2013 crush report - This is a long one

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Feb 9, 2010
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Well folks, Last weekend was crush for me.

Here is what I made....
My "brunello" (blend of san gio, merlot, and petit sarah)
Cabernet (with 18 percent merlot)
Reserve Red (cab, merlot, and petit sarah blend to be barrel aged)
petit verdot port
johannisberg riesling

I ended up getting a great deal on a brand new 225 liter barrel ($449.99). The thing is simply beautiful.

Crush for me is a big deal (I am sure that it is a big deal for most of the good folks on this site), and in true Hungarian style I go overboard!

Thursday 9/19
Have a large portion of family down south (Va, Ga, and Fl). Most arrived thursday evening.

Friday 9/20
Took the day off work. Rented truck and picked up the grapes. Pressure washed all equipment and set up everything in advance of crush. Had crush day eve dinner of pizza. Took time meet and cover the plan for the next day. Gave uncle Charlie the all-too-important job of "winery watchdog" where he was to make sure that all crushed grapes coming into the winery go into the correct primary fermenter. Put my brother in charge of the truck and sorters, while I would man the press and direct all of the various activities.
Got to be around midnight.

Saturday 9/20
3am: Being too excited to sleep, woke up at 3am, made some coffee and just sat in the quiet to get mentally prepared for the upcoming busy day. I think I know how a general feels just before a battle.

4am: Began setting up all equipment and hitting everything with a good dose of k-meta. Prepared the press for "whole cluster" pressing of the Riesling.

6am: set up the breakfast table with the large coffee urn, bagels, muffins, etc.

7am: It begins. Brother arrives and we get started by setting the crusher/destemmer up against the back end of the rented truck..

Note: The truck I rent is 24 footer. You may think that this would be WAY too big, but it serves as an extra room where people can sort through grapes and then dump them off the back into the crusher/destemmer. The truck has plenty of room for a crew of 8 grape sorters. Also, since I pick the grapes up the day before crush, I can just roll down the door and not worry about any animals getting at the grapes overnight.

9am: More people have arrived. The head count is now large enough where I need to stop sorting grapes and start directing people. In all around 40 people have attended.
10am: My pal from Riverhorse Brewery arrives with 5 sixtals of beer. Ran two different types of beer (Pumpkin Ale and IPA). I have always said "to make a great wine, you start with a great beer".
11am: The grape sorters have finally reached the riesling grapes that were loaded (incorrectly) in amongst the red grapes. Began manning the press as the riesling grapes are delivered to the winery. We press whole clusters under low pressure and add grapes on top as we progress. This process takes time.

1pm: Lunch! Forced everyone to stop work and eat. The food must have been good and the troops must have been working hard because it got very quiet. I had spent an entire weekend (two weeks ago) cooking meatballs, sausage and peppers, and lasagna. Other folks brought food also (Perogies, Chilli, pulled pork, Ribs). In taking stock, everything is progressing at a great rate. We have about 1.5 hours of work left.

2pm: Work starts up again. I Grabbed a couple of the youngsters that are sitting around gabbing and had them set up a tent with chairs and tables for the “after crush” festivities.

3pm: Final push. Last of the riesling goes into the press. Once the last of the red grapes gets crushed, we began the process of breaking down the equipment and washing out the truck. People gathered under the tent for a much deserved glass of wine. This is where the work ends and the party begins.

4pm: Work is done!

I had started the tradition of the grape stomp. When sorting through the grapes, any “orphan” grapes (the handful that roll around at the bottom of each crate) were dumped into a small tub. The tradition is to have these grapes stomped under foot by an unlucky someone. I let my niece, who stomped them last year, pick the next victim. She chose my nephew Taylor. He was a good sport and the folks had a great laugh. The group had a lot of fun coming up with a name for this particular small batch of wine. The laughter grew as each suggestion was yelled out. We settled on “Taylor’s Toe-jam”. Of course this will be fermented on its own.

Once that tradition was met, I gathered everyone for a group photo.

My wife begins setting up for dinner.

Corks start flying out of bottles at a nice rapid pace.

5:30pm: Dinner – A more modest meal. Had leftovers from lunch and a number of things that were held in reserve just for dinner. My brother made the required Hungarian food (Chicken Paprikas and Lecho).
6:30pm: People begin to gather at the tent again. My sister-in-law and bother-in law begin playing some of their blue-grass music and most join in song. Passed out cigars to those that wanted them. Sun is beginning to set so we begin to light candles.

8:00pm Rain! Boy did it pour. Rather than give up the party, we all squeezed into the center of the tent. The party continues.
1:00am Party winds down and I finally get to bed for some much needed sleep!

Spend most of Sunday and Monday cleaning up after crush. The place was not in too bad a shape considering that we had over 40 people attend.

A couple of final notes…

- We had “humpers” that carried the grapes from the crusher to the winery (70 pounds at a time). Most of this was done by my 110lb niece and her friend. She may look small, but you do not want to be on her bad side!

- I must have been told about a dozen times that this year’s crush was one of the best and that it was so much more relaxed. I had my doubts due to events that occurred over the year. I must say that I was surprised on how great it was. There was no drama and although we were drinking wine afterwards, noone was really drunk. Everyone simply had a good time.

- An impromptu gang singing of “American Pie” sounds much better after a couple of glasses of wine.

- For the first time in 7 years, my entire family made it to crush. We had a bit of a falling out and this year saw us re-united. I made it a point to tell my mother that I loved her. She cried.

Punch-downs this week. Pressing will be on Saturday.
Wow! And I thought starting a kit in the kitchen with my wife present was a big deal.

I'm certain you created memories worth way more than the wine itself. :try
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Wonderful tradition and a great story John. This is what family is all about. Congrats on another successful CRUSH!
sounded like a great time and so well told I felt like I was there watching. You even put a little lump in my throat with that closing line.
Like bkisel said, I'm sure you created a ton of memories for all involved.
Sounds almost magical. Thank you for taking the time to write it up so that we could savor it with you!

This is the stuff that rich lives are made of.
Wow, that's a great story, and sounds like everyone has a good time.

Thanks for sharing it.
The saga continues

Once all of the must was in the winery, I took an initial temperature reading. All of the musts were just at 60 degrees. I turned the heat up in the winery (it has its own heat zone) to 80 degrees.

On sunday, at 3 pm, The temperature of the must had climbed to 65 degrees. Pitched yeast.

On monday, did morning and evening punchdowns. Temperature of must was at 67 degrees. I turned down the heat in the winery to 60 degrees. Fermentation will be its own heat source from this point forward. Yeast showing definite signs of life in the evening.

On tuesday, fermentation has definitely taken hold.
Must temp at the morning punchdown was at 74 degrees. At evening punchdown, sugar level was roughly half spent. Added secondary dose of fermax during the evening punchdown (a little later than usual). Evening temperature at 78 degrees.

This morning. You know it is a good day when you winery sounds like a giant bowl of rice crispies! About to do morning punchdown in a few minutes.

At this point, fermentation is going fast and hot, just how I like it! I guess my threatening the yeast with a can of welches really worked in motivating the little buggers! LOL
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Continuing with punch downs. Most of the batches are now below 4%.

I currently have my nephew spending the week after crush with me. I showed him how I do punch downs and he is all too eager to learn. Once I showed him how, he was more than willing to take the morning shift. Man, did he do a great job. He also helped me out during the evening shift. I see a future winemakingtalk member in the works!

Tonight, after the final punch down, its all about getting the equipment ready for pressing. On top of that, we will be getting the reisling into the tank so that there is more room to move around.

As an event, pressing is a lot more subdued than the crush. Since only a handful of people are needed, fewer people show up. Still, I need to worry about feeding the ones that do come. We are thinking of just getting sandwich makings and, perhaps, a couple of buckets of deli salads. I am concerned that this will not be hearty enough though. I may make some chilli.

I'd love to venture in crushing my own grapes in a future, I've been just doing juice buckets and kits and am told grapes are a different story.

This is really great to read, keep them coming..:)
Well folks,

Last saturday was press day. Had a much smaller crew then on crush day, but all went well and we managed to finsh up around 3pm. The "after party" went on until about 9pm. A much more subdued evening.

The results look really promising! The color on my brunello looks fantastic. Sampled some straight out of the press and it already tasted great.

Spent some of sunday and some of monday just cleaning up and putting equipment away.

I was feeling great... Right up to the point where I realized that there was only 358 day left until crush day. I had better get busy! :)
John, this sounds like a lot of fun!
I'm trying to start, or I should say restart the family wine tradition. My son and I will be making the first of hopefully a long tradition of making wine together, we are hoping to invite cousins, or family friends that are just like family to us.

We lost this tradition about 20 yrs ago when some of the old timers started to pass away, then finally stopped 17 years ago after my father passed away.
My son seems really pumped, I am really excited about teaching him anything that I can about wine making.
Thanks for a great post john!
I'd love to see crushing in action and will try to look around, grapes really got me intrigued with the whole process that I even thought about buying 2 cases (which yield 5gal of juice roughly) to crush and de-stem by hand with my kids.... :r

But haven't done it yet....
Pumpkinman: This is a great way to bond with your son. Just think, your great-grandchildren might enjoy a bottle that you make this year! I find it rather neat!

Geek: No better time than the present! Make it a point to do it and forge some memories like the ones you have of the "old-timers". What have you got to lose?
Thanks John for sharing that great experience....looking forward for more stories..:b

Even if only for 2 boxes I need to start reading from step 1 :D
John , sounds like a great time, that's the way memories are made. the kids will remember theses times for ever. how bout some pics next year. what was your final yield? and don't count the welches.

What a great read. That sounds like a great bonding experience for family of all ages. Do you need to adopt a aunt? I'm available.

This year the muscadine grapes on the fence of the house we bought came in really good. I had my daughter and her family helping us pick when they came for a visit. My son-in-law said when I told them we were going to pic grapes he was thinking "aw, she got a cute little grape vine". Well 2 hours into it, he was complaining that there seemed to be no end.
My 11 yr old grandson stayed a few more days and helped de-stem and crush by hand. He loved it. I told him I would save a bottle for his wedding. Next year, I think he will look forward to the event. Hopefully a tradition has started.
Wineointraining: My yeilds are as follows in l/l (liters per 36lb lug)...

Brunello: 10.84 l/l
Cab Sav: 10.18 l/l
Riesling: 10.41 l/l
Reserve: 11.6 l/l

Some of the folks that came had taken pictures. I have to receive any. I, myself, took not pictures. I was WAY too busy.

Once they come in, I post some.


You seem to have gotten it right. Spending time with your grandson makes it worth while, but having a fringe benefit of wine makes it a pleasure!
Thanks for sharing. This took me back to the mid 60's when my grandfather was the thread that kept our extended family together. There were several events in the year that brought everyone together. Great memories. Thanks for sparking some of those for me.

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