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  3. Blusco

    Half Measures

    The old business adage is true. If you have experience, you make good decisions. How do you get experience? By making bad decisions. We’ve adopted some steps that many home winemakers avoid in response to problems. Most of the time we bottle wine without incident but from time to time, the wine that seemed perfectly clear will throw a sediment a month or so later. Now we rack from carboys into gallon jugs and rack five bottles at a time as I need them. Since I make wine at least twice a year (when the California grapes come in, when the local grapes are ready and in the spring for Chilean grapes,) this frees up some of the carboys. The gallon jugs can also support bench trials or making a small batch of a blend or two. Also, we use tasting corks (look like mushrooms) instead of conventional corks when we think they’ll be returned. If someone needs to keep a tasting cork to recork their (our) wine, that’s fine too. After a while, we may recork with conventional corks to free up the tasting ones. This fall for several reasons, we crushed outside but had to press in the basement. After fermentation had almost concluded, we transferred the wet and dripping must not to the press but to a six-gallon pail I perforated with small holes. The ¼ inch holes are on the bottom and 1/3 of the way up the sides The pail was suspended over another pail and the liquid was allowed to run and then drip into the lower pail. The first six gallons of free run went into a carboy and the drier must was collected for pressing. It was all easier to work with, less mess and seemingly more free-run juice
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  5. Maybe this is the year to try local grapes? You can make some new friends and possibly help out your neighbors if you are willing to take a look at grapes that grow in your area. We get grapes from all over: Chile, Argentina and South Africa in the late spring and Europe, California and the Finger Lakes in the fall. There are so many choices, you can feel like a kid in a candy store. To be completely candid, although the grapes have been to some exotic places, I get them through a distributor, Musto Wine Grapes in Hartford, Connecticut. I enjoy picking up the grapes but exotic it isn’t. In the Capital District of New York, now part of the Upper Hudson Valley AVA, we have a good selection of grapes that thrive in this climate. At one point, Maquette, and Frontenac seemed the signature red grapes and now there are some others. Once for fun, we made an Amarone-style wine from Marquette that was rich with tannins, flavorful and dark as sin. There are a variety of whites as well and my favorite has been LaCrescent, a voluptuous big shouldered white with assertive stone fruit tones and impressive Brix. high Brix. I didn’t start out to sing a love song about the grapes of the upper Hudson. My thought is that in your region, local farm wineries have probably been restricted from their traditional markets due to the coronavirus and may have a surplus this year as well as unsold stock from last year. Farmers’ markets and farm sales have certainly been muted and vineyards might have extra grapes to sell to home winemakers. It might be a good opportunity to meet some nice people who have gone pro and expand your palate and winemaking repertoire. You could help your neighbors, maybe save some money and minimize your travel. A word of caution: European red and white wines are often the gold standard of wine making and hybrid grapes often fall short by that measure. That is not to say you can’t make juicy aromatic wines with those grapes because you can. Hybrids were developed for our range of climates and you can find hybrids that outperform vinifera (European) grapes in the same vineyard. Be prepared to watch Brix, pH and tannin levels and adjust. Remember, blending isn’t cheating if a good wine is the result.
  6. always the novice...

    it's more fun that way!

  7. Beach

    If you need additional information on pruning and training vines, I am available to pass along what I have learned and researched on viticulture pruning over 45 years and 36 diffetent varieties, Pinot noir is not new to me. Thanks


    1. beachdude897777


      Hi Chano,

      Thanks for the offer, I really appreciate it!  I have been doing some research to try and get quickly up to speed on all of this, even visited a winery I am a member at (White Rose Winery, Dundee OR) and took a walk through their vineyard two days ago.  Their entire estate vineyard consists of 40 year self rooted pommard vines cordon (bilateral) spur trained spaced about 8 feet apart, monster old vines.  They have another vineyard site i didn't look at but plan to this weekend, that site is  3309 clone 115 CANE trained with 4 foot spacing.  My plan is to go back and compare the two sites so i have a better idea what would suite my site.  And it was nice to see tons of fruit on the SPUR vines as Ive seen countless articles that SPUR training can yield less fruit due to buds proximity to basal non count buds..  I guess my biggest question that I have been struggling to find an answer for is whether SPUR or CANE would be more ideal for training...  I planted over 100 pinot noir vines about 36 inches apart..  Domaine Drouhin did the same out here (3m x 3m) in the Dundee Hills and per their facebook photos it looks like they are Unilateral CANE pruned..  So maybe I will do this?  I like the idea of SPUR training and leaving space between the buds (fist or 6 inches) but is there any reason why i cant do that with CANE pruning to prevent over-crowding or preventing there from being buds pointed down?  Is that common for CANE pruning to rub off the downward facing buds to minimize fruit and shoots growing downwards?  I dont even want to begin asking questions in regards to a spray program cuz it looks like just a massive confusing topic on the forum..  I am so far spraying with Stylet Oil every two weeks.. so far my vines look green and happy..  I know i should be alternating between sprays but down know what that second spray or third spray should be..  more research!  Thanks!

    2. Chano Aguayo

      Chano Aguayo


      Allow me to state that cane pruning creates fewer cuts which makes a vine less susceptible to diseases.  Ask any grower why he/she uses the VSP system is that no pruning skill is required. Many vineyards usually at pruning time hire skilled and non-skilled pruners.. Training a new pruner only takes about ten minutes and only needs to be instructed to leave two buds. For cane pruning, it takes a few years, period. For cane pruning once you get the knack of it, you do not need to count buds and judgement takes into consideration the entire vine canopy by assessing previous year's year production. My rule is no more than nine buds per cane.

      Personally if I were a small grower (Vinifera) I would cane prune  As far as buds proximity to their bases, here is what  has worked for me. As a rule, I like those buds with more sun exposure for next year's crop. Normally in most vineyard pruners prune to two buds one may be on the sun side and the second on the shade side.  I leave three buds and see how they grow. If all three buds grow, I rub the one on the shade side and leave the two on the sun side and try to keep them as vertically as possible because research concluded that vertically positioned spurs/canes are more productive. Check this with any "grape doctor" and see what they say.  Thanks.


    3. beachdude897777


      Thanks Chano!  This is exactly what i was told by the vineyard manager at white rose this past weekend in regards to prune cane requiring less cuts and susceptibility to disease!  Thanks!  And thank you for pointing out the idea of leaving an extra bud to ensure those that received the most sunlight are kept for the seasons crop!  Great idea!  I'm going to use one vine as an experimental one and spur prune it..  I'll go ahead and leave three as suggested and see how it all works out and compares to the remaining cane pruned vines!  Thank you for the response!  Greatly appreciated.

  8. My ability to make wine at home is not a central issue in our current times just as this blog post is neither “Journal of the Plague Year” or “Love in the Time of Cholera.” It did make me realize how closely related are my excitement about making wine and the social activity around it. Often, I will rack and bottle wine by myself, but I almost always have company for crushing and pressing and there is usually a crowd around and a meal. The first wine I made, from a kit if I remember correctly, prompted a neighborhood bottling party. Our neighbor Steve, who went on in life to join a group of first-class winemakers, was our corker. We had a fellow about eight year’s old with a hair dryer shrinking the neck capsules and an assortment of people putting on labels. Earlier, soliciting ideas for labels, we got suggestions that included “Jeff’s Jammy Juice” and a crowd-pleaser, “Basement Bounty.” Years later I was trying to identify a wine to submit to the Winemaker Magazine’s international contest. Again, we filled the house with people and they were invited to sample several wines and classify them as “Send it” (to the contest,) “Blend it” (with another wine) or “Upend it.” There was a stainless steel bucket for the last classification. One friend, trying a wine, commented that he would like the red wine better if it were “plummier.” I agreed with him until he suggested that I actually put some plums in it. One useful take away from this event was the notion that blending wines can contribute new strengths to a finished wine and a level of complexity. Working at a friend’s vineyard years ago, wine and people were completely entwined. My wife and I would get there in the morning with bread, pasta, sauce and salad and I would help with chores. During the morning, other friends and our kids would arrive with their children. In the middle of the day, someone would put on the pasta and the sauce and we would have a dinner with really good wine – sometimes with 12 people or more. Chefs from throughout New York would stop by and on one occasion, the owner invited a group of rabbit hunters to join us. This year, we’ll make wine but the occasion will have more solemnity than usual but I’m still able to periodically put a bottle on all the neighbors’ porches and keep the spirit alive. Stay well.
  9. Thanks Joe.. I noticed the decline in participation as well and started to think maybe folks were keen to defect to a ‘better’ place.  I’ll admit winemaker subscription was a reaction as I was just frustrated with the wine press in general.  It has not been all that useful yet.  A lot of marginally informative but non interactive content.  Wine press provides what I lack:  the ability to interact with wine makers.  I’m in a desert here in Dayton.   

    Here’s a question for you:  PH probe.  I’m making very small batches of wine twice a year.  I’d say 15-20 gallons, plus now creating some sparkling wines from the whites.  Slowly expanding operation, trying to make competitive wines and new varietals all the time (and port which at least for a couple competitions is my flagship) I’ve had the meter for about 7 years.  I suspect the meter is fine, it’s an off brand that was suggested to me by a guy on here who went pro.  It’s remarkable hard to find good information on a BNC type replacement probe for a guy like me or what a good Ph meter is for my size operation.  The meter does not show up on internet searches any more (ph meter 2602) is all I have on it.  I assume the probe is getting worn out, requires major calibration and seems to take forever to settle on a reading.  I suspect it has led me astray a few times.  Thanks in advance, 


    1. Show previous comments  8 more
    2. OptimusWine


      Joe, do you bother with the 7pH calibration buffer?  I’ve wondered if it is a waste of time.  I see it referenced in some winemaking articles.

    3. Joe_Sallo


      Actually that is the most important buffer, its sets zero.  What you are doing is setting the starting point and end points with the buffers.   All probes drift so you want to use both the 7 to create the baseline and a 3 or 4 for the span adjustment for wine.


    4. OptimusWine


      Copy, will use both. Thanks,


  10. Don’t be discouraged by a bad batch of wine. As an amateur winemaker, I may have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes. My first wine was from juice fermented in the same 6-gallon bucket it came in. A little yeast, a new lid with an airlock and winemaking was underway. It was palatable and red and dry and alcoholic but not outstanding. Then I discovered that the local Homebrew Emporium carried Winexpert kits that made a very drinkable Chardonnay and it extended my winemaking season to year-round. One batch of Sangiovese made with juice and grocery store grapes won a gold medal in a Winemaker Magazine competition and a Chardonnay won a local competition and I was convinced I could make wine. I got pretty good at two complementary tasks: blending wines to make a really good beverage and diagnosing wine faults. Both skills resulted from producing wines that needed a little help. I’ve had to deal with over and under-sulfited wines, vinegar bacteria, hydrogen sulfide, corked wine and color fading. Some we win. Some we don’t. As blending goes, we typically get grapes from California in the fall (like half a ton) and lesser amounts in late May from the Southern Hemisphere. Lately, I’ve discovered that blending a tannic wine like Carnellian with a Malbec or Carmenere that may still have a little “green pepper” quality to it can produce a good balanced wine that would normally not be found in nature. @Garagist
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