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Cooking some Cab in California

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kenthelawyer

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Hi everyone. Just found this forum. Making my first batch of cab from grapes procured from a vineyard in Sonoma in October 2019. Looking for tips on testing, equipment, and anything else I can learn. Looking forward to meeting some of you on this forum.
 

CDrew

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So you must be pretty far along. The things to test for now are taste, TA and pH. How are you aging it?

How about some details? How much did you make, what did you do?, yeast used. etc.
 

JoP

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Hi everyone. Just found this forum. Making my first batch of cab from grapes procured from a vineyard in Sonoma in October 2019. Looking for tips on testing, equipment, and anything else I can learn. Looking forward to meeting some of you on this forum.
Hi kenthelawyer and welcome to the forum

I’m also a Californian making wine from Cabernet grapes for the last eight years.

In the beginning I didn’t know much about wine making, but I found very good literature morewinemaking.com

There are two PDFs; one for red and one for white, you can download for free.

These manuals have very detailed step by step instruction from harvest to bottling and aging with plenty of information about testing, equipment and yeast pairing and examples for the beginner or even the more advance winemaker.

MoreManuals! Winemaking Guides | MoreWine



Cheers!
 

kenthelawyer

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So you must be pretty far along. The things to test for now are taste, TA and pH. How are you aging it?

How about some details? How much did you make, what did you do?, yeast used. etc.

Thanks for the feedback, CDrew. Here's the full story. Sorry if too detailed:

I picked mid-October in Healdsburg, crushed same day (I live about 2 hours south). I estimate I started with 1200 pounds of grapes (basically one Honda Ridgeline load) yielding 125 gallons of must. Fermented in a big food-grade plastic bin used for grape storage and shipping, covered with a high tech wine protection insect filtration unit (a queen sized bed sheet).

Brix at harvest: 26
Yeast: Cellar Science Bordeaux Red Wine Yeast
Yeast Food: Goferm + Fermaid
Malolactic Culture: CHR Hansen Viniflora Oenos + acti-ML

Fermentation lasted ~8 days. Press yielded 90 gallons. Stored in two 32-gallon barrels (Hungarian oak) plus a few carboys in my newly designed winery (i.e., moved some junk in my garage and built a small rack to hold barrels). Racked the wine in January and July. I have 77 gallons currently.

I've done plenty of tasting. It tastes wine-like. Not too disappointing for the first time. It tastes somewhat acidic and I think it's a bit high octane, which makes sense since Brix was so high when I picked. I spent $40 on a SO2 test kit that I'm fumbling with. I did some research and found a testing service in Oregon that you can mail samples and get a full panel performed for $40. I'll try that.

I think the biggest challenge I'm having (I have many I'm sure) is that the temperature in my garage fluctuates meaningfully. My wife's car is a beast and heats up the room, and there is little cross ventilation. In the winter it can be 60 degrees and in the summer its often 80+ in there. I have not figured that out yet. Not sure if the temperature is really the problem, and whether it justifies better equipment. It might be analogous to me buying Air Jordans - I still won't be able to dunk.

What are you making?
 

kenthelawyer

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Hi kenthelawyer and welcome to the forum

I’m also a Californian making wine from Cabernet grapes for the last eight years.

In the beginning I didn’t know much about wine making, but I found very good literature morewinemaking.com

There are two PDFs; one for red and one for white, you can download for free.

These manuals have very detailed step by step instruction from harvest to bottling and aging with plenty of information about testing, equipment and yeast pairing and examples for the beginner or even the more advance winemaker.

MoreManuals! Winemaking Guides | MoreWine



Cheers!
Thanks JoP. I've seen that literature. I live not far from their store in the Bay Area (I'm in San Carlos) and bought some of my supplies there. I'm curious about barrels. I bought two 30-gallon barrels from a provider in Oregon or Washington made of Hungarian oak. Not sure who screwed it up, but they leaked and I spent a lot of time patching. All good now.

Where did you buy your barrels and are you happy with them?

Also, where do you source your fruit?

Thanks for any advice.

Ken
 

CDrew

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Nice. I've got 4 varietals from last year aging in 15 gallon kegs adapted for wine making. I use an interior room without heat for aging so my aging temps are 58 in the winter and 74 in the summer. Warmer than what I would like, but what I have. Last year I did about 1/2 ton of grapes total. Your macrobin ferment sounds about right. I think I have about 85 gallons total so we have similar amounts.

Regarding the garage, in wine making season, the wife's car is banned in sunlight. When the whole body has been warmed by the sun it will make the garage way too hot. So our routine is that she parks outside the garage in September/October, and then I move her car in just before bed time. THis keeps the garage in the 75 range. Once primary is done, the wine comes inside which is marginally better. But I don't have real temp control which is a future project.

Since you will likely be bottling in the next 3 or 4 months, it's worth checking and adjusting the pH, and TA. It's ok to make minor corrections now. There are lots of places to do wine analysis here in northern California, I use Lodi wine labs.

Regarding taste... it's only a year old. It will get better.
 

JoP

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Thanks JoP. I've seen that literature. I live not far from their store in the Bay Area (I'm in San Carlos) and bought some of my supplies there. I'm curious about barrels. I bought two 30-gallon barrels from a provider in Oregon or Washington made of Hungarian oak. Not sure who screwed it up, but they leaked and I spent a lot of time patching. All good now.

Where did you buy your barrels and are you happy with them?

Also, where do you source your fruit?

Thanks for any advice.

Ken
Hi Ken,

My grapes are from my own small vineyard, from my front yard in the East Bay.

I make about 20 to 25 gallons of Cab on average, some times more depending on a number of factors I’m still trying to understand.

My worst year was in 2015 and my best in 2016 when I made 35 gallons from only 44 vines.

Regarding barrels, I don’t have any, I used oak sticks in the beginning, but for the last three years I have been using Hungarian Oak cubes.

Barrels in my opinion are difficult to deal with, tricky to clean and sanitize, may leak as you experienced and of course expensive for a useful life of only three years.

You mentioned about your garage temperature getting in the high eighties, that is definitely too high.

Have you consider building a wine cellar, or at least some temperature controlled cabinets in your garage?

You also mentioned about using a testing lab in Oregon, but there are also local labs such as: ETS Labs in Sonoma, Busters Labs in Livermore and some others you can find just by googling.

Cheers!

John
 

winemaker81

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Fermented in a big food-grade plastic bin used for grape storage and shipping, covered with a high tech wine protection insect filtration unit (a queen sized bed sheet).
It's good to see that you are using time-tested, high quality wine making tools. You are giving this topic the correct level of concern and concentration.

;)

If the barrel leaked, I'd also be concerned with bacterial grown as the barrel was probably left empty for a while. I have hopes that your wine tastes fine.

A long time wine maker, I first purchased a used barrel last fall. The couple I purchased from had properly cared for it, and I had no problems. I'll be bottling this contents this fall when I have new wine to fill it.

High-octane is not a surprise. I purchased CA grapes last fall (Malbec, Merlot, Zinfandel) and they all came in above 15% ABV. Acid was low, I had to add acid blend to all of 'em. I'm surprised your is high.
 

kenthelawyer

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Nice. I've got 4 varietals from last year aging in 15 gallon kegs adapted for wine making. I use an interior room without heat for aging so my aging temps are 58 in the winter and 74 in the summer. Warmer than what I would like, but what I have. Last year I did about 1/2 ton of grapes total. Your macrobin ferment sounds about right. I think I have about 85 gallons total so we have similar amounts.

Regarding the garage, in wine making season, the wife's car is banned in sunlight. When the whole body has been warmed by the sun it will make the garage way too hot. So our routine is that she parks outside the garage in September/October, and then I move her car in just before bed time. THis keeps the garage in the 75 range. Once primary is done, the wine comes inside which is marginally better. But I don't have real temp control which is a future project.

Since you will likely be bottling in the next 3 or 4 months, it's worth checking and adjusting the pH, and TA. It's ok to make minor corrections now. There are lots of places to do wine analysis here in northern California, I use Lodi wine labs.

Regarding taste... it's only a year old. It will get better.

Thanks for the feedback. I'm a bit new to this and can use all the help I can get. Best, Ken
 

kenthelawyer

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Hi Ken,

My grapes are from my own small vineyard, from my front yard in the East Bay.

I make about 20 to 25 gallons of Cab on average, some times more depending on a number of factors I’m still trying to understand.

My worst year was in 2015 and my best in 2016 when I made 35 gallons from only 44 vines.

Regarding barrels, I don’t have any, I used oak sticks in the beginning, but for the last three years I have been using Hungarian Oak cubes.

Barrels in my opinion are difficult to deal with, tricky to clean and sanitize, may leak as you experienced and of course expensive for a useful life of only three years.

You mentioned about your garage temperature getting in the high eighties, that is definitely too high.

Have you consider building a wine cellar, or at least some temperature controlled cabinets in your garage?

You also mentioned about using a testing lab in Oregon, but there are also local labs such as: ETS Labs in Sonoma, Busters Labs in Livermore and some others you can find just by googling.

Cheers!

John
 

kenthelawyer

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Thanks for the testing leads. Great to be part of a group of wine hobbyists. I felt a bit alone in this venture. Just me and some textbooks (and the interwebs, of course). I'm enjoying it even though the wine isn't so great yet. It's so different from what I do all day - I enjoy the chemistry and the equipment. I'm planning to build a small space under my house to store future wine making endeavors, both for temperature control and to be able to be messy. Good fun!
 
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