Wine making 101

First you start with grapes...

This is a picture of Mike and Christine Thoma's Vineyard

It is located in Somerset, CA which is in the Sierra Nevada foothills
about an hour east of Sacramento. The vineyard is at 2300' ASL.

The Brix (sugar) rating on the grapes had risen to almost 24 (perfect)
by Sunday the 21st of September.

This section of the vineyard is where the Syrah is that Mike and Christine
gave us is located.

Here is a closer picture of the grapes before we descended upon them
with sharp instruments...

Mike and Christina were kind enough to allow our crew to pick
somewhere's around 1200 pounds of Syrah grapes.

We had quite a few folks help pick grapes including Mike and Sally's
Aunt and Uncle. All in all the pickers arrived at about 11AM ready
to go with hats, sunblock, buckets, knives, and enthusiam.


The result was that by the time we arrived with all the heavy equipment
the crew had picked a pickup truck full of grapes which is almost
1000 pounds...

One of the smoothest moves we made was to rent an electric
Stemmer Crusher. It is made in Italy and draws 6AMPS. Thankfully
John brought his 5KW portable generator with him and as a result...

Our lovely crushers, Donna, Christine and Rachelle...


were able to load the machine so quickly that we reduced the entire
amount of picked grapes to crush in a matter of a couple of hours...

We filled six trash cans and a 30 gallon tub with
about 150 gallons of crush...

We spent some time enjoying the beautiful weather at Mike and
Christina's house before heading for home...there was more work
for us to do before the day was over...

We had decided that the best place for the barrels to sit while we
stirred the yeast and before we commited our brew to a cask was
the wine cellar in the basement of my house....

Once we had all the barrels unloaded and put in place in the wine
cellar, our master wine maker Mike instructs Jeff on the placement of the
yeasts in the barrels. We used four different kinds of yeast so that we
could learn which if these yeasts works best with the Syrah that we
had just picked.

Everybody had to learn how to stir the crush...

Even my daughter Alex go into the act...

We all had a good time in the wine cellar. After we finished doing our
work, we started to REALLY have a good time...

One of the most important tasks we were left with was to stir the
crush three times each day so as to allow the yeast to remain evenly
distributed. Special mention needs to be given to Donna's daughter
Sam who took this responsibility seriously and would stir the grapes
at every opportunity...

So for the last 17 days, Sam or me or Donna or Jeff or whomever
happens to be visiting would stir the crush...within two days of
starting this process the whole house began to take on a very
pleasant odor of grapes...

So today is election day, October 7th, 2003 and we are going to
press the grape crush this evening while we await the results of the
California recall election.

In the end we will completely fill one oak cask with 55 gallons of wine.

We were able to obtain these from Greg Boeger at the Boeger
Winery. They are three year old casks which is perfect. When
Donna and I went to pick them up last week we brought them
home and put potassium bisulfate, water and lemon juice in the casks
to sanitize them and keep the oak barrel staves from drying out.

17 days of stirring the crush and yeast in my cellar. It was time
for the wine pressing. This is where we take all of the crush and squeeze
it in a mechanical press to get all the juice out of the grapes...

Before we started in on the Syrah, we decided to press the Muskat
that Ron and Carol had. Carol says the sugar was all the way up to 28
when they picked their grapes...

Pressing the Syrah was a simple process....fill up the press to the top
put the blocks on top of the mess and start pressing...

No, No, No not that way!...This way...

Anyway, after only a very short time we
had managed to fill up our oak cask all
the way to the top with juice...

But before we could put the "bung" in the
cask to seal it up we had to decide on
what types of oak we wanted in our wine.

We chose a blend of American Oak and
French Oak and put it in the cask.

Meanwhile back at the press, we were
generating alot of grape skins that looked
like a grape cake...

According to Greg Boeger he mulches all of
his discarded grape skins into his vegetable
garden which he claims is a fabulous mulch.
So off Jeff went with the wheelbarrow full...

We had to do this alot....
We filled everything we could with wine. We filled a
bunch of 5gal Carboys and a bunch of 1L wine bottles.
Of special note are the four 1L bottles that we filled
with unblended juice so we could figure out which of
the four yeasts we used was the best.

We will be testing the wine as it matures over the next
year, probably at three month intervals always being careful
to leave no air in the containers each time we reseal them.
In all we pressed 80 gallons of wine Tuesday night. That
is a very good yield for the amount of grapes we picked.
It will produce about 400 bottles of wine next year. We
will probably bottle it in about 14 months. When we do
that we will update this site.

We have picked a name for our wine...

Stescher Krommer

after a slightly dislexic comment I made the other day....

See you all in '04