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  4. 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.
  5. 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, 

    Rich

    1. Show previous comments  8 more
    2. OptimusWine

      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

      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

      OptimusWine

      Copy, will use both. Thanks,

       

  6. 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
  7. "Lucy, I'm home!" Ricky Ricardo used to call to his wife on the show, "I Love Lucy." Few younger folk remember that show from the 50's but they remember Lucille Ball stomping grapes. Many people have grape stomping on their bucket lists. My winemaking partner Lucas and I produce a public grape stomping at the Hill at Muza a beer garden in Troy, NY once a year. Just as the winemaking hobby takes on a life of its own and threatens to grow to absurd dimensions so has this event. This has grown from grapes, some local, some donated and some bought stomped in half whiskey barrels to this year's 900 pound wine bath in a galvanized stock tank 6 feet across. Hundred of people come and it's hard to stay serious for too long. For us, it's several hours of discussing home winemaking with people who seem fascinated with the process. We explain many times that not only is wine acidic (you folks knew that) but it soon becomes alcoholic and is only really threatened by wild yeasts and vinegar-producing bacteria. The have a mildly sanitizing foot bath before and after stepping in to a half ton of grapes. (Our supplier, Musto Wine Grape Co. of Hartford, CT is always generous.) I'm a big fan of the technique. After a few hours, the grapes a smashed to a thick wet mass and yet the stems and seeds aren't damaged and can be removed without adding their tannin. Next year, we'll add a band and there is talk of closing the street.
  8. But aren't you supposed to add the Fermaid at a 1/3 brix drop? You shouldn't even need a chart for that. For the end of fermentation, we use a specific hydrometer (https://morewinemaking.com/products/hydrometer-brix-5.html), so that it's as precise as we're going to get it. We always have some oddity with non-fermentable sugars, which are probably just part of growing grapes here, but the more precise hydrometer helps.
  9. Mine finally gave up the ghost. A company makes them now, sold under AimTab Reducing Substance Tablets. Of course they cost 2 to 4 times what i could get 100 Clinitest for but the reality is i rarely got through a whole bottle before they went bad so it is what it is. Maybe they are doing me a favor selling only 36 tab bottles. I think they do foil packs too.
  10. Alas, Bayer Clinitest is no longer available. I purchased a stash of 200 tablets a few years ago that I continue to rely upon (On occasion, they show up on eBay at a premium price). As far as I know, an alternative for home winemakers is the Accuvin Residual Sugar Test....but I have no experience with that product. I would be interested in hearing about other alternatives that don't require a spectrophotometer or reagents with very limited shelf life.
  11. Where can you find clinitest? I thought Bayer quit making them again
  12. The main advantage to using the refractometer and the tables are to tell when you need to add your Fermaid. If you have a lot of fermenters going then the refractometer would be a lot quicker.
  13. It is not as accurate as hydrometry as mentioned above....but "good enough" to follow the progress of a fermentation. I have prepared a document describing the process and procedure: See http://www.moundtop.com/fermentation/RBRIX-ATC-Fermentation-Tables.pdf The refractometer approach's biggest problem is that it cannot be used to reliably to indicate dryness (end of fermentation). However, even a hydrometer comes up short here. As an amateur winemaker I rely upon Clinitest tablets to estimate the residual sugar level indicative of dryness. As always, there are many ways to skin this cat.
  14. You need the pre-ferment refractometer readings. Then, you can use some estimations/calculations down to the end. Not as accurate as a hydrometer, IMO but many people use it.
  15. Hi Phil, To my understanding, after fermentation has begun, you cannot really get an accurate reading on the refractometer and that the hydrometer is much more accurate. It has something to do with the actual fermentation process. That's what I was told, so I use the refractometer up until crush, then I switch over. Always possible that what I've been told is wrong, but just passing along what I've heard. Kathy
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