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The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 35 – How do I know if fermentation is complete?

What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

The process of making wine in a winery in south africa

How do I know if fermentation is complete?

It is often easy to see visual signs of fermentation:  from activity in the airlock, bubbles, and the formation of a cap to the aromas of yeast and carbon dioxide, the wonders of fermentation are succinct observation.  But how does the home winemaker know when the fermentation is complete? The simplest way of seeing if fermentation is complete is to taste the wine and observe if there is any sweetness to it. If there is still sugar that you can taste, the yeast have not yet completed their job. The most accurate and scientific way of seeing if fermentation is complete is to take a measurement of the Brix via a hydrometer. A hydrometer is a glass instrument that reads sugar content via the hydrometers buoyancy in wine juice. The juice sample should always be placed into a sanitary, cylindrical shaped vessel. As the wine ferments, yeast consumer sugar and excrete alcohol, making a thinner, less dense liquid. At the beginning of fermentation, the hydrometer will not sink very far into the wine. The sugars within the juice make it thicker and the hydrometer will float on top of the juice. As fermentation progresses the new wine becomes less dense and sugary, allowing the hydrometer to sink down into the liquid. When the fermentation is complete, the hydrometer will sink down into the liquid to the 0 mark, if not farther. When reading the hydrometer, spin it slightly in the cylinder to dislodge any bubbles that may cling to the sides of the hydrometer. Observe where the meniscus of the wine falls on the gradients of the hydrometer. This will give you your sugar level in degrees Brix of the fermenting wine. When the hydrometer sinks to zero or below, the fermentation is complete and you can rack the wine.

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

The Italians have arrived!!

Our Italian Wine Grape Clones has finally arrived from Contra Costa. Located below Suisun Bay and East of the Oakland Hills, Contra Costa is the premier growing area for Italian varietal wine grapes. Many of the vines grown in this area are considered ancient. The Mediterranean climate produces wines with bold features and good color. The soil is deep and sandy, making the grapes fight for their water, only increasing the intensity of the fruit. Think big bold reds, with leathery notes, and supple tannins. Quantities are limited, make sure to call ahead so we can secure your order. Ciao!

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The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 32 – “What do I do if I have a stuck fermentation?”

What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

Closeup of early 30's man having some wine in the middle of the day and thinking about his relationship problem. Somewhere at the bottom of the glass there is a meaning of everything that bothers him right now.

What do I do if I have a stuck fermentation?

                  Sometimes, even though we take great care as winemakers to avoid it, we can get caught with a stuck fermentation. Yeast are incredible creatures, capable of very rapid reproduction, but they do have their limiting factors. It is very important to know the limitations of the certain yeast strain that you are using for your wine. Evaluate your must’s pH to ensure that it is above 3.2, the lower pH environmental threshold for most yeast strains. Take into consideration the alcohol tolerance of the yeast that you selected. If you take the initial Brix level and multiply it by .55, you will have a pretty close estimate of your ending alcohol by volume. Make sure that you haven’t put in a yeast that is unable to handle the rising alcohol levels of the must. Another important factor to consider is the temperature of the must. All yeast strains have a preferred temperature window in which they like to work and reproduce. Because fermentation is an exothermic reaction, check your temperatures (if making reds always take a measurement under the cap) and be sure they haven’t gotten so warm that the yeast may be dying off. The opposite is also true, ensuring that your juice or must have warmed up enough to allow the yeast to begin their processing. Lastly, another important factor to  consider in the health of your fermentation is the nutrition of your yeast. Aside from the sugar that they consume, yeast also need proteins, vitamins, and minerals to complete a healthy fermentation. Using a nutrient, such as Fermaid, will give the yeast the other elements needed to properly process the juice.

                  After the careful evaluation of these factors, you may need to add a small amount of water, nutrients, or heat or cool the must/juice. A winemaker at Musto Wine Grape is happy to help you with the amounts and timing of these additions. If all of these factors have been evaluated and adjusted for, prior to fermentation, and you still have a stuck fermentation, you will need to restart the fermentation. Please contact support@juicegrape.com and a trained winemaker can help you with a restart procedure.

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

Wine Competition Entries are Due Soon!

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You could win Best in Show!!

Get excited because our Winemaking Competition is back! We have Certified Sommeliers, Certified American Wine Society Wine Judges, and Professional Winemakers who will be giving you in depth notes about your wines. Our judges are excited to taste your wines and give some awesome tasting notes! We are currently accepting entries and hope to see you soon. If you have any questions about the wine competition please contact Christina at cmusto@juicegrape.com.

The Details: All entries must be delivered to Musto by October 14, 201. The Wine Competition will be held October 21st, 2017.

Download all documents by clicking HERE.

 

Photos from the last years Awards Ceremony & Dinner….

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Dinner Date: TBD – but will be in January in 2018

In Stock as of 9/16/17 at 6:20AM

In Stock as of 9/16/17 at 6:20AM

•  Valley Beauty Zinfandel
•  Costamagna Cabernet
•  Smiling Baby Barbera
•  Cry Baby Syrah
•  Lodi Gold Petite Sirah
•  Cry Baby Baby Muscat
•  Uva di Cal Ruby Cabernet
•  O’Caprio Alicante #42
•  Lugano Old Vine Zinfandel
•  Lugano Old Vine Merlot
•  Cry Baby Cabernet Sauvignon
•  Cry Baby Barbera
•  Lugano Barbera
•  Cry Baby Grenache
•  Muscat King #42
•  Lucerene Thompson Seedless #42
•  Smiling Baby Thompson Seedless #42
•  Helena Sangiovese
•  Helena Black Muscat
•  Cry Baby French Colombard
•  Lodi Gold Grenache
•  Lodi Gold Chardonnay
•  Lodi Gold Pinot Grigio
•  Costamagna Viognier
•  Cry Baby King’s River Petite Sirah
•  Cry Baby Merlot
•  Cry Baby Malvasaia Bianca
•  Cry Baby Alicante #42
•  Costamagna Syrah
•  Cry Baby Petite Verdot
•  Paso Robles Musto Pinot Noir
•  Cry Baby King’s River Tempranillo
•  Valley Beauty Barbera
•  Lanza Merlot
•  Lanza Musto Malbec
•  Lanza Musto Barbera
•  Lanza Musto Malbec
•  Lanza Musto Primitivo (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Lanza Musto Muscat Cannelli
•  Tenbrink Pinot Noir
•  Cal Special Alicante #42 (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Cal Special Thompson Seedless #42 (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Teaser Zinfandel (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Cal Special Merlot (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Teaser Grenache (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Cal Special Cabernet (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Cal Special Barbera  (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Caterina Cabernet (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Caterina Old Vine Carignane (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Caterina Chardonnay (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Caterina Grenache (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Caterina Merlot (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Caterina Petite Sirah (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Caterina Pinot Noir (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Caterina Old Vine Zinfandel (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)
•  Caterina Sangiovese (PLEASE CALL AHEAD, SELLING OUT QUICKLY)

Numbers from Washington State as of 9/14/17

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Numbers are of 9/14/17

Pinot – 22.5 Brix, 3.3 pH

Merlot – 22 Brix, 3.47 pH

Cab Sauv – 20 Brix, 3.4 pH

Cab Franc – 19 Brix, 3.42 pH

Musto Crush Crew Pre-Harvest Traditions

Ever wonder how we prep for harvest?

Time to Make Wine photo

Frank Musto: “I always pick up two new pairs of work shoes in August, make sure I break them in before season. I usually burn through two pairs each season….Food of choice is McDonalds, nothing takes the pressure of a hard day like a Big Mac, large fries, and a diet coke…After Labor day, I kiss my wife good bye, pet the dog behind the ears, and tell them ill see them in late October.”

Christina Musto: “I’m usually pestering all of the growers for photos of the vineyards.  Then I get my house into “harvest mode” stocking up on beer, cider, frozen meals, and chocolate. Finally, I treat myself to purchasing a special bottle of Schramsberg Brut Rose as an “in case of emergency” bottle.

Patrick Milio: “I bid farewell to friends and family, stock up on Beer, Bourbon, and Bubbles to enjoy after long days at the shop, and pre-emptively apologize to my digestive system for the terrible nightly takeout meals that are to come.”

Colin Mulryan: “I go through all of my old clothes to wear for the season, because it all gets thrown out at the end. And stock the fridge with beer.”

Ken Milio:  Our Harvest tradition starts the week before as its time to clean and sanitize last year’s Crusher / Destemmer, Fermenting tubs, Must Plungers and other small items. You can tell how much wine was consumed last year by the cleanliness of the equipment this year. On crush day, our tradition is that all involved toast the new season with a shot of “ Honey Grappa “. After the crush, we again clean and sanitize the equipment then the drinking and eating begins.

Maureen Macdonald: “Driving to VT to stock up on beer, because nothing is better after a day of processing grapes, than a cold beer. And updating my Peapod account, as who has time for groceries?”

Frank Renaldi: “The first thing I do to prepare for harvest is to think of another way to trick my wife into thinking I am not making a lot of wine. Last year I told her she miscounted the number of cases of grapes on the truck. The year before I told her each case of grapes weighed 10 pounds.
Then I get down to business and take inventory of my supplies and order what I need by July. I also decide on the grapes I want to work with and reserve my order. Then I check all my equipment to make sure it is ready for the big day. I talk to all my wine making friends and we get excited like little kids getting ready for their first day of school – well it does happen at the same time of the year. I think this year I will tell my wife, I had to buy more because the grapes were smaller this year.”

Barry St. Pierre:  “First thing is to make and freeze a big pot of chili…for friends who stop by to help or for ourselves when we are too tired to make anything else. Full tanks have to be bottled or moved to free up space for new grapes and wine. Of course we pre-clean all of our equipment, especially our feet…need to be sure to remove all toe jam. By now all supplies are ordered, especially grapes from Musto…I seem to always get yelled at for not ordering early enough. Then sit back, open a bottle of wine, and wait for the grapes to ripen and arrive.”

Robert Herold:  “As the harvest/crush/press day approaches, I start fortifying myself with wine several days in advance. For the actual activity day, nothing works as well as beer to make the task go smoothly. To quote a very good winemaker friend of mine, ‘it takes a lot of good beer to make a good wine’.”

some of the musto crew robby loading frank's truck

on staff winemakers frank and maureen loading wine grapes into customer trucka

Winemaker Spotlight: Greg Ambrose

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My wine passion started 17 years ago when my father officially started to teach me to make wine. He had tried unofficially in the early 70’s but I was a reluctant 7 year old with other things on my mind. I began making wine from grapes with a friend and we started with a single 30 gallon barrel. We picked up grapes from a local distributor and worked out of my friends single car garage (half full of lawn tools).

We spent the next 9 years trying to source better grapes, each year looking to step up in quality. And then the Musto team contracted with the Lanza family which made a tremendous improvement in the quality of our wines. I still search for higher quality grapes but have come to the realization that we are now working with the best possible fruit available.

Our coop now consists of 7 families and we have outgrown the single car garage. We moved production to my double car garage which has been converted to our crush pad and fermentation room. The garage has been insulated, painted and new lighting and an exhaust system installed. The Musto family now ships us over 5 tons of grapes each fall.

We receive grapes and clean all our equipment on day 1 and crush the grapes on day 2. Crush day is filled with music, great food, wine, more food then more wine. It’s truly Christmas, New Years and the Super Bowl all rolled into one! With a lot of hands to help, we run a sorting table to clean the grapes and then load the crusher destemmer. We ferment in 15- 500 liter tubs and produce around 350 cases of wine. The tubs completely fill the garage and after a short cold soak they ferment for about 10 days. We usually order 6-7 varieties with each family making their own blends we end up with 10-15 wines styles.

Mid day the 30 of us stop working and sit down for lunch. It’s always at a single long table and we eat as one big family. This has become an important tradition with family and friends and includes toasts and short speeches and plenty of laughter. It’s a very special day and it actually gets me emotional even to write about it.

Pressing two weeks later is another story. It’s takes us two full days to press and then deliver the wine to each of the seven homes. Using pickup trucks, food grade drums, pumps and long hoses, we deliver wine to each house in the same way oil deliveries are made. We pump the wine down into each cellar and fill the barrels at each house. It’s more of a working weekend than crush day but we still mange to fit in great food and great wine. After making delivery runs we assemble back at the crush pad/garage for clean up. The day always ends up with a post event review. With more food and wine, we talk about how things went this year and suggestions for improvements to our process that we might make next year. Usually there is robust conversation about who stood out as an MVP and they receive an ovation.

The Musto and Lanza families are fantastic partners and we consider them part of our family.

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Want to be featured in the “Winemaker Spotlight” series? Send Christina an email with a description about your harvest traditions and photos of your winemaking cellar to cmusto@juicegrape.com to be featured! 

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 29 – How do I test for Brix?

What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

A winegrower is measuring the alcohol level of the Pinot Gris grapes.

{refractometer used in vineyard for brix levels}

How do I test for Brix?

There are two ways to test for Brix in your grape juice and/or must. Prior to the addition of yeast and fermentation, one may use a hand refractometer to measure the sugar content (Brix) of the grapes. First the sampling method must be discussed. Simply taking one grape and squeezing it on the refractometer is not an accurate measurement of the entire batch, it is only reflective on the sugar content of that grape. The most accurate way to measure Brix would be to crush and process the grapes into a fermenting tub, punch down to thouroughly mix the must and allow to sit for 24 hours. This will create a more homogenous product from which to draw a sample. Using a hydrometer is simple, place a drop of grape juice on the lens of the hydrometer and lower the plastic coverslip. Hold the refractometer to your eye and look towards a bright light source. The light gets refracted by the sugar and will form an indicator line on the lens inside of the refractometer. This lens has a marked measurements column which will then give you your initial, pre-fermentation Brix level.

The density of wine in a test tube is determined through the use of a hydromete, which floats at different heights according to the density of the liquid (in accordance with Archimedes' Principle

{hyrdometer testing brix levels}

Once yeast has been introduced to the must and begins to excrete alcohol, the refractometer loses its accuracy. This is when the hydrometer becomes more useful in this instance. To use the hydrometer, you will also need a cylindrical container; a graduated cylinder works well (the cylinder must be taller than the hydrometer). Pour a strained sample of the must or juice into the sanitized cylinder. Put the sanitized hydrometer into the cylinder and spin it slightly to dislodge any bubbles that may cling to the sides of it. Allow it to come to rest in the juice and observe the meniscus of the liquid and where it falls on the gradients of the hydrometer. This will give you the Brix level of the fermenting wine. As the wine ferments, the Brix level will continue to drop until it is at zero.

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

Morning views of the 70 year old head trained Alicante Bouchet

Morning views of the 70 year old head trained Alicante Bouchet. Head pruned by hand and small bunches full of flavor and color. Old vine is an understatement…..

Alicante is a variety that was cultivated in 1866. Its deep red color makes it great for blending with lighter red wines such as Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. A popular grape during prohibition, the old school Italian blend consists of 18 boxes of Zinfandel, 2 boxes of Alicante, and 1 box of Muscat or make it straight for a delicious light bodies red.

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