Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Wine Adventure.

Chilean Merlot grapes crated, fresh off the boat

Last night, Hubs and I, along with my in-laws, embarked on what will become a year long wine-making adventure. And let me tell you, as if Hubs and I didn't have dreams of owning our own vineyard before? Whew. Things just got ten times worse. When we got home last night, I was all set to sit down at the kitchen table and rework "The Budget" to allow for a Future M Vineyard savings. For those of you who know of our newly cramped budget, you'd be laughing right along with me right now at the impossibility of this task! I mean, we can barely eat out once a month, let alone sock away savings for a vineyard. Okay, so maybe it's not in the cards for us just yet. But one day? We can only hope!

Chilean Merlot grapes

By the time our wine-making adventure ends, I hope to be able to document the fun in a photo book. Here's a sneak peak at our timeline:

28.3 weeks pregnant, crushin' grapes!

May: Our adventure begins during the height of Crush season. Chilean Merlot grapes, fresh off the boat, arrive stacked in crates. Argentinian Malbech grapes are stacked neatly alongside. For those of you interested, we will be bottling Malbech and Syrah for the family reserve. I can't even begin to explain how sweet and delicious these grapes are! They immediately get tossed into a "stemmer" which is a giant, stainless steel machine that, in crushing the grapes, removes them from their stems, spitting the stems out one end and funneling the crushed grapes, skins and delicious juices, into a giant vat.

The Stemmer

Hubs adding grapes, he's a natural!

Discarded stems

Mmm.. a fermenting vat. The first step in becoming wine!

Once in this vat, sulfides are added and the grapes are "schtoinked." Yes, this is a made-up term involving a homemade "schtoinking tool" but I swear it serves a purpose that I can't quite recall at the moment. The grapes, or "must" at this point, are mixed. If you were to taste this concoction, it would taste like the most delicious, purest grape juice you've ever had!

Next, based on the sugar content and the acidity of the grapes in question, a type of yeast is selected and mixed into the must. One checks the sugar and acidity by using a refractment tool. Basically a chemist's fancy kaleidoscope-like tool that you smear grape guts onto and look at through the light. A blue line appears along a corresponding number and this enables you to choose which yeast would best compliment the grape. Note to self: Yeast smells like vomit. No joke. But, it helps make the grapes into wine and who can complain about that? Now begins the first fermentation process. We will return again in one week to observe the fermentation process, check the sugar content and the acidity of the fermenting grapes and make any additional adjustments if necessary.

August/September: We return to the winery to barrel the fermenting wine. The winery we've chosen ferments in both French Oak and standard Oak barrels. The different between the two? Mainly price, but also the construction of the barrel. French Oak barrels can cost upwards of 900 dollars, whereas, standard Oak barrels, from say, a Kentucky cooperage cost merely 380 dollars. It does sound much fancier, however, if you can tell people that your wine was distilled in French Oak rather than just plain ol' Kentucky Oak, right? Ha!

And finally, in March of 2011, after a long and successful fermentation and distillation, the wine will be ready for bottling. Whew! Talk about hard work. Needless to say, I can't wait until then to sample the fruits of our labors!


  1. Wow, what an undertaking! And what fun!

  2. That's so cool!! I'm sure it will be so fun to finally drink the wine you spent so much time making. Apparently my dad tried to make his own beer back before I was born... and it was disgusting, lol!

  3. Oh wow. This looks so fun! I cannot wait to see and read about the finished product. The grapes that you showed just look delicious on their own!

  4. Oh wow! That is so cool :-) Glad you and your family are having fun... and how stinking cute are you all pregnant?

  5. That looks like so much fun!!! I would LOVE to have an opportunity to do that!

  6. Wow!! Where are you able to do this and HOW?! Where in PA? I love it!!

  7. What a big job. I had no idea it took so many steps. Good luck with accomplishing your dream one day.

  8. Look at you pregnant and crushing grapes!!! Thats so great!!! they look amazing btw, xxxoo

  9. I love how you're crushing grapes in your Burberry wellies!

  10. I've always wanted to do that!

  11. I loved the crap out of this! What an AMAZING idea! I fully support your vineyard fund :)

  12. That's pretty cool! You'll have to let us know how it turns out!


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