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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.

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 30 – How do I test for pH?

 

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! :)

pH scale diagram with corresponding acidic or alcaline values for common substances, food, household chemicals . Litmus paper color chart. Colorful vector illustration in flat style isolated on white background.

How do I test for pH?

Testing for pH is a reasonably simple process for your wine. Based on your budget, you can obtain a variety of pH measuring implements. There are pH test strips that will give you an approximate level of pH in your wine. They give a color reaction that when compared to a chart, indicates the pH of the wine. The next level up in sophistication as well as price is a basic pH meter. Musto wine grape offers a simple handheld pH meter that can be calibrated in a matter of minutes and gives precise and accurate pH readings. The probe must be stored properly in a storage solution to ensure that it does not dry out. The probe lasts from 12-18 months, depending on its care and must be purged after this time frame. With the most basic model, you throw out the entire unit and buy a new one. With the more sophisticated models of pH meters, the probe is replaced separately from the unit (which should last indefinitely).

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.

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 27- What are 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! :)

brix in field

What are Brix?

Brix is the unit of measurement of the sugar content within fruit, and specifically to winemaking, grapes. One degree Brix is equal to 1 gram of sucrose within 100 grams (100ml) of liquid. The average Brix level for grapes is between 20-30.

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.

Rose´ is Here to Stay

Rose´ has become an important part of the wine market. What originally started out as White Zinfandel has transformed into a large and growing wine category made from a lot of different wine grapes. One of the most important grapes used in the production of Rose´ is Grenache.

The Grenache grape is part of the original “Rhone Rangers” crew and one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world (over 500,000 acres planted so far..). It ripens late so it needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, where the grape most likely originated. Grenache flourishes in the AVA’s such as Central Valley, Fresno County, Lodi, and other Mediterraneanstyle climates.

Usually a brilliant ruby pink hue with notes of ripe strawberry, orange, hibiscus and sometimes with a hint of ripe peach. You’ll find Rose´of Grenache wines to have moderately high acidity, but most have quite a bit of color and body. Perfect pairing with this wine would be a summer evening and takeout Greek Gyros with dill tzatziki.

If you’re interested in making a Rose´wine and need a little help, our Winemaker Maureen Macdonald has made many different styles of Rose´ and is a major fan of Rose´ herself. Tips ranging from how long to leave the grapes on the skins to the best wine yeast to bring out specific flavors….when it comes to Rose´ Maureen can help you make an award worthy pink wine. Dry, sweet, or off dry Maureen has the winemaking tips for you!

Below are some photos of our beautiful Grenache Noir from our newest vineyard- King’s River. They will be arriving in early September. Make sure to put in your pre-order for this Rose´worthy grape! 

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New Vineyard: King’s River

The King’s River Vineyard is located in Sanger, CA – Southeast of Fresno, on the way to Squaw Valley, Tahoe and the Sierra Foothills.
The vineyard is made up of 40 acres of white ash & sandy loam soil. The vineyard has been in existence since 1954 and the family has grown everything from grapes for wine and raisins to peaches, plums, and apricots on this little piece of paradise. However, they ultimately decided to focus on what they love most – boutique style wines. The vineyard produces Cabernet Sauvignon (Clone 337), Petite Sirah, Alicante, Syrah, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Primitivo, Albariño, Muscat, and Chenin Blanc. Each block is meticulously managed. They thin leaves, drop fruit to secure intense flavors, and drip irrigate as to not over-water the vines. This family definitely produces grapes of distinction.

Their Wine Awards Include…
• 2014 Reserve Petite Sirah- Silver Medal
• 2014 Syrah- Bronze Medal
• 2014 Alicante Bouchet- Bronze Medal
• 2015 Reserve Albarino- Bronze Medal

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The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 25 – Why is my wine evaporating?

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! :)

Smoke or vapor coming from a wine glass on black background.

Why is my wine evaporating?

Just like water or any other liquid, with prolonged exposure to air, wine can evaporate. When aging wine in an enclosed container such as a tank, carboy, or demijohn, the container should have an airtight seal via an inflatable gasket or an airlock and bung. This will help prevent against oxidation and will reduce the amount of evaporation dramatically. If you still see some evaporation happening in one of these closed containers, evaluate your bungs and seals as they may not be working properly.

The main source of evaporation in winemaking is through barrel aging. Barrels are a porous environment that allows the wine to “breathe” over time. This “breathing” process is essentially evaporation. The wine is exposed to air through the porous staves and small portions of the wine evaporate into the atmosphere. This has positive effects on the wine as it creates a creamier mouthfeel, can reduce the perception of acidity, and imparts oak flavor. The barrel must be filled monthly with additional wine to reduce the head space and replace the evaporated product. This will prevent the wine in the barrel from oxidizing. While the breathing process may be a source of frustration, as you witness your wine evaporating into thin air, it will help you to create a fuller, heavier, more lush 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.

Making Wine from a 1 Gallon Wine Kit By Frank Renaldi

VNP 1 US Gal Packaging (2)

I have never made a gallon of wine in my life; I mean not that small a batch. I am used to making much more wine at a time, from a few gallons to 4000 gallons at a winery. I have made wine from mostly fresh grapes, white juice and even 6 gallon kits. In fact I have made over 50 kits in my days, but I had to think twice before I made a ONE gallon kit.

Well, I did it and guess what? It was fun! I made a one gallon kit from Mosti Mondiale Vinifera Noble. I tried the Malbec, since I just made 45 gallons from Chilean grapes. I thought it would be a good comparison on the nose and the taste. Since I made kits before, I was familiar with the process. And this small kit was no different – It was the same process you have for the standard six gallon kits.

The biggest challenge I had to deal with was the smaller fermentation and storage vessels required for one gallon of wine. I started by pouring the grape juice in a one gallon bottle and then topping it with water to measure out the correct volume. You can buy a two gallon fermentation pail, but I thought I would try using one of my 3 gallon carboys with an air trap. So I poured the gallon of adjusted wine into the 3 gallon carboy and then poured the yeast into the opening in the carboy. It worked fine.

In order to test the specific gravity of the wine during fermentation, I just poured some of the wine into a hydrometer jar. After taking the measurement, I poured the wine back into the carboy to continue fermenting. There was no wasting of wine on this batch. When I had to stir the wine, I simply shook the entire carboy.

When fermentation was complete, I racked the wine into a small pail. Then I added in the packets of sulfite, sorbate and clarifying agents supplied with the kit. Then this finished wine was poured into a gallon jug to settle for further rackings and aging. Always remember to top off the storage vessel to avoid oxidation.

I think the biggest challenge was the de-gassing of the wine. Normally, with a six gallon kit we whip the wine with a degassing wand on the end on a drill. We need to get rid of the gas trapped in the wine for clarifying and for a still wine (no fizz). With this small batch, there really is not enough wine to whip. I decided to use a vacuum pump to degas the wine, which I have also used on larger batches of kit wines. A small vacuum pump is easy to use and economical.

So, my wine is aging and smells wonderful. I will get five 750ml bottles of wine from this kit. So why make such a small batch? It is a great way to learn how to make wine as a beginning wine maker. The cost is minimal, but the experience is great. You can make 2, 3, or 4 different grape varietals and blend them when they are finished. Once you get your feet wet with these starter kits, you can move onto six gallon kits which yield 30 bottles – now we are talking. Then you have the confidence to move up to juice and grapes. After that, there is no stopping you!
Have fun with this smaller kit. I did and had fun doing it!!

Frank Renaldi

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 18 – Tips for Racking Your Wine

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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 Joys of Racking Wine….

Racking your wine is a necessary evil. We know it can be tedious, but it the end it is so worth it.

Things to keep in mind when racking:

Cleanliness: We cannot express this enough. The cleaner your cellar, the less risk you have of spoilage, the better your wine will be. Aka SANITIZE EVERYTHING!! (however if doing MLF rinse with hot water as not to kill the ML bacteria) Use a solution of potassium metabisulfite dissolved in warm water. Add 2 tbsp to a 5 gallon bucket of water. Make sure that everything that will touch your wine (siphon, hosing, carboys, stirring rods) are all rinsed with this solution. Do not rinse it off with water, just shake off any excess droplets.

Primary Racking: Rack after your primary alcoholic fermentation is complete. This protects your wine from any initial microbial fermentation issues. Getting the new wine off of the dead yeast cells in important for the health of your wine to prevent off aromas.

Secondary Racking: Rack after the Malo-Lactic fermentation has finished. At the second racking you will want to rack your wine into an aging vessel. Whether that is a stainless steel tank or an oak barrel. Don’t forget to sulfite, unless you are doing MLF.

Third and/or Fourth Racking is used more for clarification purposes. Solids and fining agents (if used) will fall out of suspension and form a layer on the bottom of your aging vessel. Racking every 2-3 months, will consistently clarify your wine.

Using a pump makes life so much easier. You can pretty much sit back and relax with a glass of wine while your juice is being transferred. If you don’t have a pump the best way to rack is by using a siphon and the gravity method. Put the primary vessel up some place high (a table) and rack into your new vessel on a lower surface (floor).

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.

Chilean Wine Grape Update: Arrivals & In Stock

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As of 5/2/2017 the following is in stock…

Juices:
ALL Chilean Varieties
ALL South African Varieties

Grapes:
Malbec
Carmenere
Merlot
Petite Verdot
Syrah

To Arrive 5/5/17….

Juices:
ALL Chilean Varieties

Grapes:
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Franc
Carmenere
Pinot Noir
Petite Verdot
Malbec
Merlot
Syrah

Please feel free to contact us at sales@juicegrape.com or 877.812.1137 to schedule your pick up!

We are looking forward to working with you this Spring Harvest! Keep an eye on our Facebook Page and Harvest Tracker for more harvest information and upcoming wine classes.