WineXpert Eclipse Stags Leap Merlot

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jgmann67

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I’m on my third SLM kit now. The first one was five years ago and I had a lot of wine kits to try... but, we’re finally back on this one.

Ferment included the addition of FT Rouge. I decided against an EM. The OG was higher, and the wine dropped fewer lees, than expected.

The wine is in a carboy on the oak right now. There are fine lees settled to the bottom. I’ll leave it be for 3 months and rack it off the oak and sediment, then tuck it in for another 3 months, maybe add some finishing tannin.

I went looking for a thread to post this in, when I stumbled on this one (that I started 5 years ago with my first Eclipse kit - the SLM). Yay.
 

EKCellarWines

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Received this kit yesterday. Unpacked it last night to see what comes with it. I now see why so many people rave about these premium kits. Everything is high-end, top shelf kind of stuff.

90 gr. of oak dust for the primary with an additional 90 gr. of oak cubes for aging. The juice is 18L of deep, dark and awesome; and the skins look substantially better (like raisin and grape jam) than the genuwine skins in the RJS Cab I did recently.

This is going deep into center field... It's going... It's going... YES!!!! Home run!
How did yours turn out? I’m bottling mine today. It does have good flavor and color for such a young wine. However it has a strong smoke profile that I wasn’t expecting. Curious how yours tasted going into the bottle.
 

AZMDTed

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I just had a bottle I made four and half years ago. This may be the best wine I’ve ever made, certainly the best nose. A very full Merlot. Age sure makes a huge difference on all the wines.
 

EKCellarWines

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I just had a bottle I made four and half years ago. This may be the best wine I’ve ever made, certainly the best nose. A very full Merlot. Age sure makes a huge difference on all the wines.
I’m new at this, please keep in mind.
So you added PMB to age that long right?
 

AZMDTed

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Once wine is in the bottle the potassium metabisulfite level doesn’t change much. Just put 1/4 tsp in the carboy a little before bottling and all is good for a long time.
 

tjgaul

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My first batch of Stag's Leap Merlot just turned 3 and is excellent. The 2nd batch just hit one year and will remain in the carboy until it either hits 2 or the first batch runs out, whichever comes first. My bet is on bottling at 18-20 months. This is one of the best kits I have made so far and is one of the few that I have made twice.
 

jgmann67

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How did yours turn out? I’m bottling mine today. It does have good flavor and color for such a young wine. However it has a strong smoke profile that I wasn’t expecting. Curious how yours tasted going into the bottle.
The smoke flavor will fade and integrate nicely into the wine with time. My Barolo (Nebbiolo) was the same way. The wine, other than having that "new wine" taste, was pretty good. I could drink it right then. But, I'm glad I paced myself and had this wine when it reached its peak at about 24 months.

The Stags Leap was one of the first few kits I made way back when. It still stands out as one of the best I've ever done. I recently started another - it's only about 6 months old in the carboy. I'm going to hit it with a little Tannin Riche Extra (a nice finishing tannin) and bottle in three months. Then, we'll let it sit for another 6-9 months before we start sampling. No reason this one shouldn't be as good or better than wine I made 4 or so years ago.
 

EKCellarWines

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The smoke flavor will fade and integrate nicely into the wine with time. My Barolo (Nebbiolo) was the same way. The wine, other than having that "new wine" taste, was pretty good. I could drink it right then. But, I'm glad I paced myself and had this wine when it reached its peak at about 24 months.

The Stags Leap was one of the first few kits I made way back when. It still stands out as one of the best I've ever done. I recently started another - it's only about 6 months old in the carboy. I'm going to hit it with a little Tannin Riche Extra (a nice finishing tannin) and bottle in three months. Then, we'll let it sit for another 6-9 months before we start sampling. No reason this one shouldn't be as good or better than wine I made 4 or so years ago.
Thank you for the feedback. That makes me feel much better. The smokiness is already moving it’s way into the fold so to speak. I pulled a bottle to try while working on the batch of Peach Mist I’m making for my wife. It is already quite good. I can’t wait to see how it develops. Full disclosure I didn’t add anything to allow it to age a long time. I don’t expect it to make it that long. Lol!
 

Handy Turnip

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Over the last few days I've read through all 23 pages of this, and it's been absolutely fascinating and a wealth of useful information.

Myself and the other half generally only drink dry wine white, so I've only ever made dry white whites. And we love them - in fact the other half prefers them to the majority of commercial wines, so very happy with the quality.

However, I've been thinking for some time about doing a red kit time - while I don't drink red regularly, I'll occasionally have a glass or two when certain friends/family come over. And it would be great on those occasions to bring out a bottle of my own red.

Looking at the comments on the thread, the SLM looks like a good one to choose, however my question is about just how good is it?

Lots of glowing praise on here for it, but I know reds are harder to do well than whites, and there are also a few comments where someone took it to a party where they did a tasting, and up against the commercial wines it did poorly. Lacking body seems to be a common comment.

Because I only drink red in company, it needs to be a red that can hold it's own against a decent commercial wine (i.e. not crazy expensive but not silly cheap either) - otherwise the commercial will win for future visits and the red will never get drunk!

It'll be different if I drank red generally, and then an easy drinking red would be fine, but I don't, so I need to work out whether it'll hit the levels required by my brothers/friends!

I know taste is all very subjective, but just trying to get a gauge on whether this has any potential in it. The beauty is that because I don't drink red that often, I'd have no issues aging it!
 
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jgmann67

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Over the last few days I've read through all 23 pages of this, and it's been absolutely fascinating and a wealth of useful information.

Myself and the other half generally only drink dry wine white, so I've only ever made dry white whites. And we love them - in fact the other half prefers them to the majority of commercial wines, so very happy with the quality.

However, I've been thinking for some time about doing a red kit time - while I don't drink red regularly, I'll occasionally have a glass or two when certain friends/family come over. And it would be great on those occasions to bring out a bottle of my own red.

Looking at the comments on the thread, the SLM looks like a good one to choose, however my question is about just how good is it?

Lots of glowing praise on here for it, but I know reds are harder to do well than whites, and there are also a few comments where someone took it to a party where they did a tasting, and up against the commercial wines it did poorly. Lacking body seems to be a common comment.

Because I only drink red in company, it needs to be a red that can hold it's own against a decent commercial wine (i.e. not crazy expensive but not silly cheap either) - otherwise the commercial will win for future visits and the red will never get drunk!

It'll be different if I drank red generally, and then an easy drinking red would be fine, but I don't, so I need to work out whether it'll hit the levels required by my brothers/friends!

I know taste is all very subjective, but just trying to get a gauge on whether this has any potential in it. The beauty is that because I don't drink red that often, I'd have no issues aging it!
Only on way for you to know for sure. 😬

Grab one, consider doing the following: yeast swap; increase oak; and do a tannin addition on the front and back end. Age before drinking.

I brought a bottle of my first outing with the SLM to Christmas dinner on year. It was 2 years old and everyone who tried it absolutely loved it.
 

jsbeckton

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I’ve done yeast swap, tannin addition, extended maceration and all the other tricks. Currently have batches 2 and 5 years old. However, IMO, this doesn’t stand up to a decent commercial Merlot. But, as noted, taste is subjective.
 

cmason1957

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I have made this one twice now. pretty much by the book, except for some extra tannin additions, both during primary fermentation and also during bulk aging. I do wish I had a barrel to age it in, without that it is much harder to make a wine that will be indistinguishable from a commercial wine.
 

wineh

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Over the last few days I've read through all 23 pages of this, and it's been absolutely fascinating and a wealth of useful information.

Myself and the other half generally only drink dry wine white, so I've only ever made dry white whites. And we love them - in fact the other half prefers them to the majority of commercial wines, so very happy with the quality.

However, I've been thinking for some time about doing a red kit time - while I don't drink red regularly, I'll occasionally have a glass or two when certain friends/family come over. And it would be great on those occasions to bring out a bottle of my own red.

Looking at the comments on the thread, the SLM looks like a good one to choose, however my question is about just how good is it?

Lots of glowing praise on here for it, but I know reds are harder to do well than whites, and there are also a few comments where someone took it to a party where they did a tasting, and up against the commercial wines it did poorly. Lacking body seems to be a common comment.

Because I only drink red in company, it needs to be a red that can hold it's own against a decent commercial wine (i.e. not crazy expensive but not silly cheap either) - otherwise the commercial will win for future visits and the red will never get drunk!

It'll be different if I drank red generally, and then an easy drinking red would be fine, but I don't, so I need to work out whether it'll hit the levels required by my brothers/friends!

I know taste is all very subjective, but just trying to get a gauge on whether this has any potential in it. The beauty is that because I don't drink red that often, I'd have no issues aging it!
I have been making the Stag's Leap Merlot for a long time and it is one of my favourites. The current version (private reserve) is a bit too new to pass judgement on, but after a 90 day process, it was lighter in colour and lower in alcohol than the eclipse version. The flavour profile is good: chock full of plums as it has always been. If I go all the way back to the Selection Estate Series (the one before Eclipse and no grapeskins), it's probably more like that version. Did I mention I've been making this one for a long time?
Anyway, I find that my (18 months or more) kit wines show well against commercial wines in the $20-30 (cdn) range. Do they duplicate? No, not at all, but they are just fine,and I'm not afraid to show them together.
Consider this: most better wines that you bring home (2 or more years of vintage) are still structured, and would like to be cellared for another year or 2 before opening. If you open these right away, they can be oaky or tannic and will appear to be more powerful than your kit wine which is designed to be consumed within a year or two of bottling.
Here's a long term experiment which I have done : buy a nice red wine that you like (in my case Rodney Strong Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon) and cellar it for 2 years, then go get another one from the wine store. Open both and note the differences. I'll bet the one that's been in your cellar is much more integrated, and you won't notice the oak and tannins as much.
Having said all that, we drink all red wines, so we keep a few bottles of commercial white wine around for those guests who would like that. For me, making white wine slows production of the red stuff. Your mileage may vary.
 

Handy Turnip

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Thanks all, great advice. I've got a couple of whites still in the pipeline but I think I might try something a bit different after that and this one this is definitely the favourite.

I've also been toying with doing an Apres Raspberry Chocolate dessert port but they seem to be out of stock everywhere in the UK at the moment which may make the decision nice and easy!
 

wineh

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Thanks all, great advice. I've got a couple of whites still in the pipeline but I think I might try something a bit different after that and this one this is definitely the favourite.

I've also been toying with doing an Apres Raspberry Chocolate dessert port but they seem to be out of stock everywhere in the UK at the moment which may make the decision nice and easy!
Stag's leap merlot and raspberry chocolate port are two completely different directions. You clearly need more carboys! 😁
 

Gilmango

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Also just finished reading all 23 pages, and while I am a red wine drinker, my question is much the same as Handy Turnip's, can I make a red wine from a high end kit which will show well in comparison to the red wines I buy? I mostly buy wines in the $12-20 range, mainly from southern France, Italy and Spain. I know that even the most expensive kit wine will be less expensive, but will it be able to compare?

I am a long time home brewer (since Jimmy Carter legalized it when I was a teenager)! So I have decent background and most equipment.

I guess it will take more than a year to find out if the best kit wines I can make pass muster, as I am willing to give the upper end kits lots of time, plus extra tannins, better yeast, EM, etc. It has already been a fun journey reading about wine from the wine maker perspective.

For now, since I don't see too many kits sourced from France or Spain I have focused on kits from Italy (well I sure hope the juice is from Italy), and also on wines which are pretty expensive (Nebbiolo, Amarone-style, Super Tuscan), I suppose even if I cannot ever match most commercial versions of those, as most are out of my main price range, just being able to have something in that style will be nice. I'm a month into the Nebbiolo one and it tastes good already, just a week plus into the higher end Amarone-style one and this thread has given me plenty of hope and guidance there.

Even though I may never make a SL Merlot, the depth of this thread going back 5+ years, is a good read for anyone hoping to make a high end red wine kit. So thanks to all the contributors.
 

jgmann67

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Also just finished reading all 23 pages, and while I am a red wine drinker, my question is much the same as Handy Turnip's, can I make a red wine from a high end kit which will show well in comparison to the red wines I buy? I mostly buy wines in the $12-20 range, mainly from southern France, Italy and Spain. I know that even the most expensive kit wine will be less expensive, but will it be able to compare?

I am a long time home brewer (since Jimmy Carter legalized it when I was a teenager)! So I have decent background and most equipment.

I guess it will take more than a year to find out if the best kit wines I can make pass muster, as I am willing to give the upper end kits lots of time, plus extra tannins, better yeast, EM, etc. It has already been a fun journey reading about wine from the wine maker perspective.

For now, since I don't see too many kits sourced from France or Spain I have focused on kits from Italy (well I sure hope the juice is from Italy), and also on wines which are pretty expensive (Nebbiolo, Amarone-style, Super Tuscan), I suppose even if I cannot ever match most commercial versions of those, as most are out of my main price range, just being able to have something in that style will be nice. I'm a month into the Nebbiolo one and it tastes good already, just a week plus into the higher end Amarone-style one and this thread has given me plenty of hope and guidance there.

Even though I may never make a SL Merlot, the depth of this thread going back 5+ years, is a good read for anyone hoping to make a high end red wine kit. So thanks to all the contributors.
Kits are a gateway to wine from fresh grapes. About a year after I started this thread, I started making wine from fresh California grapes. Still don’t have a product that I’m 100% happy with. But I get closer every season.

I still make wine from kits. With my tweaks and aging a couple years, I’m very happy with them. And really, that’s all that matters to me.
 

Gilmango

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Kits are a gateway to wine from fresh grapes. About a year after I started this thread, I started making wine from fresh California grapes. Still don’t have a product that I’m 100% happy with. But I get closer every season.

I still make wine from kits. With my tweaks and aging a couple years, I’m very happy with them. And really, that’s all that matters to me.
I'm dangerously close to many winegrapes in Northern California, and already get emails from a guy in the Brentwood/Oakley areas (East of SF, SE of Napa) who leads early weekend morning picks at different small vineyards where you pay about $0.50-$1.00 / # to pick different varietals, plus another $20 to use his crusher-destemmer. So that could be in my future, but the press would be a big expense.
 

jgmann67

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I'm dangerously close to many winegrapes in Northern California, and already get emails from a guy in the Brentwood/Oakley areas (East of SF, SE of Napa) who leads early weekend morning picks at different small vineyards where you pay about $0.50-$1.00 / # to pick different varietals, plus another $20 to use his crusher-destemmer. So that could be in my future, but the press would be a big expense.
There are a ton of cheap work-arounds for just about everything but an actual barrel. If I lived that close, it’s all I’d make.
 

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