wine grapes

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 15 – How to work with Frozen Must

Wine expert testing wine silhouette image

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! :)

Simplifying Your Life with Frozen Musts

Life gets hectic. We totally understand. As the Fall and Spring wine grape harvest seasons approach, not everyone can just suddenly stop their normal life and shift into winemaking mode. Kids, vacations, work, weather and a myriad of other obligations can impact the ability of a winemaker to start a particular year’s vintage. And let’s not forget about those grapes – unfortunately they don’t seem to care much about your schedule. They ripen and arrive when it’s convenient for them, not for us. Fortunately there is a way to work with grape varietals anytime you choose by using frozen must.

Frozen must is exactly what it sounds like – fresh grapes that have been crushed and destemmed on site into must and then immediately frozen. Working with frozen must is very similar to working with fresh grapes, but there are some differences that winemakers should be aware of. With frozen must there is no need to take your crusher/destemmer out of storage and lift those heavy boxes of grapes into the machine. This part of the process is done for you already. If you were working with fresh grapes, the resulting must would be adjusted and then the winemaker would start the fermentation process. Yet by freezing this must we are basically halting the winemaking process by putting this must into a deep freeze – then the winemaker can thaw the must and continue the process when it is convenient for them.

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Besides the convenience of making wine around your schedule ( with less equipment and less preparation/cleanup), there is another helpful benefit when working with frozen red varietals – cold maceration! During the freezing and thawing process the prolonged skin contact at cooler temperatures can maximize color extraction. Additionally, the tannins extracted during this time are water soluble and will be softer than the harsher, alcohol soluble tannins imparted during primary/post fermentation maceration. Now that we have touched on the benefits of using frozen musts, let’s transition to working with it.

When you receive the pails/drums of frozen must, we need to get the must thawed and up to fermentation temperatures safely. All of our musts are sulfited to 50ppm – this will help to control any oxidation that may take place during the thawing process and also help to limit the formation of bacteria in the grapes. However it is still possible for some freezer-burned or moldy grapes to be present – remove any grapes that look questionable. Some winemakers like to slowly bring the must up to temperature over the course of several days, while some recommend getting to pitching temps as quickly as possible. A slow temperature rise will prolong cold maceration and its benefits, but remember that the must is susceptible to unwanted bacteria and other bugs until primary fermentation starts. We recommend keeping the pails at room temperature – they should thaw out in 2-3 days.

It is important to stir the must as it is thawing. During the freezing process it is common for the natural sugars and potassium bitartrates to settle at the bottom of the pail (very much like the frozen Italian ice cups you can buy in the supermarket. The best part is the bottom of the cup where all the sugary, sweet goodness has settled to). Stirring the must with a clean and sanitized utensil daily will help homogenize it so that it thaws evenly. Once the must is at pitching temperature, empty the pails into your primary fermenter and treat it just like you would freshly crushed-destemmed grapes. Remember to get all the juicy bits and tartaric crystals from the bottom of the pail! We recommend taking pH, TA, brix, and S02 readings and adjusting accordingly. These readings can vary based on the temperature of the must and how well it has homogenized during the thawing process, so it is best to wait until the grapes are at room temperature. While we will always recommend using commercial yeasts to help with a steady, clean fermentation, it is very important to use these types of yeasts when working with frozen musts.

So there you have it – using frozen must can simplify a winemaker’s life by making it easier and less hectic. Isn’t that what we all hope for during the harvest season?

(A big thanks goes out to Robert Herold for his original article Winemaking From Frozen Must which appeared in the December 2012 issue of Winemaker Magazine)

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.

Notes from our Winemaker Frank Renaldi about the Chilean Sauvignon Blanc: Primary Fermentation

Notes from our Winemaker Frank Renaldi about the Chilean Sauvignon Blanc:

Primary Fermenation

“Wine fermenting for 7 days slow and steady. Down to 4 brix. Nice nose and color as we wind down. Wine did get near 65F. I wet a bed sheet twice a day with cold water and wrapped around stainless tank. This helped keep the temp at 60F – nice and cool for a white wine.  Too hot and you will blow off the nose.”

Don’t forget to sign up for the Spring Bootcamp with winemaker Frank Renadli! Learn how to make great wine at home in just 5 weeks!

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Video from Chile!

As the Chilean grapes start arriving….Here is a video from our grower – Correo Albano Vineyards – talking about the history of his vineyard, the region of Curico, and the 2017 Harvest. Cheers to 5 generations of growing the best wine grapes of Chile!

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 14 – What temperature should my juice be before yeast is added?

Wine expert testing wine silhouette image

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! :)

What temperature should my juice be before yeast is added?

The ideal temperature for most yeast strains to conduct a successful fermentation is between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure that the juice is at least 60 degrees before adding any yeast to ensure that the yeast will not die of cold shock when added to the wine.

Check out Musto’s Youtube Video below for Step by Step Yeast Starter Instructions from Winemaker & Bootcamp Professor Frank Renaldi.


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 Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 7 – Grape Yield

Wine expert testing wine silhouette image

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! :)

When it comes to making wine, often there is nothing more exhilarating than sampling the fresh grapes as they come in and selecting the varietals that will best suit your individual winemaking needs. Once you have selected the varietals that you would like to make that season, the most often the next question is “How many grapes will I need to make my desired amount of wine?”. The answer changes slightly depending on the origin of the grapes. South American producers fill their crates with 18lbs of grapes. This typically requires the winemaker to purchase 4 crates (18lbs each) to yield 5 gallons of wine. The same formula roughly applies to South African grapes as well, with their grapes being packed 20lbs per crate. Obviously this will yield the winemaker a bit more juice, but the overall formula is applicable.

Fall harvest from the northern hemisphere gives us slightly different guidelines to follow for estimating yield. North American producers have larger crates, packed 36lbs/crate. On average, each crate yields 2.5 gallons of juice, the winemaker needing two crates per five gallons of desired wine. Seasonal growing conditions apply to the yield as well, rainfall having the most profound effect upon juice yield. Also, premium growing areas where the grapevines grow under stressed conditions, resulting in premium fruit will yield significantly less juice than grapes grown in irrigated fields. We suggest purchasing one additional crate per desired 5 gallons of finished product. The two crates per five gallon rule is a safe assumption when estimating juice yield, as it is more of a conservative estimate of juice yield. We often hear reports of a higher yield rate for certain west coast varietals. Berry size will affect the yield of juice as well. Pinot Noir and Grenache berries are significantly larger than Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Syrah berries, often yielding up to 10% more juice. While a certain level of experience and research can aid in the estimated juice yield from your grapes, the basic rule of 4 crates per 5 gallons for South American/African produce and 2 crates per 5 gallons for North American produce is an easy means of determining how much produce you will need.

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. 

Argentina Has Officially Been Added to Our Spring Grape Program

Argentina Has Officially Been Added to Our Spring Grape Program!

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Location: Mendoza, Argentina – specifically the Perdriel area in Lujan de Cayo county

Grapes Being Sourced: Malbec, their Malbec makes up 46% of their farmed vineyards.

Grower Information: The first Cantinian vineyard was planted in 1923. As of 2012, the wine grapes grown in the Cantinian vineyards were certified organic by Argencert (in conjunction with the USDA Organic Certification) and accredited by Global Program IFOAM. The vineyards are situation on elevated terrain with views of the Andes Mountains.

Geeky Facts: Their 2009 Malbec received 90 points in the Wine Advocate and a Silver Medal in the San Francisco International Wine Festival

Paso Robles Update

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Paso Robles is one of California’s emerging AVA’s. It has grown from a sleepy town to a high end wine growing and wine producing region. Paso Robles Wine Country is ideally located along California’s Central Coast, conveniently between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Over the past decade the number of wineries has more than tripled, and Paso Robles is now home to nearly 200 wineries. Winemaking on the Central Coast began when the Franciscan Friars traveled through California establishing Missions. The Missionaries started planting grapes in 1790. You can still see these vines growing today. Since the original plantings of the Missionaries, Paso Robles has become a top destination for farmers to plant grapes. Many famous people have planted vineyards and started wineries in this region. For example, Ignace Paderewski, the Polish pianist purchased 2,000 acres in the 1920’s. He planted Petite Sirah and Zinfandel and eventually opened York Mountain Winery; which is still in existence today.

Paso Robles is comprised of 26,000 acres of wine grapes. It is one of the fastest growing wine regions in California and on the Central Coast. It has a diverse topography. There are rivers, roiling hills, flat lands, and mountains. The soil is comprised of bedrock, weather granite, marine sedimentary rocks, and volcanic rocks. Because of the many different soil components one vineyard block could contain several different soil types.


In terms of grapes, Paso Robles is known for growing Zinfandel, but has gained recognition for Bordeaux and Rhone varieties. The AVA likes to produce non-traditional blends. It is a valley that doesn’t follow the rules and expectations of tradition winemaking. The winemakers of Paso Robles like to make their own rules.

Musto Wine Grape Company will be offering the following wine grapes from Paso Robles: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Old Vine Zinfandel.

  • The Paso Petite Sirah resides on the East side of Paso Robles. Days are hot for a longer period of time than the west side but the temperature will drop down to 50 degrees and below at night. The grapes ripen while maturing slowly to produce  a wine with aromas of blueberry, raspberry, and black coffee.  The wines from this area show deep color, are full bodied, and have a smooth tannic structure.
  • The Paso Merlot, and Syrah are sourced from Tolosa Winery from their “Meeker Vineyard” blocks.  The Syrah is the Shenandoah Clone and on 5BB rootstock. Finally, the Merlot is Clone 3 and on 5BB rootstock.
  • The Paso Zinfandel and Old Vine Zinfandel are sourced from the Steinbeck Vineyard. The Zinfandel resides on east-west rolling hills. The soils are calcareous and are farmed by a multiple generation vintner.
  • The Pinot Noir is sourced from Opolo Vineyards of Paso Robles. The Pinot Noir vineyards are located in the Willow Creek AVA. This region cools down earlier than the East side. The area is known for getting any varietal ripe and mature. The soil is very calcareous which produces a very elegant Pinot Noir.
  • The Cabernet is sourced from Parrish Templeton Vineyards. These grapes go to wineries such as Opolo and Justin. It is located in the “Pomar Junction” area of the Templeton gap. The soil consists of clay topsoil, over-lying a fractured calcareous base. This vineyard was created to produce high end Cabernet.
  • Varieties from Paso Robles:
    • Cabernet Suavignon
    • Merlot
    • Pinot Noir
    • Petite Sirah
    • Syrah
    • Zinfandel
    • Old Vine Zinfandel

We are currently taking orders for ALL Paso Robles grapes. The Pinot Noir will be arriving on 9/9/16. Make sure to secure your grapes today!

sales@juicegrape.com / 877.812.1137

A taste of Italy from Lanza Musto Vineyards


{Lanza-Musto Brunello Clone Sangiovese going through veraison}

Can’t make it to Tuscany this year? Don’t worry, you can make some fabulous Sangiovese right here in the US! Lanza-Musto Vineyards has been producing Brunello Clone Sangiovese for the past 4 vintages. One of the big reasons we planted this varietal is because the valley provides hot days and cool nights. The temperature can swing over 50 degrees depending on the time of year. Sangiovese eats this type of weather up! This high producing varietal soaks up the sun and enjoys the break under the cool night air.

When producing Sangiovese wines keep in mind that even though it is a bold tasting wine, it can easily be overtaken by oak infusions. Both the Musto Wine Grape Co. and Winemaker Magazine suggest using small amounts of oak or aging your wine in neutral barrels. The oak flavoring can overpower the wine and you will lose the delicate acidity and  bright cherry notes that Sangiovese is known for. Also, blending in a little LMV Barbera or Merlot can help give it a little extra structure and complexity. 

Since Sangiovese originated in Italy, the wines pair famously with anything tomatobased. We suggest pasta, pizza, or any meat dishes that have a tomato sauce. Frank Musto from Musto Wine Grape Co., LLC. personally enjoys his Sangiovese with Pepe’s Pizza from New Haven, CT or a great Chicken Marsala.

Sangiovese is one of the hottest up and coming varietals being produced in the United States. Make sure to secure your order of Brunello Clone Sangiovese for Fall 2016. You will not be disappointed!

Cheers and Happy Winemaking!


{Lanza-Musto Brunello Clone Sangiovese ready to ship to Musto Wine Grape Company}

Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, & Carmenere Arrive from Chile

Hello Winemakers!

Below are the Brix numbers from the Red Grapes that have arrived so far from Chile. We received Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carmenere. We look forward to you all of you picking up and enjoying the wine grapes of Chile! It looks like it’s going to be a great vintage!

Malbec: 23.5

Merlot: 23.0

Syrah: 23.0

Cabernet Sauvignon: 24.0

Carmenere: 26.0

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We are awaiting several more loads containing Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Syrah. We will have arrival dates for these loads soon.


*Please keep in mind these numbers are only sample of what arrived from Chile. Please make sure to take your own Brix readings when you receive your grapes for the best possible fermentation outcome.


Chilean Harvest Update: Arrival Dates

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Chilean Harvest Update: Arrival Dates

The wines of Chile –  along with the winemakers and vineyards that produce them –  have had some profound transformations in the past 30 years. Grape growers have successfully determined which varietals thrive in their vineyards,  have experimented with unique trellising systems, and explored interesting new areas for planting. The wines now have a head start because of the wonderful grape quality.

The winemakers have been upping their game by attending classes and working in wineries abroad –  bringing back with them modern winemaking  practices from the finest winemaking regions across Europe and the USA. Even highly regarded, award-winning winemakers from other countries are moving to Chile so they can  take advantage of the country’s grape quality – and to have full creative control to craft spectacular wines. It’s crazy awesome that we are able to receive the same high quality grapes and winemaking opportunities people travel so far to achieve. We are lucky to be a part of this wine journey with the vineyards and winemakers of Chile.

The grapes will be harvested very soon. Below is more in-depth information about the vineyards and the potential arrival dates. The season will be early, so dust off the crush pad, sanitize your equipment, and get ready for some fantastic winemaking.

We will have a Bootcamp class running during the Chilean Season. If you would like to join or hear more information please email Christina at cmusto@juicegrape.com. Spaces are limited and the class will be starting soon.


Potential Arrival Dates for Chilean Grapes

  • April 18th
    • Sauvignon Blanc
    • Chardonnay
    • Viognier
    • Pinot Grigio
  • May 2nd
    • Malbec (small amount)
    • Merlot
    • Syrah
  • May 9th
    • Petite Verdot
    • Malbec
    • Pinot Noir
    • Carmenere
    • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • May 16th
    • Malbec
    • Carmenere
    • Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Cabernet Franc


Chilean Juice: The juice should start arriving around May 2nd. We will have more updated when the containers are loaded.