So I know it's working. It was early in the process - not every wine starts fermenting like mad at the beginning. Maybe today it will be going pretty strongly.

I wanted to note that the yeast I used on this was Lalvin K1-V1116, which they say is the "original killer yeast." This means, it's a very dominant organism which usually overwhelms any other organisms that might be in competiton for the tasty yeast foods - usually wild yeasts. It's supposed to be very strong and hearty, and can ferment under stressful conditions. K1 will usually leave a lot of the distinctive qualities of the fruit used as the base, so hopefully this wine will be very strawberry-y.

As I was punching down the cap, and stirring the must, it seemed to be a bit thinner than the smoothie consistencies of before. So I decided to try to take an SG reading again. This time is read 1.086. The wine had already started fermenting, so that's down from whatever the startign SG was, but now my guess for starting SG is around 1.090, which is stronger than I expected. But Hopefully, it won't affect the wine too negatively.

Anyway, we'll see how it's progressing tonight, and I'll report back when I can.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

More Strawberry

I worked on my new strawberry wine some more last night. I strained and strained and strained to get a good sample for testing the SG. I saw that I needed to add more sugar, so I made a syrup using 3.75 pounds more sugar (and half as much water brought to a boil, then stir in the sugar until dissolved.) I Stirred this syrup into the must and checked the SG again. The hydrometer read 1.068, which is almost exactly 9% alcohol by volume. That's just slightly too low. But then I remembered that the temperature of the must can alter the SG reading. After trying to adjust for temperature based on guesstimation of the tempm of the must, I believe that the Starting SG is around 1.075 to 1.080 - somewhere around 10 - 10.5% abv. That is a good abv. So I decided to stick with it.

I went ahead and added the rest of the additives to the must - 5/8 tsp tannin, 5 tsp Yeast Nutrient, and 1/8 tsp Pectic Enzyme. I stirred this all in well. Then I created a "mini-starter" with the yeast. I just used the directions on the back of the yeast packet, which said to dissolve the yeast in 50ml water and let stand for 15 minutes, then add to the must. I closed the primary with the lid and airlock on, and set it in the closet.

Hopefully everything will work out right with this. The must was still thick, but not quite a smoothie consistency any longer.

So now I have 5 gallons of Strawberry wine in the primary, 5 gallons of Pumpkin wine clearing, and just under 6 gallons of Vinter's Reserve Merlot bulk aging.

One kit is still on deck.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Strawberry Wine

Well, I decided that the space in my freezer would be better suited to storing food (remind me to go to the grocery store!), so it seemed like it was time to start the strawberry wine. That seems like a good enough excuse, although I could just say I was too excited about the Strawberry Wine to wait any longer...

Anyhoo, I decided to get started on Monday night, March 13th. I had frozen 24 pounds of strawberries in order to get the cell walls to breakdown a little bit (this happens when frozen fruit thaws. I can't explain it exactly, but in my mind, when the water present in the cells freezes, it ruptures the cell walls. Then when the fruit thaws, the liquid comes pouring out.)

I sanitized my equipment and pulled the berries out of the freezer to thaw. Thawing took quite some time. To make the job of chopping up the berries easier, I decided to use my handy blender! I would fill it about 3/4 full of berries, then add some water to make it chop them easier. Note that before freezing, I had chopped all the caps off of the berries. The blender pureed most of the berries into a strawberry smoothie-like substance. It smelled wonderful!!

As I would blend, I would pour what I had just blended into my primary bucket. After a while, my primary was getting extremely full - it was up to 4 and a half gallons, and I still had a few pounds of strawberries, plus water to add! This was supposed to be a 5 gallon batch! I even still had to add sugar, which would cause displacement to up the total gallonage. I decided that instead of blending up the last ~2 pounds, I would squeeze them and only use the juice. This, also, took a while.

Looking at the primary, it looked like an extremely chunky smoothie. I thought there would be no way to test for TA and SG. To try to overcome this, I tried straining through my mesh bag a few times - just enough to get juice. The TA worked out perfectly, and came out to .35. I added 50mL of Acid blend, which should get the TA up to .65 - a good number for fruit wines. The SG, however, still had problems. The juice was still so thick that the hydrometer sank very very very slowly, but it did stop and float at 1.040. I'm wanting to get this to around 1.075 - 1.080. I checked the must, and the sugar I had put in, wasn't mixed in well at all, so I stirred that back up vigorously. I'll have to go back and check on it again to see how that adjusted it (I had put in about 7 pounds of sugar. I may need to add up to 10 pounds total in my guesstimations.)

I did crush and put in some Campden tablets Monday night when I realized that I had this problem on my hands and I wasn't going to be able to start fermenting right away. This should preserve the juice for another day or 2.

One option I have now is to get another primary bucket and pour the juice I have through the straining bags into it. This should get the pulp into a more managable mess, and make it easier to test and ferment everything. The primary will end up with 6 gallons, which I figure will give me about 5 gallons of wine once fermentation is done and I rack off the lees.

Next time, I'm chopping the strawberries by hand - or squeezing them!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Merlot Update

I racked the VR Merlot today. I split it between a full 5 gallon carboy and most of a 1 gallon jug. The jug didn't get full because a lot of sediment started passing through the racking tube. So I stopped that one and racked the remainder of the sediment to a half-gallon jug. Hopefully the sediment in there will compact more and I'll be able to get more of the wine out to fill up the gallong jug. I'm going to let this sit for a short while and then it should be bottling time!

I'll need to check to make sure it's been thoroughly degassed though. I must not have degassed properly the first time I tried, and ever since then, I always got bubbles to come up when I would shake the carboy. I decided to finally go ahead and rack to see if that might aid in get the rest of the CO2 out.

2 things still on the horizon - my LE Chilean Maipo Valley Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere, and now, Strawberry Wine! Harris Teeter had a great sale on Strawberries, so I bouoght 24 pounds. I've chopped the caps off of the berries, and put them in the freezer, where they will stay until it's time to start that wine! I'll post more on why I chose to freeze them later. That's all for now!