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The Toast: Adventures in Winemaking

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December 13, 2012

The Toast: Adventures in Winemaking

By David Draper

My first real attempt at winemaking all started with crabapples. Earlier this fall, I got a hot tip about a crabapple tree that was overloaded with fruit, so I went searching. Sure enough, the tree, in the backyard of some anonymous doublewide, was literally collapsing under the weight of its bounty. Branches the size of my calves had snapped and the boughs were bowing to the ground. I picked a bucketful of fruit and went home not quite sure what to do with them.

If you’ve never had them, you should know crabapples are much too bitter to eat out of your hand. However, with the right amount of sugar, you can make them into a pretty good jelly. But I’m not a jelly maker. Nor was I wine maker. But I am now. After turning that first batch of crabapples into a bottle of tasty crabapple schnapps, I went back for another haul when some research turned up a recipe for crabapple wine.

That batch of wine is now bottled and aging. Before that batch was out of the primary, I had bought a winemaking kit and started a five-gallon batch of EdWort’s Apfelwein, the recipe for which is hugely popular (as in 1.5 million views) over on the Home Brew Talk Forums. That, too, is bottled and aging.

This past weekend, I picked up a can of blackberry puree, which I started in the one-gallon fermenter today. I also bought the makings for a six-gallon batch of Spanish Tempranillo and I’m this close to splurging on an oak barrel to age it in. This winemaking is like an addiction, I tell you.

So, before I get in over my head (too late), I thought I better seek the advice of my knowledgeable readers. Any tips for a newbie winemaker, particularly one who had a hard time passing chemistry in college?

Comments (9)

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from maynardtl8 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I cant give any advice particularly on wine making, as I have never done it before, but I do love to brew beer which is pretty similar between the two. I would love to make wine but just dont have the room for the equipment yet. It's pretty cramped as it is with my beer brewing equipment. But I can offer this advice. First, cleanliness is next to godliness. You cant be too clean with your equipment. But dont use any scented soaps, especially on plastic parts because the plastic will retain the perfume from the soap and carry over into the product. Sanitation is huge also. There are plenty of good quality no-rinse sanitizers on the brew market. Second, it helps to plan out your steps ahead of time to keep from getting anything mixed up and confused. Some mistakes cant be taken back so planning means everything. And on the flip side of that, take notes on the things you make especially if you like to experiment. Record measurements, steps, ingredients, and taste notes. It will help you learn and understand it when you have things written down in front of you. And lastly, dont feel overwhelmed. It might feel like it in the beginning when you are new to it, with all the different kinds of equipment and all the science and processes behind it, but once you do it a couple times it just seems a lot easier. Its supposed to be FUN not stressful. Theres plenty of time to learn the advanced stuff in the future. I hope this long post helped you. Have fun and good luck. Cheers!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Just out of curiosity, about how much were your start-up costs?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadlove wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

No tips, but I would like to see you go all Ray Bradbury and try to make dandelion wine.

I'm curious about start-up costs as well, and maybe a link to where you bought your wine-making kit. Homemade wine from free local sources...my inner frugal alcoholic locavore is intrigued.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Wonder if it is any better than what Koldkut recommended to me on cold Winter mornings on the river?...shot of Thunderbird Wine chased down with a bottle of Keystone Light.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Double D wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Bought my starter kit from Midwest Supplies, which is a great resources for all things brewing and winemaking. I think the one-gallon fruit wine kit with add-on (bottles, corker, etc.) was about $60. I've since spent another couple hundred bucks at wine stores in Denver and Fort Collins upgrading to bigger batches, buying grape concentrates, etc. but I think you could probably get started for maybe $100. I've corked about 30 bottles so far, so I'm looking at less than $10 per bottle and since that initial start-up cost the per bottle cost should decrease to an average of maybe $5 per?

And yes, dandelion wine is on the menu next summer seeing as how I usually have a bumper crop. Also on the active search for abandoned chokecherry, wild plum and sand cherry bushes.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from B0whunt3r wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

For any questions on how to make wine or recipies check out Jack Keller's wine blog. I've made about 12 batches of wine and that's where I got the best information. It is addicting.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Been home brewing for about 5 yrs. Seriously considering going all grain, in lieu of extract. Kegging system was worth every penny, but now I got a lot of thirsty friends! Only ruined 1 batch with too many oak chips. Mostly make big beers and still buy PBR, High Life and Yuengling. Also dabbled with Mead with good results. I wear the evidence that my beer is good.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I use Northernbrewer dot com and morebeer dot com, but supporting your local fly shop and brew supplier will get you into heaven.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from brktrt-18 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Three things. Sanitize your equipment, good ingredients, and time. Any sugar, be it from fruit, syrup, honey, even regular table sugar, can be made into wine. I enjoy making mead (honey wine). Gotmead.com in the newbee section is a great resource for making any homemade wine.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Double D wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Bought my starter kit from Midwest Supplies, which is a great resources for all things brewing and winemaking. I think the one-gallon fruit wine kit with add-on (bottles, corker, etc.) was about $60. I've since spent another couple hundred bucks at wine stores in Denver and Fort Collins upgrading to bigger batches, buying grape concentrates, etc. but I think you could probably get started for maybe $100. I've corked about 30 bottles so far, so I'm looking at less than $10 per bottle and since that initial start-up cost the per bottle cost should decrease to an average of maybe $5 per?

And yes, dandelion wine is on the menu next summer seeing as how I usually have a bumper crop. Also on the active search for abandoned chokecherry, wild plum and sand cherry bushes.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I use Northernbrewer dot com and morebeer dot com, but supporting your local fly shop and brew supplier will get you into heaven.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from maynardtl8 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

I cant give any advice particularly on wine making, as I have never done it before, but I do love to brew beer which is pretty similar between the two. I would love to make wine but just dont have the room for the equipment yet. It's pretty cramped as it is with my beer brewing equipment. But I can offer this advice. First, cleanliness is next to godliness. You cant be too clean with your equipment. But dont use any scented soaps, especially on plastic parts because the plastic will retain the perfume from the soap and carry over into the product. Sanitation is huge also. There are plenty of good quality no-rinse sanitizers on the brew market. Second, it helps to plan out your steps ahead of time to keep from getting anything mixed up and confused. Some mistakes cant be taken back so planning means everything. And on the flip side of that, take notes on the things you make especially if you like to experiment. Record measurements, steps, ingredients, and taste notes. It will help you learn and understand it when you have things written down in front of you. And lastly, dont feel overwhelmed. It might feel like it in the beginning when you are new to it, with all the different kinds of equipment and all the science and processes behind it, but once you do it a couple times it just seems a lot easier. Its supposed to be FUN not stressful. Theres plenty of time to learn the advanced stuff in the future. I hope this long post helped you. Have fun and good luck. Cheers!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Just out of curiosity, about how much were your start-up costs?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadlove wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

No tips, but I would like to see you go all Ray Bradbury and try to make dandelion wine.

I'm curious about start-up costs as well, and maybe a link to where you bought your wine-making kit. Homemade wine from free local sources...my inner frugal alcoholic locavore is intrigued.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Wonder if it is any better than what Koldkut recommended to me on cold Winter mornings on the river?...shot of Thunderbird Wine chased down with a bottle of Keystone Light.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from B0whunt3r wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

For any questions on how to make wine or recipies check out Jack Keller's wine blog. I've made about 12 batches of wine and that's where I got the best information. It is addicting.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Been home brewing for about 5 yrs. Seriously considering going all grain, in lieu of extract. Kegging system was worth every penny, but now I got a lot of thirsty friends! Only ruined 1 batch with too many oak chips. Mostly make big beers and still buy PBR, High Life and Yuengling. Also dabbled with Mead with good results. I wear the evidence that my beer is good.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from brktrt-18 wrote 1 year 17 weeks ago

Three things. Sanitize your equipment, good ingredients, and time. Any sugar, be it from fruit, syrup, honey, even regular table sugar, can be made into wine. I enjoy making mead (honey wine). Gotmead.com in the newbee section is a great resource for making any homemade wine.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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