RJ Cole Winery

Insights into the world of an amateur home winemaker.

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

Cole Wines anagrams to Senile Cow.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

2nd Run in 2ndary!

3 days is all it took! Friday, after work, I checked the SG of the 2nd run Blackberry again and it was all the way down to 1.008. So I rinsed out and sanitized my brand new 3 gallon carboy and transfered the wine over. I scooped out some of the lees that were still floating with a strainer and washed them and what was left in the bag down the garbage disposal. I then rinsed out the bag really well, and I'm going to throw it in the washer by itself.

As I was finishing up siphoning, the carboy was about half way between the bottom of the enck and the shoulder of the carboy. I was getting mostly sediment through the siphon by then. As I looked at the bottom of the primary, there was still a good bit of wine left, but it was completely full of sediment. I guess that since this wine fermented so quickly, the gross lees didn't have time to compact at all. So I pulled out the strainer again, tilted the bucket so everything was on one side, snd started scooping again. It took a little while, but I got to where I was confident that it would be okay to start the siphon again. In the end, I had to add about 2 cups of water to the carboy to top it off properly. But my alcohol level was probably a little high, so that should be fine.

So now, my storage closet is filled with full carboys: 6 gallons of Carm/Cab, 5 gallons of Strawberry, 5.5 gallons of 1st run Blackberry and 3 gallons of 2nd run Blackberry. Now I'm just waiting on the Cab Franc grapes and enough blueberries to make some more!

Speaking of the grapes, I've purchased a refractometer which will help me determine the Brix of the grapes while in the field, Brix is another measurement of dissolved sugars in water, like SG, and is primarily used for making wine and spirits. It's a neat little tool! Next up will be a pH Meter to determine the "acidity" of the grapes. I also found out that Alternative Beverage does rent Crushers/Destemmers and Presses! So I'm almost all set to venture into the next area of winemaking - grapes!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

2nd Run Blackberry

Sometimes people like to use the skins and pulp of fruit that has already gone through fermentation a second time to make more wine. When you do this, it is called a Second Wine or a Second Run Wine. The leftover pulp (called pomace) still has a lot of live and active yeast cells in it, along with a good bit of tannin (assuming it was a tannic fruit) and sugar. If you add some sugar water to it, along with some acid (as most of the acid will be gone from the fruit) then the yeast once again have food in a low-alcohol environment. The resulting wine should only be half as large as the original batch, and it will still have less body, color, and other characteristics found in the first run wine off the fruit. It should reach maturity quicker as it will have less of all of this, and since it should be made to a lower alcohol level. Thus, starting one now could provide a nice light wine to quaff by next summer (if not before then!)

I started my 2nd run Blackberry Tuesday night – 7/25/06. I went ahead and hand pressed the pomace, at least what was still in the straining bag - there was a good bit of it that had seeped out during primery ferm of the 1st run. I left all of that in the bucket (after I got 5 and a half gallons of 1st run, which was as much as wine as I could out of it during transfer.)

I made this to 3 gallons on the pomace of the 28.5 lbs of blackberries. I only used about 4 pounds of sugar, which I added to about 1 gallon of boiled water, then added another gallon of cool water to try to bring down the temperature quickly. I added this to the pomace while it was still a little warm. If I had added it any warmer, I could have killed the yeast. I also added in a can of Welch's Concord Concentrate. I stirred everything up really well. Checking SG might have been a problem, though. The must was still warm (not hot) from the syrop I added. I still didn't have a thermometer (until yesterday), so I didn't know the exact temp, but SG came out to 1.048. I guesstimated the temp of the must at around 90-95, so adjusting for temp (according to my possibly misguided calculations) PA was going to be right around 12%. Of course, I did learn that the calculations were misguided, and the actual SG would have been about 1.052 – not enough, around 7%. So I would have to add more sugar.

I adjusted TA to about .60. While I was testing the TA, the must started fermenting like crazy! Once I determined how much Acid to add, I turned around and there was a cap already! I went to bed a couple hours later and I could hear the airlock bubbling from inside the closet!

Yesterday after work, I added about 3 and a half more pounds of sugar - in a half gallon of water, to the must. The SG had already dropped to 1.024, and seemed to be slowing down. I figured that was due to a lack of sugar. So I stirred the sugar in really well, and made my first goof with this one - I forgot to measure the SG again! If I would have measured it immediately, I could add the .028 that it had fallen and had a pretty accurate measurement of the correct SG. Oh well. I still hope I ended up around 10 - 12% for the PA, but we'll never know.

I'm interested to see what the Concord Concentrate will add to the wine, whether it be just body or flavor or what exactly. I'm considering blending with some of my Merlot once this is ready, but I'll just have to wait and see on that.

Fresh Grapes Update:
I have made initial arrangements to purchase 100 pounds of Cabernet Franc grapes from Medley Meadow Vineyards in King, NC. Randy Fulk, the owner, invited me to come up and take a look around, then come up sometime in late August or early September to test the grapes, and help make a decision on when to pick them. Harvest last year was September 10th, he told me. This year he expects it to be later because of the rains they've gotten up there. I'll keep you posted on this!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blackberry Fermenting

Just a quick update on the Blackberry Wine:

I stirred my must after I got home from work yesterday. It was bubbling away, and had formed a thick cap even on top of the fruit bag. I stirred to get this back down in the wine.

I grabbed my handy wine thief and took an SG reading, down to 1.091. Not bad for a first day. I put the lid back on, and went about my other business. Later, I went back and opened the closet door, and the airlock was bubbling like crazy, so I think it's safe to say that this wine is doing well.

Carm/Cab Update:

Tomorrow is the day that this wine should be finished clearing. I've checked shining a flashlight through it, and I can see it. It looks pretty clear. However, I've still been pumping my Mity-Vac, and I'm still getting lots of little bubbles. I may rack soon, to get it off the sediment that has fallen out, and try pumping some more. I always wonder if the sediment may trap CO2 underneath it, and that's why it never completely comes out.

On the Horizon
Nothing definite has come up as of now, but there are 2 huge possibilities for the near future.

1. Kat's giant blueberry bush has been covered in tons of ripe berries daily for the past week. Already we've picked about 5 cups of berries off this bush. Unfortunately, Kat made it clear that I can't use all the berries that we pick for my wine. Fortunately, she is going to use the ones that she doesn't give me to make yummy stuff! She made some Blueberry Pancakes a few days ago that were amazing! Once I see how many berries she'll give to me for the winemaking, I'll determine how much wine I can make out of them. Even if it's only one gallon, it will be worth it!

2. I have a couple of contacts for small lots of Vitis vinifera grapes (i.e. wine grapes) - Cabernet Franc or Syrah. I'll have to decide which one I would like to do and see if I can afford it. I'd like to make 10-12 gallons of wine from whichever one I choose, so I'll need around 150 - 200 pounds of grapes! Other issues arise with this as well - can I find a crusher/destemmer and a press to use for these, or will I have to do everything manually? Can I find a primary fermenter large enough to handle this amount of wine?

I'm leaning towards the Cab Franc as the grapes I'll choose, but I'll need to make a decision soon, to make sure I can get some. Sangiovese and Chardonnay were also available, but as I'm not a big fan of wine from those grapes, I think I'll choose between the others.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Blackberry - more info

I went home and did some more tests on the must and pitched the yeast. The SG turned out to be the average from last night - 1.098. I added another pound of sugar, which brought it up to about 1.100 exactly. I may try to stop the fermentation early in order to preserve some residual sugar, but that's usually pretty tough to do. I should probably just backsweeten after fermentation is complete.

The TA was just slightly low for what I wanted, so I added about 3 more teaspoons of acid blend. That should make it around .60.

I did use a minimal amount of water to dissolve the sugar in, and that got the volume maybe slightly higher than 6 gallons. Of course, the displacement caused by the fruit bag is included in that volume.

I rehydrated the yeast per the instructions on the packet and pitched it, then remembered I hadn't added any yeast nutrient yet! I quickly added 6 teaspoons of that (which was all I had!) and did a couple of quick stirs of the must - I didn't want to stir too much, because the yeast usually start off better when near the oxygen on top of the must.

Here is the recipe:

28.5 lbs Super Fresh Blackberries
11 3/4 lbs sugar (to 1.100)
Acid Blend to .60
1 1/4 tsp Liquid Pectic Enzyme
6 tsp yeast nutrient
Water to 6 gallons
RC-212 Yeast

1. Freeze the blackberries in freezer bags.
2. Thaw berries in mesh straining bag in primary fermenter with the pectic enzyme.
3. Tie the top of the bag, then crush the berries to get out as much juice as possible.
4. Check SG of the pure juice to determine how much sugar to add.
5. Check volume of juice in fermenter to determine how much water to add.
6. Take about half the volume of water needed and boil on stove, add enough sugar to reach 1.100 SG. Dissolve.
7. Cool Sugar Syrop and stir into primary. Once must has cooled, check SG.
8. If more sugar is needed repeat step 6 - keep in mind that the dilution by water will lower the actual SG, so you may need to add a bit more sugar. Continue until desired SG is reached.
9. Use titrets to test for TA. Normal range for fruit wines is .55 to .65. Add acid blend to reach desired TA. Once acid blend is added, test again to confirm TA.
10. Stir must well.
11. Stir in yeast nutrient.
12. Make yeast starter by adding packet of yeast to 50mL of warm water. Wait 15 minutes, then stir starter, and pitch into must.
13. Cover and sit back and wait for wine to happen!

Be sure to stir the must and check SG daily. Once SG is down to about 1.010 - 1.020, transfer to secondary vessel.

Blackberry '06

As I sit here with stained hands, I'm pleased to announce the start of Blackberry Wine 2006!

Yesterday, I took the 28.5 pounds of blackberries out of the freezer in order to start the wine. I put my large mesh straining bag in my primary bucket, and dumped the frozen berries all in. Then I put slightly more than 1/4 teaspoon of liquid pecitc enzyme on top.

I was going to fill up the sink with hot water and put the bucket in there to thaw the berries out, but that wasn't going to get much coverage, and it was blazingly hot outside. So I snapped the lid on the primary, stuck a sulfited piece of a paper towel in the grommet hole, and put the bucket outside.

After a couple of hours, it was starting to thaw very well, but still hadn't thawed all the way. I thought I could speed it up a little by going ahead and crush what berries I could.

Let me ask a question: how long can you hold you hands in ice water? The juice was COLD!!! I could only squeeze and crush for a couple of mintues at a time before my hands were hurting badly. Finally, I decided to do what I originally set out to and filled the sink up with hot water and put the bucket in that. I had to switch out the water about 4 times in about 30 minute intervals, because the ice cold berries and juice in the bucket were cooling off the scalding water quickly.

Finally, the juice was no longer Ice Cold, so I was able to crush the berries with my hands. When I picked up the bag and held it over the bucket, it looked to be about 2 gallons of juice in the bucket, plus a bunch still in the bag. With the bag in the juice, displacement put the volume at about 4 gallons.

I checked the SG of the pure juice, and it was at 1.040. I would like to leave a bit of residual sugar for sweetness, so I chose Lalvin Bourgavin RC-212 yeast (which has an alcohol tolerance of at most 14%). Therefore, I was wanting to get my starting PA to about 15%. [note: due to some discrepancies on SG to PA conversions, I'm using PA scale here. I will adjust once I find more information.] That way, the yeast should top off at 14% abv, leaving the wine sweetened with the remaining "Residual Sugar."

After doing some calculations, I put a gallon of water on the stove to boil, and added in 10 pounds of white sugar. Once this was dissolved, I let it cool for a few minutes, then dumped this into the must.

I stirred good, and checked SG again - the reading was 1.100, a little lower than I wanted. After more calculations, I set about a quart of water on to boil and added 12 ounces of sugar to that. I dumped that in the must and checked SG again - 1.096, definitely too low. I thought, though, that the temperature might be a little too high to get an accurate reading, so I decided to let the must sit overnight and I will check the SG again today. If it needs more sugar, I'll have to add it this time without water, as the volume now (with the fruit bag dislacing the must) is right at 6 gallons.

Next, I decided to go ahead and check TA. A good range for acidity is .55 - .65 PPT. My test showed around .45 PPT. I added 6 teaspoons of acid blend to the must and stirred it again. I didn't re-check the TA after that, so I will check again today.

Finally, I snapped the lid back on, plugged up the grommet hole, and went to bed.

More on this will follow soon!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Carm/Cab Update

This past Thursday night, July 6th, I racked my Carm/Cab to the primary bucket and back to the 6 gallon Carboy. I first cleaned and resanitized my carboy, once I had racked to the primary bucket. Then I racked it back, topped up to within 2 inches of the bung with a bottle and a half of my VR Merlot, and put it back in to wait 14 days to see if it clears.

One trick to checking for clarity in dark red wine is to take a flashlight and shine it through the carboy from the side opposite you. I did this, and could not see the light! I thought perhaps this was because the volume of the wine in the carboy was so great that it kept the light from making it through, so I put a bit of wine in a glass and held that up to the light. Still, total darkness. This was a black hole, letting no light escape through the wine.

I wasn't sure if this meant that it still had sediment in it which was oscuring the wine, or if it this particular wine was supposed to be this dark. So naturally, I went to Winepress with a question. I learned that the Carmenere is a dark grape, but that I should be able to see at least a little light through the wine. I was told that if I continue following the directions, which now say to wait 14 days, that more sediment should fall out and I'll be able to see through the wine then. So I'll wait and see what happens!

I did take a taste of the wine as I was racking it. My goodness, this is going to be a great wine! It was already complex, full-bodied, round, and smooth. I noted oak, earth, tobacco, pepper, vanilla, plums, and berries in both the nose and the palate. It had a long tannic finish, which was perfect! And since this is supposed to be a "big kit", it should only get better aging for a year, a year and a half, 2 years... of course, I'll have to see if I can wait that long for it!

Just a note that I plan to start the blackberry wine next Sunday, the 16th. I read on Winepress about some folks doing "2nd run" wines off of blueberries. A 2nd run wine is when you used the pulp from the used berries to make another wine on. This wine would be lighter bodied, but still have flavors of the fruit. Since I have so manky blackberries, I thought that I could make a good one this way. We'll see how that goes!