How to Make Zinfandel

Wine Grape Spotlight: Mettler Ranch Zinfandel

Wine Grape Spotlight: Mettler Ranch Zinfandel

Mettler Zinfandel-winemaking-hwo to make wine-zinfandel-musto wine grape

When making Mettler Ranch Zinfandel you can create a wine with earthy and smoky aromas. Along with a complex medley of flavors including plum, blackberry jam, tobacco, anise, and sweet oak. The sturdy but softly integrated tannins yield to subtle oak notes (if you make an oak addition) as the wine lingers on the palate. These grapes create a wine full of Zinfandel personality! Winemaker Adam Mettler suggests some light French oak to add a little extra complexity.

If you can hold off drinking your wine right away and lay it down for 1-2 years it will only gain more of that zesty, delicious personality. If you’re interested in trying out a different Zin this year, Mettler Ranch is a great choice. Email sales@juicegrape.com or call the office at 877-812-1137 for more details on how to reserve these grapes.

The Mettler Family has been farming wine grapes since the 1800’s. Recognized in the Agricultural Hall of Fame, they are 8th generation grape growers in Lodi, CA. With over 800 acres farmed in Lodi county, some vineyards being upwards of 100 years old, these vines are meticulously managed and maintained. All of their vineyards are LODI RULES certified and some are Certified Organic through the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers).

Lodi has a classic Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and cool, moist winters. The dry warm summer days allow Lodi grapes to develop full, ripe fruit flavors while the distinctive breezes maintain the natural acidity for structure and complexity in finished wines.

The Mettler Zinfandel is sourced from their vineyards by the Mokelumne River, referred to as “Old Lodi.” The soil is sandy and this sub appellation is known for being an epicenter for Old Vine Zinfandel. The vines are 50 years old, sustainably farmed, and certified through LODI RULES.

Making Mettler Ranch Zinfandel (5-6 gallons):

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Yeast Suggestions:


Winemaking Steps:

  1. Sanitize and Crush and Destem – Inspect your grapes. Crush and destem into clean and sanitized food grade 50LTR fermenting tub. Always allow an extra 20% of volume for fermentation purposes as the wine will “expand” throughout fermentation. Always rinse your fermentation vessel with a sanitizing strength potassium metabisulfite solution (2oz/gallon or 3tbsp/gallon). Make sure that the sanitizing solution touches all the surfaces of the fermentation vessel and that the vessel is completely emptied out of all sanitizing solution after. Shake free any drops as best you can from the fermentation vessel. Having remaining sulfite liquid in the vessel will prohibit fermentation. Do not rinse the sanitizer off with water after sanitizing as that will reintroduce bacteria to the environment.
  2. Once all of the grapes are crushed, try to accurately measure your quantity of must. Add ¼ tsp of potassium metabisulfite for every 5 gallons of must that you have. Mix up the must thoroughly.
  3.  ALWAYS record the additions you make to your grape must!
  4. Wait for 6-8 hours after the sulfite addition and then add color pro to the must. Always mix it with water to create a 10% solution (if you use 5mls of enzyme, mix it with 45mls of water). The water allows it to better circulate throughout the must. Allow the pectic enzyme to work for 12 hours before yeast set.
  5. Twenty four hours after crushing the grapes, mix the container thoroughly and take and record your measurements. Measure Brix, pH, and TA. If you need to adjust your must at all, this is the time to do it. Ideally your Brix should be between 23-28 degrees, the pH between 3.4-3.7, and the TA between 6-7g/L. Your initial Brix reading, multiplied by .55, will give you a close estimate of your ending alcohol by volume percentage.
  6. If you would like to use fermentation tannins (FT Rouge, oak dust) or fermentation nutrients such as Opti-Red, add them after measurements and adjustments have been made. Mix any of these ingredients in thoroughly.
  7. After measurements have been taken and any adjustments have been made, it is time to set yeast if you are using a cultured yeast strain. Follow the yeast set directions on the packet explicitly.
  8. After you get to temperature and add your yeast, you may cover the vessel lightly with an old sheet or towel or place the lid gently on top of the bucket.
  9. Obtain a must punch tool, a long stainless steel spoon, or your bare hands, and sanitize your tool or hands with sulfite sanitizer. This is what you will use to “punch down” or mix up the must three times a day. Try to mix everything very well, pushing all of the skins back down to the bottom, getting them very wet, and bringing up the piqued from the bottom. This should be done as often as possible, preferably three times a day. [Before work (7am), after work(5pm), and before bed (10pm)] When punching down every evening, take a sample of the liquid and using your hydrometer, track the Brix depletion. You should notice a drop in Brix daily. Always record your additions to your must, your brix depletion, and punch downs.
  10. If you are using additional yeast nutrients to assist in fermentation you will add them after fermentation has started. Fermaid O is added at the beginning of fermentation (1 day after yeast set) and Fermaid K will be added at 1/3 depletion of the Brix (2/3 of the beginning amount of Brix). Follow the directions for the individual yeast nutrient, hydrating with water and mixing thoroughly.
  11. If you are adding malolactic cultures to your wine, you may also chose to do this at 1/3 Brix depletion. Follow all directions on the bacteria and nutrient packets explicitly.
  12. Punch down and take Brix measurements daily. When your hydrometer reads 0.90, you have fermented to dryness. At this point your malolactic fermentation may still continue, but the primary alcoholic fermentation is complete. You may now press the wine. Wash the press and sanitize using potassium metabisulfite. Again, make sure the press does not have any excessive puddles or lingering amounts of sanitizing solution remaining. Sanitize the receiving container carboy and any pumps or tubing that you may use. Anything that comes into contact with the wine should be rinsed with sulfite sanitizing solution. Place a screen (also sanitized) inside of the press to hold back any extra skins or seeds from getting through. Start scooping up the must and placing it in the press. Some of the liquid will immediately flow through, this is the “free run”. When the press is full, slowly begin pressing. Do not try and press every last drop out of the must as this can lead to seed cracking and bitterness in the wine. Fill each container to within ½” of the top and secure a bung and airlock in place. Malolactic fermentation will exude a small amount of carbon dioxide and there will be trapped gas within the wine that will need to escape the container.
  13. Allow the wine to sit for 2-3 weeks. You can conduct malolactic chromatography or bring a sample to a winemaker at Musto Wine Grape for analysis to ensure that your secondary fermentation is finished. At this point you should see a nice thick layer of lees in the bottom of the carboy. You will want to place the full vessel onto an elevated surface such as a table and place the new, sanitized, empty vessel on the floor below. Using a sanitized siphon, rack the wine into the new carboy. You may have space at the top which will need to be “topped off” with more wine. You can either use wine from another container, or finished wine to do this. It is very important that there is less than a 1/2” of headspace in each container. At this point you should also add 1/4tsp of potassium metabisulfite per 5 gallons of wine.
  14. Now it is time to let your wine age. You will need to rack it and add additional SO₂ every 3 months. Make sure you sanitize all equipment and containers when racking and keep them topped off within ½”. Come visit Musto Wine Grape for bottling advice and supplies.

For more winemaking details check out the posts below:

Awards won by Mettler 2017 Lodi “Epicenter” Old Vine Zinfandel:

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  • 93 Points, Best of Class & Gold Medal – 2019 Los Angeles Wine Competition
  • 91 Points – Wine Enthusiast Magazine (February 2020)
  • 91 Points & Gold Medal – 2019 Sunset Int’l Wine Competition
  • 91 Points – 2019 California State Fair
  • Gold Medal – 2018 San Francisco International Wine Competition

If you are interested in purchasing wine grapes or winemaking juices this fall please email sales@juicegrape.com or call 877-812-1137 for pricing and information. We are looking forward to speaking with you about your 2020 vintage!