On Saturday, we picked grapes and got started by crushing them to make wine. I have never made wine so it was fun to learn the process, starting out in the field and ending up with gallons of grapes and grape juice that need to be fermented.
Ryan organized our trip to his family vineyard in Kenwood. There were several partial rows of cabernet grapes, ones that ripened later than others that had been picked earlier. The grapes were going to be left on the vine because there wasn’t enough for commercial production. However, it was a perfect amount for a small batch.
Despite the heavy rains of the past few weeks, these grapes were in good shape. Ryan noted that cabernet grapes are small and form in loose clusters, which allows them to withstand the moisture and fight off fungus. These grapes looked like blueberries in size and color. Cabernet grapes are typically the last varietal to be picked.
Ryan, Katie and I went out to pick the grapes on a day when rain was threatening but held off while we were picking. Huck joined us, guarding over the grapes.
We picked 20 bins, which is under 600 to 800 pounds of grapes. Then we brought them back to the Pillow Road barn for the crush.
We rented a machine that’s called a “crusher-destemmer”. It separates the grapes from the stem clusters. There are small paddles on the inside that move back and forth to separate the grape from its stem. This video shows the crusher-destemmer in action with Katie at the hand-crank.
The day’s output consisted of two containers filled with grapes — skins, seeds and juice. One container was 44-gallons and the other was 22 gallons so we have about sixty gallons (roughly) to start with. We tasted some of the juice and it was delicious — surprisingly sweet.
Ryan added a sulfite mixture and later we’ll add yeast. After fermentation, we’ll press the wine to remove the skins and seeds. Our goal is to create a nice table wine.
We also transferred the eight gallons of cider to new carboys. We had a little taste along the way. One batch is made with an English Cider yeast and it seems to be the most interesting. The fermentation is mostly done after about three weeks. Now we’re letting it settle and develop. I’ve heard that letting it sit as long as possible improves the flavor.
So, now like the wine, most of the manual labor is done but we must wait patiently for the final product.