Ok, I have read thru your response many times and looked up everything I didn't know about. I washed and picked all the grapes from the stems today and will do everything else tomorrow (grapes in the fridge currently). So here is my process I will execute with a few questions for you along the way.
1) Crush the grapes, lightly, as to not crack the seeds.
2) Take a BRIX reading (hoping for a 22-25 range)
I only have the pH strips, will this work for testing acid?
3) Pitch yeast (do I need to "sanitize" the grapes of their wild yeast before pitching yeast? Let the must sit in metabisulfate or something?)
4) after 5 days, rack off solids, press solids.
5) 1.5 days later, rack off the sludge at the bottom of carboy
6) pitch malolactic bacteria
7) wait until that is done, use metabisulfate to stop yeast activity and bottle
Am I missing any major steps in there? Also, I read about TA but that seems kind of hard and I don't want to be into this endeavor for a ton of money on supplies.
Thanks for your help, it's much appreciated.
2. Brix is a good measurement, how are you planning on measuring that, hydrometer I assume? If so, it's best to temperature correct the measurement (vinoenology.com is a good resource for this). What is the accuracy of your pH strips? If they are only accurate to 1 pH they won't tell you too much. If they are accurate to 0.5 it's better than nothing. If by chance they are accurate to .1pH that's pretty awesome. You want your pH to be in the range of 3.2-3.8. As far as brix go, that seems like a pretty good range. You don't want to adjust the sugar level too far because it'll impact the flavor of the final wine quite a bit but ~5 brix adjustment or so is generally fine.
3. Nope! The amount of SO2 you add at the beginning will take care of that well enough. Don't wash the grapes either, just ferment them dirty. Any microbe on there that could hurt you will die in the fermentation process, and any dirt or other debris will improve your terroir
4. I wouldn't do it that early unless your fermentation is done by then. You want to get the fermentation pretty much completed before doing this, unless you want a really light wine.
5. I would do one racking 1 day after pressing, and another 2 days after that then again maybe 3 months later.
7. Metabisulfite in a normal dosage will not kill commercial yeasts and some "natural" yeasts are also not very inhibited by it. It will take care of most all bacteria though.
The other thing I failed to mention is that when fermenting on the skins you will need to "punch down" the cap of skins that will float to the surface. Basically, just push the skins back into the juice and get them wet. You'll want to do this 2-3 times a day until you press off. Don't worry about TA, it mostly affects how tart the wine tastes and not as much it's microbial stability. pH is critical in terms of understanding the microbial stability of your wine, but TA isn't too important with that. Also, yeast nutrition is pretty important and I'd imagine your wild grapes are pretty nutrient deficient, so make sure and add some or else your yeast will probably get stressed and make your wine smell like rotten eggs. I'm subscribed to this thread and it helps me learn to talk things out with others on what they're trying to figure out. I'm in college for this so I should at least know the basics, so feel free to reply to this thread with any questions (and updates, pictures, etc.).