I bottled the wine over the weekend*. I think I'm getting the hang of siphoning, as more stuff gets into the bottle than onto the floor.
I have deduced, somewhat unscientifically, that this wine is a Riesling, based on the similarity between the flavor of this wine and a Riesling that our neighbor served one night last summer. This wine has a much greener taste, very dry, very tart, won't win any awards, and I suspect that the grapes where a little underripe when I picked them. Also it probably could have used a little added sugar.
One big mistake I made here was that I racked too soon, before the wine had cleared completely. I did this becuase the initial ferment was in a 5-gallon bucket which had too much air inside, and I was afraid of making the same mistake I made with the dandelion wine. Really, I should have racked it again, after it cleared more. Instead, it sat on a thin layer of must which crystallized on the bottom of the jugs. That can't have been good.
I'm calling this a success, especially because I can look forward to a whole summer of feeding this wine to friends and watching them pretend that they like it.
* I actually bottled half of the wine around Christmas and gave most of that to the neighbors that provided the grapes.
Probably of no interest to you, but for recordkeeping purposes, I would like to make a general announcement that I racked my neighborgrape wine last night.
Couple of notes:
1. The siphoning thing went a lot smoother because I finally figured out how to use the siphon.
2. It tasted fine. Not a whole lot of alcohol, but but it was not unpleasant.
3. I topped off both gallons with a little water so that there is minimal airspace in the jug.
I'm deathly afraid of making the same mistake with the grape wine as I did with the dandelion. I suspect that I fermented it with too much air touching it. So on Saturday I racked the grape wine into two gallon jugs, filled all the way to the top.
There was alcohol in it already, and I suppose that the main ferment was about at an end. Very soupy bright green color. The siphoning went a little better.
Well, that didn't work.
Tasted the dandelion wine just now. Pretty bad. I guess it's vinegar. It tastes like rubbing alcohol mixed with some kind of vinegar. No, that's not right. It has that taste of a spoiled bottle of wine. I guess its vinegar. No more orangy taste.
I probably should have drank it weeks ago. I don't know. I suspect that the main problem was air, in that I fermented it in a 5-gallon carboy, then racked it into a one-gallon jug but didn't top it off.
Oh well. I've got kind of a buzz at the moment from ingesting several large gulps while flailing around with the siphon.
I'm going to pour it down the drain now.
When my neighbors Mike and Ben found out that I was making dandelion wine, they graciously offered the grapes from their backyard for my winemaking purposes.
So I took them up on it. On the 14th I went over and picked a whole bunch of grapes. We've got this metal tub that we sometimes use to ice down drinks when we have a party. I filled that up until I couldn't fit any more grapes in it without them spilling over the sides. Then I sat down and started to destem them. Then, when I realized how long this was going to take, I began to regret picking all those grapes.
Cristy came home and saw what I was doing and naiively offered to help. We took the operation into the kitchen, sat down with an array of buckets and tubs and crocks for rinsing, for stems, for destemmed grapes. And we sat there and destemmed until midnight. Cristy tried to go to bed at least twice. "Are you ready to go to bed?" she asked. "No," I grimly replied. "When are you going to quit?" she said. "When this is done," I said. Then she felt guilty and sat down again and started pulling grapes. Little tiny grapes, most about the size of chickpeas. I kept wondering how this is normally done. There must be a machine. But how was it done before machines? In his book First Steps in Winemaking, C.J.J. Berry simply says, "remove the stems." He doesn't give any advice about the best way to go about this. I sat there and pulled grapes and tried to remember how my college roommate did it.
When I was in college, I lived in a house that had some grapes in the yard. We all ignored them except for Tammy, who picked them one year, put them in a tub and smashed them with her feet like you see in movies. I don't remember if Tammy removed the stems before she crushed them. She put the juice in a five-gallon carboy with the bubbler and all that and left it there. A couple months later, she moved out and left the wine behind. That fall, my other roommate Ingrid decided that she was going to serve the wine at a party. Someone fit a tap to the top of the carboy (or maybe it was just a siphon) and it was served in the backyard to a bunch of loutish college students. I remember thinking that it was too soon to drink the wine. Anyway, the wine was good enough for students like us, whose high water mark of taste in alcoholic beverages was Mickey's malt liquor or whatever came in a 40-ounce bottle.
My grandfather also made wine, but all I have in my brain regarding that is a vague memory of people not liking it.
More recently, a friend who worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia in the 80s told me that her roommate made wine from grape juice. They put it in a bottle and put a latex glove over the top. When the glove stood up, that's when they knew the wine was ready to drink. I asked her how long that was, and she said, "about three weeks."
When we were done, we crushed the grapes with our hands, poured them into a bucket with a lid and went to bed.
The next night we squeezed juice out of the smashed up grapes. We did this by taking a cotton towel, scooping a bunch of grape must into it, and squeezing the juice out if it. Another tedious process, but really this was nothing compared to to picking the grapes. We had it done in no time, and ended up with two-and-a-half gallons of grape juice.
I was planning to put all the wine in the glass carboy I have, the one I used for the first ferment on the dandelion. But I didn't really have a funnel that was big enough to pour into without spilling a lot of the juice. So I opted to put it in my plastic fermenter.
What I should have done is poured out the whole thing into three gallon-jugs, and topped off the third so that there wasn't any air touching the liquid. At least that's what the books say. But I didn't have three gallon jugs to spare.
I checked the specific gravity. It says that I can expect about 10% alcohol, which is not bad. I decided not to add any sugar. I added a half packet of champaigne yeast, sealed the bucket and put it away on a shelf in the shop.
Over the next three or four days the shop smelled like baking bread. The yeast smell was incredible. I'm going to go buy some more gallon bottles to rack it into in a couple weeks. And a bigger funnel.
The dandelion wine has had a rough few months. It sat out in the shop during the entire two months we were in the motel, which was probably not the best place for it since the temperature in there could get up to around 90F during the day. I racked it into a smaller gallon bottle and keep it inside now. It may be my imagination, but it seems like it used to be clearer, then it got hot and became cloudy like this but was even darker, and now it has lighted up considerably, maybe even cleared some. I don't know. When I racked it it tasted like wine, for whatever that's worth. It tasted more like oranges than anything else.
Today I did these steps:
Poured mixture back into pot, brought to a boil.
Added the peelings (I used a zester) of three tangelos (the recipe calls for 4 oranges).
Boiled mixture for 10 minutes, then strained through a cloth back into the bucket (I rinsed it out good first).
Let mixture cool.
Activated the yeast by following instructions on packet (I used Lalvin K1-V1116), then poured the yeast and the juice of the tangelos into the mixture, then poured the whole thing into a carboy and fit the widget in the top and put the carboy more or less out of the way. I need a better place for it.
So is it OK to substitute tangelos for oranges? Is it ok to have the citrus pulp in the mixture? Was the mixture the right color? Am I using the right yeast? Did I make a fatal error because I didn't follow the instructions exactly because I have a "problem with authority?" These questions and more will be answered in six months to a year.
Since the dandelions have passed their prime, food-wise, I'm going to try making dandelion wine.
Up to now, coffee is the only thing I've ever brewed, so this is a completely new experience, which features lots of work and a high chance of producing an undrinkable drink that will make Cristy make "the face." So let's begin.
Ok, I've picked the "Midday Dandelion Wine" recipe on this page , mostly because it seems the simplest.
Step one: gather the dandelions.
I have lots of dandelions in my back yard. As it turns out, as of today they have produced just enough flowers for this recipe. Picking dandelions can make your lower back sore. It did mine, at any rate If you have brats, send them to do it, but be prepared for them to get stung by bees.
Here's what I ended up with:
Step two: prepare the petals.
This recipe says to "remove as much of the green material from the flower heads as possible." I'm in kind of a newbie quandry here. What does "as much as possible" mean? I've got a bowlful of flowerheads... do I remove every piece of green? Is just pinching off the bottom part and making sure there aren't any stems and leaves good enough? I spent about 45 minutes pinch the heads off of each friggin flowerhead before I lost patience and dumped the remaining unpinched flowers into the finished bowl, which looked like this:
Step three: pour boiling water over the petals and let steep for two days.
I was thinking about using one of the old crocks we have for this step, but instead I'm going to use the bucket that came with the winemaker's starter kit I bought from Victor's Grape Arbor in Albuquerque.