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Zintrigue

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Hey guys. I've been making kit wine for a few years now, and I'm wondering how much different a wine *from grapes* would be. I plan on diving into this undertaking in the fall. I did some Googling here to get the exact process in my head, and while I learned about acidity testing and whatnot, I still have more questions. So here we go.

1.) Sourcing. I'm in Sonora, CA. I'll probably have to call a few local wineries and see who's selling (spoiler alert: most weren't, last I checked). Anyone near me have a good recommendation that won't require an overnight hotel? I have ankle biters chaining me to the house.

2.) Must VS grapes. So is the must I would purchase mostly juice with just some grapes, or is must the industry term for only juice? And if the former, is there a standardized amount of grapes per parts juice going on here? Like after I strain off the skins, can I expect a set amount of volume loss?

3.) Volume. In the event that I purchase just grapes, I read that I would need 16 lbs of grapes to make 1 gallon of finished juice. That seems a bit extreme to me, as I'd need 96 lbs of grapes to fill my 6 gallon carboy. Which kind of ties back into my above question. To make this simple: how many pounds of grapes do I need to get a full 6 gallon carboy of wine?

4.) Crushing. I'm not sticking my bare feet into those beautiful grapes. And I'm not going to purchase a crusher for this unless it's more cost effective to use grapes instead of kits and my first grape to wine experiment goes well. I may just decide to stick to kits. In the meantime, do we have a good method of grape crushing going on? Like if I really have to order 96 lbs of grapes, should I just sanitize a new kiddie pool and wrap everyone's feet in plastic wrap? Seems daunting. I don't have 4+ hours to mash these things with a potato masher in small amounts. I know one of you geniuses has a good idea.

5.) Sanitize must before pitching? Seems like a plethora of microbes could be hanging out on these grapes, and to prevent any sort of horrific incidents from happening I'm tempted to toss in some kmeta and let it sit overnight. Yes, no, maybe so?

6.) Fermenting. So um, if 96 lbs of grapes is correct, that seems to me like maybe my tiny 7.9gal pail and my 6gal pail won't be enough for all this? Granted I've never really handled a large amount of grapes before, but if it adds up to be more than my two pails then I'm in trouble, yeah? Thoughts? Reassurances? Laughter?

7.) I'm sure I'm missing something. Someone educate me further.

Thanks everyone. Provided I have the tools/time to handle this, I'm really looking forward to the experience.
 

Johnd

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Hey guys. I've been making kit wine for a few years now, and I'm wondering how much different a wine *from grapes* would be. I plan on diving into this undertaking in the fall. I did some Googling here to get the exact process in my head, and while I learned about acidity testing and whatnot, I still have more questions. So here we go.

1.) Sourcing. I'm in Sonora, CA. I'll probably have to call a few local wineries and see who's selling (spoiler alert: most weren't, last I checked). Anyone near me have a good recommendation that won't require an overnight hotel? I have ankle biters chaining me to the house. Try F Colavita & Son, they look to be nearby.

2.) Must VS grapes. So is the must I would purchase mostly juice with just some grapes, or is must the industry term for only juice? And if the former, is there a standardized amount of grapes per parts juice going on here? Like after I strain off the skins, can I expect a set amount of volume loss? Grapes, when crushed and destemmed, are must. If you buy grapes, you’ll need to crush and destem.

3.) Volume. In the event that I purchase just grapes, I read that I would need 16 lbs of grapes to make 1 gallon of finished juice. That seems a bit extreme to me, as I'd need 96 lbs of grapes to fill my 6 gallon carboy. Which kind of ties back into my above question. To make this simple: how many pounds of grapes do I need to get a full 6 gallon carboy of wine? Grapes are sold in lugs, three lugs will yield 6.5 - 7.5 gallons of wine, three lugs will fit into two 7.9 gallon fermenters, but it’s tight. A 15 gallon is better.

4.) Crushing. I'm not sticking my bare feet into those beautiful grapes. And I'm not going to purchase a crusher for this unless it's more cost effective to use grapes instead of kits and my first grape to wine experiment goes well. I may just decide to stick to kits. In the meantime, do we have a good method of grape crushing going on? Like if I really have to order 96 lbs of grapes, should I just sanitize a new kiddie pool and wrap everyone's feet in plastic wrap? Seems daunting. I don't have 4+ hours to mash these things with a potato masher in small amounts. I know one of you geniuses has a good idea. With only three lugs, you can pull the grapes off of the stems and mash them yourself, just takes time and elbow grease.

5.) Sanitize must before pitching? Seems like a plethora of microbes could be hanging out on these grapes, and to prevent any sort of horrific incidents from happening I'm tempted to toss in some kmeta and let it sit overnight. Yes, no, maybe so? If you plan to do MLF, a small dose of sulfite is OK.

6.) Fermenting. So um, if 96 lbs of grapes is correct, that seems to me like maybe my tiny 7.9gal pail and my 6gal pail won't be enough for all this? Granted I've never really handled a large amount of grapes before, but if it adds up to be more than my two pails then I'm in trouble, yeah? Thoughts? Reassurances? Laughter? See above, 15 gallon fermenter would be better.

7.) I'm sure I'm missing something. Someone educate me further. You’ll need some way to check pH and adjust up or down, and a way to press your must near the end of AF. If you’re doing a red wine, read up on MLF and consider doing it.

Thanks everyone. Provided I have the tools/time to handle this, I'm really looking forward to the experience.
Responses above.
 

jburtner

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I’ve done a bunch of kits and some frozen must. I don’t live close enough to anywhere to purchase fresh grapes or I would. The frozen must is a bit pricey but in my opinion has produced much higher quality wine for me. I highly recommend fresh grapes or frozen must if you are interested in better quality.

On the other hand, with a kit you’re getting a known quality and with grapes you’re at the mercy of the grape.

Cheers and good luck!
-johann
 

Boatboy24

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Good answers thus far. To enter the world of all grape production, you will need a way to crush/destem and a way to press. A lot of people have decent success pressing using a couple buckets and, well, their butts. Plenty of info on that here. Crushing/desteming is a little more challenging, but can be done manually. If you're interested in moving into all grapes (as I was a few years back), a good stepping stone to get your feet wet is juice buckets. These can be had fairly cheaply, and the quality can be greatly enhanced by simply adding a lug of grapes (which is totally manageable by hand). You can put the grapes into paint strainer bags and simply squeeze when its time to press. No big equipment purchases required. Doing this, you should go ahead and get a good pH meter and read up on how to adjust the must.

Doing a juice/grapes combo allows you to get your feet wet and learn a few new skills without having to jump in. Then if you like it, you can consider the equipment down the road. I started with a small, used press from Craigslist for about $125 and had my grape supplier crush/destem for me. After doing that for a bit, I decided to take the plunge and get my own C/D. But its been a nice, gradual path that didn't force me to make big purchases up front that I might later regret.

One last note on fermentation vessels: A 20 gallon Brute trash can is more than enough to ferment 100lbs of grapes and only costs about 20 bucks. I've done 4 lugs in one of mine (144lbs).
 

meadmaker1

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My LHBS rents a couple small electric crushers, and presses.
I dont recall his rates but it was not expensive.
 

jgmillr1

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My former LHBS would bring in grapes from vineyards they contracted with. This was easier than trying to work with them directly. They would set up a crush party in the parking lot. You just needed to rent their press (like $20) a week or so later. Depending on the efficiency of the press and the varietal of grape, you should expect 13-16lbs of grapes to yield one gallon.

I'd be careful about the Brute trash can bin. You don't want the acid in the grapes leaching out any nasties from non-food grade containers. If you are only doing 15gal of must, then go buy 2/3 food grade poly fermentors. These come with lids which seal so you can have an airlock and keep flies out. As you make larger batches, look into the 30-gal or 55-gal type of food grade barrels with removable lids. My former LHBS resold their barrels that they received malt extract in.
 

Zintrigue

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Great answers, thank you guys.

I'm assuming LHBS stands for Local Home Brew Supply? No such thing here, I live in BFE. But we have vineyards. Go figure.

I looked on the Amazon for a 20 gallon food grade bucket. Not much luck there, but I'll keep the suggestion in mind and do a better search when fall approaches.

Boatboy - I like your suggestion of doing juice/grape combos. I've actually been thinking about doing a kit and beefing it up with grapes for a while, but then I thought "why not just do all grapes the legit way if I can get my hands on them?"

Either case, looks like I have more thinking/research to do. Let it not be said that winemaking is without adventure.
 

salcoco

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see if there is a wine club nrar you. I imagine they do some event with grapes. plus the club members can walk you thru your first time.

as far as microbes etc, the acid level of grapes and juice is so high that there is no pathogen that can live in it that is harmful to humans.
 

jburtner

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For your fermenter you should search for a 20 gallon brute trash can like this one:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005KDC1WC/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20
I have three and they work great for a six gallon or larger batch especially once you add fruit and grapes. I think I fermented three five gallon must buckets in one of these last year and that had good headroom for the cap and yielded about 10-11 gallons of juice after pressing. No issues.

Cheers!
-johann
 
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Boatboy24

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I have a few Brutes like the one Johann linked to. They are food grade and also available at Home Depot.
 

mainshipfred

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The juice per pound is a variable depending on the fruit, example, I just finished 126 lbs of grapes and netted 7 gallons after press. This amount will be reduced since there will be a lot of sediment after the initial press. There are also additives that help break down the cell walls to provide more juice. Grapes and juice buckets is a great way to start and if you turn a milk crate upside down and force the grape clusters through it makes a fairly good crusher destemmer. As far a fermenters I always separate my must into 2 or 3 smaller fermenters and inoculate each with different yeasts thus reducing the size of the fermenter. It does require a little more work with testing and adjusting The cost of all grape and a quality kit is about the same but the final product with grapes will be superior.
 

NorCal

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Going down your list of questions:

- If you like kit wine, you will love good wine from grapes.
- Sonora is within a few hours of plenty of excellent grape growing areas. You will need to fine vineyards that will sell to you by the pound or as others have said contact a club and get in on a group buy. There are a number of them listed in the classified section of the Sacramento Home Winemakers Association. One sure bet is Palmero Family Vineyards that I've purchased Chardonnay from the last two years. They have a number of varieties and are located in Herald, about 1 1/2 hours from you.
- Must is crushed and destemmed grapes. Some places have one on site for you to use, most don't.
- If I am making a small batch, by hand, I plan on 20 pounds per gallon, larger volume with equipment 15 pounds per gallon.
- Google destemmers / crushers. If I am going to do 100 pounds (a carboy), I've opted to do it by hand, rather than have to clean the destemmer. Any more, than 100 pounds I do it by machine.
- Good winemaking practices are to sanitize with 50 ppm and then pitch the next day. I found this free book from More Wine to be the best resource available to new winemakers.
- Never go short on the size of the fermenter. It is sticky, you want to do punch downs, you will throw 35% of the volume away in pulp. A 20 gallon Brute bucket is perfect for carboy making.
- You will always miss something, but every year you will get better.
 

heatherd

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Hey guys. I've been making kit wine for a few years now, and I'm wondering how much different a wine *from grapes* would be. I plan on diving into this undertaking in the fall. I did some Googling here to get the exact process in my head, and while I learned about acidity testing and whatnot, I still have more questions. So here we go.

1.) Sourcing. I'm in Sonora, CA. I'll probably have to call a few local wineries and see who's selling (spoiler alert: most weren't, last I checked). Anyone near me have a good recommendation that won't require an overnight hotel? I have ankle biters chaining me to the house.

2.) Must VS grapes. So is the must I would purchase mostly juice with just some grapes, or is must the industry term for only juice? And if the former, is there a standardized amount of grapes per parts juice going on here? Like after I strain off the skins, can I expect a set amount of volume loss?

3.) Volume. In the event that I purchase just grapes, I read that I would need 16 lbs of grapes to make 1 gallon of finished juice. That seems a bit extreme to me, as I'd need 96 lbs of grapes to fill my 6 gallon carboy. Which kind of ties back into my above question. To make this simple: how many pounds of grapes do I need to get a full 6 gallon carboy of wine?

4.) Crushing. I'm not sticking my bare feet into those beautiful grapes. And I'm not going to purchase a crusher for this unless it's more cost effective to use grapes instead of kits and my first grape to wine experiment goes well. I may just decide to stick to kits. In the meantime, do we have a good method of grape crushing going on? Like if I really have to order 96 lbs of grapes, should I just sanitize a new kiddie pool and wrap everyone's feet in plastic wrap? Seems daunting. I don't have 4+ hours to mash these things with a potato masher in small amounts. I know one of you geniuses has a good idea.

5.) Sanitize must before pitching? Seems like a plethora of microbes could be hanging out on these grapes, and to prevent any sort of horrific incidents from happening I'm tempted to toss in some kmeta and let it sit overnight. Yes, no, maybe so?

6.) Fermenting. So um, if 96 lbs of grapes is correct, that seems to me like maybe my tiny 7.9gal pail and my 6gal pail won't be enough for all this? Granted I've never really handled a large amount of grapes before, but if it adds up to be more than my two pails then I'm in trouble, yeah? Thoughts? Reassurances? Laughter?

7.) I'm sure I'm missing something. Someone educate me further.

Thanks everyone. Provided I have the tools/time to handle this, I'm really looking forward to the experience.
A good way to start is frozen must from juicegrape.com or a similar site. @Johnd has taken this route. This is a great way to get grapes that are already crushed/destemmed to make wine. You'll still have to press, but can do it with that double bucket maneuver. The last time I used frozen must, I combined 6g must with 6g juice of Cabernet Sauvignon, and it turned out very well.
 

Jal5

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You may want to do the juice bucket like others have said and you can still add some grapes in a strainer bag too. I just moved up from kit to the juice buckets this spring and will likely do another juice bucket plus grapes in the fall. Equipment cost is really minimal this way.

Joe
 
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