RJ Cole Winery

Insights into the world of an amateur home winemaker.

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

Cole Wines anagrams to Senile Cow.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Big Hit!

I hope everyone had a good long weekend! I had a good one, but just about ran myself ragged! On Saturday, Kat was having some people over in the evening for a little party, so we worked our tails off all day getting everything ready for everyone. We had a lot of great food, and evrybody brought sides of hors d'ouevres to munch on in addition to all the food Kat prepared.

We tried to make a pretty ice block for serving shrimp on. We had gotten the idea from Southern Living magazine. What you're supposed to do is fill a cake pan with water and cover it with Saran Wrap. Then you put a few baby carrots in through the Saran Wrap all the way to the bottom so that they stand up. After this freezes, you can remove the carrots, turn the pan upside down to remove the ice block, and you'll have a few holes where you can put small flowers in. It sounds really cool, huh? Well, the theory is great, but we couldn't get the carrots out, and the ice block was too big for anything except a cutting board, and, it being ice, slid all over the place and the shrimp tried to slide off too! What a mess.

I decided that I would also pop open a bottle of my Blackberry wine and let everyone have a taste. Most people were a little nervous about trying their first sip of homemade wine. But after the taste, everybody said they loved it! They all thought it was delicious and gave me huge compliments.

So my wine was a big hit at the party! I was very happy and I'm still so proud of myself I could pop.

The Blackberry Wine is now almost 2 years old, and you can still tell it's improving. I wish I had made more of it, or at least I wish I had taken notes on the production process so I could replicate this one. Blackberry Wine is definitely on my list again this summer.

Now all I need is about 10 to 20 thousand dollars to become a legal commercial winery so I can start selling my wines!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Pumpkin Update

Well, it's getting close to Pumpkin Bottling time, so here's an update on the latest.

Last night, I added the Sparkolloid to my Pumpkin Wine. The directions on the bottle were to dissolve 1 teaspoon per gallon in a cup of water in the top part of a double boiler and let simmer for 30 minutes, then add to the wine and agitate, and let it sit for a week.

I don't have a double boiler! So after a quick call to mom to get some advice, I used a regualr pot and a glass Pyrex bowl to a makeshift double boiler. I used the tip of a spoon between the bowl and the pot to allow venting (I didn't want anything blowing up from too much pressure!) This worked great. I actually only let it cook for 20 minutes, as it looked like it wasn't going to do anything more.

Before I added it to the carboy, I had to remove some of the wine from the carboy so everything wouldn't overflow. More on that in a minute. I poured the bowl of the Sparkolloid mixture back into a measuring cup so it would pour more easily into the carboy. Then I poured it in, attached my Mix-Stir to a drill, and stirred for a little bit to agitate the wine. I put the airlock back on and put the carboy back in the closet to wait for a week.

The wine I removed was about a glass worth of wine, and I decided I would just go ahead and taste it to see how it was coming a long. It was great! First of all, the color in the glass was like a normal white wine - kind of like a mix between a Chardonnay and a Grigio color. The aroma was very nice too. I sipped a bit. Very fruit forward with a start of pumpkin. Good and dry. Nice mouthfeel - almost perfect body and tannins. Not "heat" from the alcohol at all. Finished with the perfect amount of acidity and maybe a little too much ginger. Lots of complexity with flavors of spices, pumpkin, grass, and more that I can't remember right now.

Overall, it was a good crisp clean wine with great flavor and nice roundness. And that wasn't even chilled! I'm excited about this one! I think I've decided that I would like to bottle it in some cobalt blue bottles, maybe Riesling style, but any style would work. This is what I would like:

But we'll see. I should probably go ahead and order them so I can bottle next week.

Other Things:

Last night I also did a couple of other things - I layed all my bottles of Merlot on their side, now that I'm pretty confident there will be no cork mishaps. I took 6 of them out of the closet and put them on my wine rack going down in a column. As soon as I get the Pumpkin bottled, it will be in a column beside that. I'm thinking that it may be time to go buy some more of those racks. The rack is a stackable set of single 4 bottle wine racks. I have 6 of them, therefore I have 24 bottles worth. I'm about to have over 100 bottles of wine, so it need to get on that!

I took a look at the Strawberry Wine. It's looking great! Clearing very nicely. If luck goes my way, I won't have to add any agents at all!

That's it for now! Happy Memorial Day Weekend everyone!

Monday, May 22, 2006


So, some people from work got the Winery's Blog URL and have been stopping by to take a look. Well, welcome, all y'all! I know a lot of what you've been looking at has been outdated or provided without explanation. Please look thru the site, maybe check out the archives for some older posts to see what's been going on with the wines, and check out my introductory post to learn more about the blog.

To any passers-by looking for information on how to clear cloudy pumpkin wine, check out some posts from November!

Actually, I've been meaning to talk about that. My pumpkin wine has cleared really well with letting it sit in the carboy and the occasional racking (I believe I've racked it 4 times since secondary fermentation.) However, I believe it has cleared about as much as it's going to on its own. I got in touch with Winethief (the member of Winepress who provided the original recipe which I adapted.) Terry (Winethief's real name) suggested I use a fining agent called Sparkolloid. This should use its electric charge to bond with oppositely charged particles in the wine which are making it hazy. The result is larger particles, which, by the magic of gravity, are pulled down to the bottom easier. This will get everything to settle to the bottom of the carboy, leaving me with a crystal clear (yet still amber-colored) wine.

And if that doesn't work well, I'm bidding on a wine filter on eBay. Right now, if I have the winning bid, it will cost me a total of $51, including shipping. This type of filter normally sales for around $150. Everybody cross your fingers for me!

So that's where I stand with the pumpkin wine. The merlot got bottled (as you could see from the photos) and is resting in the bottles to overcome "bottle sickness". This happens when the wine is disturbed, and goes into shock, usually hiding some of the bouquet and flavor. I hope the Merlot is good in the long run, as I've realized I didn't degas it very well. I'll just have to decant it when I open a bottle to let some of the CO2 escape.

The strawberry, as you could also see, has been racked to a 5 gallon carboy. There it will sit for a while to clear further. I did take a taste of it, and it tasted good, but a little tart - actually, just like a strawberry that was picked a little too early! I'll probably end up adding some Welch's White Grape Concentrate to add body and sweeten that wine. I'm really impressed with how strong the strawberry flavor is! I let it sit on the lees for a little longer than I normally do - a few weeks longer - so I wonder if that might have helped the flavor out. If you leave the wine on the lees too long, all the macerated fruit and yeast cells eventually break down and impart "off" flavors to the wine. This one didn't have any!

Anyway, that's it for now. Enjoy the magic of winemaking, all newcomers, and thanks for continuing to stop by, all family members! Be sure to check out the links at the left of your screen for more Wine Goodness!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Merlot/Strawberry Updates

Just a quick post to show some updates on the newly bottled Merlot and the newly racked Strawberry Wine. Enjoy!

These are my many many bottles of the Vintner's Reserve Merlot after filling the bottles.
And here they are after being corked!
More Merlot.
This is the strawberry wine before I racked it to a 5 gallon carboy. Notice the bulk lees compacted at the bottom. That's all macerated strawberries and dead yeast!
And here's the strawberry after racking. Strangely enough, it's much much lighter in a glass!