Homemade vs. Commercial and what I am doing to close the gap

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Chuck E

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Runquist is a favorite of mine too. He is unapologetic about not being a grower, but makes really great wines from grapes he buys from other vineyards, which he typically names on the bottle. I've been a wine club member there for years. I'd like to be included in the 1 pick, 1 carboy competition.

I'm interested in the Prelude concept too, but not sure I'm brave enough to go there yet.
I used WLP603 Torolaspora delbrueckii on my Lodi Zin this year. It's a co-inoculation of two Saccharomyces strains & Torolaspora delbrueckii. It's really too early to say for sure, but I detect a fuller body in this young wine. I would like try the sequential Prelude to Avante next season.
 

Chuck E

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My local favorite commercial winery is Runquist, in Amador. They make wines that always motivate me to try harder. The owner, Jeff Runquist, has been fairly open with me about his approach to his award-winning wines. His Barbera, for example. He told me the precise Brix (and pH) to harvest, combined with a slight water-back strategy. He gave us his pressing strength (gallons per pound) and crushing on top of fine oak chips. He was nice enough to give me a bucket or two of the very same chips he uses.

Temperature control is the biggest gap for us. As NorCal said, this year was the exception as things ran late and we got to ferment in nice cool weather (for a change).
:)
I'd have to say that I think I could engineer a small scale jacketed SS tank for temperature control. But it would not be cheap. It's probably $2000 just for the heater/chiller unit...
 

stickman

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@NorCal all of the variables being discussed here is what has kept me making wine for 29 years. Once you have good fruit and you're making wine without any major flaws, you start to make stylistic choices to dial-in the final wine you are trying to achieve. Of all the things being discussed, extended maceration can have a major impact, but the impact can be positive or negative depending the grapes, how it's done, and what you are looking to achieve. Unfortunately with any treatment it takes so long to determine what the end result might be. I did a few batches a number of years ago and the following is from my notes.

2002, 70% Sonoma Cab, 30% Napa Merlot, initial combined brix 24.5, pH 3.4, RC212, 1/2 lb Hungarian oak cubes, fermentation peaked at 87F and the cap was punched for 12 days, heavy mil plastic was put on top of the cap followed by an MDF circle and another plastic sheet over the top of the vat, co2 was used daily to purge the space between the plastic sheets. The skins were gently pushed into the liquid daily for a total of 39 days of skin contact. The wine was pressed and put into a 30gal French oak barrel for 12 months, and the usual ML and sulfite/racking treatments applied. This wine ended up too tannic and undrinkable for 5 years, I still have this in the cellar and it is enjoyable now, but still has a tannic edge. I'm certain I didn't press this wine at the right time, it was just an experiment and you have no choice but to accept the results. I open a bottle occasionally and it is a great conversation piece for those who enjoy wine.

2003, Lodi Petite Sirah (Caterina Label), no brix or pH recorded, 85F peak, punched 8 days, 18 days on skins total, finish details similar to above. I have one bottle of this wine left, it was dark with very nice fruit and tannin, it was a favorite of friends and family at the time.

2003, 70% Sonoma Syrah, 30% Mendocino Carignane, initial combined brix 24.9, pH 3.65, RC212, 1/2 lb Hungarian oak cubes, Color Pro enzyme, fermentation peak cap 88F wine 82F, punched cap 8 days, 19 days total skin contact, finish details similar to above, still several bottles and magnums left in the cellar, this wine was absolutely massive and undrinkable when young, probably the most complex and extracted wine I've made to date, a friend describes it as the "cigar wine", there is a core of fruit but still surrounded by tannin, another enjoyable conversation piece for fellow winemakers but not for the general population.

Not enough data to draw many conclusions, but the Lodi fruit that I've had over the years always seemed to have less tannin overall, so it may simply be more forgiving during extended maceration. I understand more about wine now then I did at the time, so I may do another extended maceration with a greater focus on the exact press time, you have to be available to act when the time is right and not wait for the weekend.

Also add to the list for consideration:

10% to 20% whole cluster fermentation

Lees contact during bulk aging
 

NorCal

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I made a plea to the owner and winemaker, see below. It’s been a week and no response. I’m on a first name bases with both of them, so it’s not like a cold call. I’ll let you know if I get the meeting.


XXXXX, YYYYY,

Grant (
they both know Grant) introduced me to wine making in 2013 and I got hooked and have been making wine out of the garage ever since. Me and my little group have gone on to make some pretty good wines, having won golds, double golds and two best in classes at the CA State Fair.

I feel we have plateaued in what we can do with the equipment and knowledge we have and collectively we would like some advice on how to continue to improve. We won't ask you to sample any of our wine (unless you want to), but rather discuss areas of wine making that we are not strong in.

Examples:
How important is cold soak, extended maceration?
How important is it to control fermentation temperature for duration and peak temperatures?
Are enzymes something that have a benefit to our local fruit?
Does leading with non-saccharomyces yeast result in a better wine?

We chose you two, because we feel you are the best winemakers in our area. We can meet when and where you would like and I'm thinking 45 minutes, 1 hour tops. We would like to make it worth you while, we can bring lunch, dinner or buy a case of wine. If either one or both of you would be willing, that would be great.

Please let me know if you are interested,
Ken
 

bshef

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You folks in California have the premier enology program in the country at UC Davis. I would suggest contacts there or enrolling in the program. Alternatively for anyone that is really interested, an internship as a winemaker. I’m not sure 45 minutes or an hour with a winemaker will be a lot of help. Anyway, good luck.
 

NorCal

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You folks in California have the premier enology program in the country at UC Davis. I would suggest contacts there or enrolling in the program. Alternatively for anyone that is really interested, an internship as a winemaker. I’m not sure 45 minutes or an hour with a winemaker will be a lot of help. Anyway, good luck.
Thanks for the reply. We are 30 minutes away from UCD and three of the winemakers in our area are graduates, including the one I’m targeting. I think the 45 minutes would provide direction on what would be worth our time to explore.
 

stickman

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I don't think there is a better way to improve your results than talking to a professional that uses the same fruit and makes the wine in the style you desire. Most of us know the "standard" red wine procedures, crush, ferment, punch it, press, rack, barrel ML, rack so2, rack so2 etc., and this is fine to get a new winemaker started, but that procedure doesn't discuss wine style and assumes that all fruit is the same, which we know isn't true. I think the details are everything with respect to the fruit you have and the style you're trying to achieve.
 

bshef

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Stickman and NorCal, That’s what I’m getting at but I get more from doing than talking. Volunteering, internships and such have given me more I sight than talking to winemakers. Maybe that’s just my learning style. I’ve learned more in the actual harvest and processing than in weeks of talking or discussion.
 

NorCal

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Stickman and NorCal, That’s what I’m getting at but I get more from doing than talking. Volunteering, internships and such have given me more I sight than talking to winemakers. Maybe that’s just my learning style. I’ve learned more in the actual harvest and processing than in weeks of talking or discussion.
I’m there with you; I learn by doing. I just would like some direction on what their opinion is on what I should do next.
 

NorCal

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It’s been a few weeks since I sent the email and no reply. :(

However, I bumped into the owner/winemaker in a vineyard of all places. I wasn’t sure if I’d bring it up or not, as I felt that his no response was indicative of his interest in getting together. However, he apologized for not responding and said he’d get with his winemaker and find a time to get together! I’m not counting on hearing from him, but it leaves the door open to follow up with him after the holidays.

I also wanted to share that my Cab Franc barrel, that is pre-blended, copying a 100 point wine’s proportions is tasting excellent. I did all the elements that I outlined in the first post on the Cab Franc, which is 62% of the total wine.
 
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Chuck E

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I have been watching the "Wine Revealed" video series. It is now evident to me, that I will never be able to make a wine equal to a great commercial wine. @NorCal, @4score , and @CDrew all have the ability to visit the vineyards and know the grapes. I buy the grapes off a truck. I will never be able to know what I am getting. It's very disappointing... I feel like I'm a good winemaker, with good instincts and good technique: but without intimate knowledge of the farming of the fruit, I will never equal my goal of top wine.
 
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CDrew

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I have been watching the "Wine Revealed" video series. It is now evident to me, that I will never be able to make a wine equal to a great commercial wine. @NorCal, @Boatboy24, and @CDrew all have the ability to visit the vineyards and know the grapes. I buy the grapes off a truck. I will never be able to know what I am getting. It's very disappointing... I feel like I'm a good winemaker, with good instincts and good technique: but without intimate knowledge of the farming of the fruit, I will never equal my goal of top wine.
But then your challenge is to make the best wine you can from the raw material you can get. It's still worthwhile and I'll bet in the end you'll have some excellent wine. I'm not expecting to make Opus 1 either! You said before you liked the Carnivore wine, and I'll bet you can make wine at least that good, and probably better.
 

Boatboy24

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I have been watching the "Wine Revealed" video series. It is now evident to me, that I will never be able to make a wine equal to a great commercial wine. @NorCal, @Boatboy24, and @CDrew all have the ability to visit the vineyards and know the grapes. I buy the grapes off a truck. I will never be able to know what I am getting. It's very disappointing... I feel like I'm a good winemaker, with good instincts and good technique: but without intimate knowledge of the farming of the fruit, I will never equal my goal of top wine.
I buy off a truck as well. Even the 'local' stuff that I'm fortunate enough to get through @mainshipfred, comes from multiple vineyards. We're not 100% sure of the source or quality, other than knowing that our nearby commercial winery uses the same grapes - we just get part of their order. In the end, all of us home winemakers are just working with whatever we can get, aside from the few that grow their own. Fortunately for most of us, we have access to decent to good quality produce and as long as we don't screw it up, have the opportunity to make some pretty good wine. Are we going to be able to reproduce a $100 Brunello? Never. And that's OK.
 

Chuck E

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But then your challenge is to make the best wine you can from the raw material you can get. It's still worthwhile and I'll bet in the end you'll have some excellent wine. I'm not expecting to make Opus 1 either! You said before you liked the Carnivore wine, and I'll bet you can make wine at least that good, and probably better.
Yes, I can make a "Carnivore" type wine. And Thank You for cheering me up. I think we all put so much effort into making good wine, making the jump to really good takes more than good winemaking skills.
 

jpwatkins9

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If you are fortunate, you may have a winery near you that grows some of their own grapes. We have the Texas Hill country within an hour or so drive and group to help pick. If I want any of the grapes, all I have to do is ask. I use a 6 gallon primary fermenter, so not taking much. The folks that run these winery’s around here love to have people come out and help with the harvest, and we visit enough to see the vines and the fruit develop during the year. Great fun. I have a Cabernet Sauvignon that I bottled this year after 18 months of bulk aging that looks and tastes good so far.
 

Steve Wargo

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"Wine Revealed" is a good series, spending most of the time in Italy and neighboring Slovenia. That said many of the vineyard managers and winemakers interviewed on Wine Revealed basically the same things as other Wine Related documentaries. "The Wine Show" series on Hulu is a good watch if you focus on the vineyards and winemakers they visit and interview. "People Of The Vines" is a good vineyard related series that I watched on Amazon.
 

Steve Wargo

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I have been watching the "Wine Revealed" video series. It is now evident to me, that I will never be able to make a wine equal to a great commercial wine. @NorCal, @4score , and @CDrew all have the ability to visit the vineyards and know the grapes. I buy the grapes off a truck. I will never be able to know what I am getting. It's very disappointing... I feel like I'm a good winemaker, with good instincts and good technique: but without intimate knowledge of the farming of the fruit, I will never equal my goal of top wine.
https://www.44wineries.com/ not too far from Chicago. You should visit the vineyard. It might change your mind
 

mainshipfred

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The meeting with one of the top commercial winemakers in our area is scheduled for Friday!

@4score and I are gathering our questions, but if you have any you would like asked, list them here and I'll include them.
Immediately the first thing that comes to mind is how much emphasis do they put on TA as opposed to pH.

This is your original list, have you added anything to it?
Examples:
How important is cold soak, extended maceration?
How important is it to control fermentation temperature for duration and peak temperatures?
Are enzymes something that have a benefit to our local fruit?
Does leading with non-saccharomyces yeast result in a better wine?
 

montanarick

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How about : Use of bentonite for protein removal - when and how to best use and dosage
 
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