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

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Boatboy24

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I'd be curious to know about their use of sulfite. Do they go with minimums recommended based on pH, or higher than that?
 

ibglowin

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Here is an easy one. I am pretty sure most if not all wineries in WA State do not adjust the pH at all. If the grapes come in at the proper phenolic/physiological ripeness they go with it. Much the same growing conditions in your area of NOCAL maybe even hotter. Do they mess with what Mother Nature brought them?
 

Chuck E

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Why would we want to make our homemade wines taste as bad as commercial wines?
I want to make the best wine possible on a small scale. If I can duplicate the techniques of the best Napa wineries, that has to improve my wine; don't you think?
 

mainshipfred

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Why would we want to make our homemade wines taste as bad as commercial wines?
To me commercial is a relative term. Of course there are the large commercial wineries that turn out hundreds of thousands of cases a year that probably have several winemakers that never touch the wine, but then there are the boutique wineries which are also considered commercial but actually have a winemaker that is hands on through the entire process. I'm not sure but I believe this is the type of winery and winemaker @NorCal is referring to.
 

NorCal

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Why would we want to make our homemade wines taste as bad as commercial wines?
Good point, "commercial" is a broad statement. Since most commercial wines are sold for under $9 and while there are some good ones, there are a lot of bad ones. I want to make a the quality of wines that my favorite, local winery makes. I can get the same quality fruit that they do, but in blind tasting, I don't think my wines would fair well against them.

The winery sells into the $25-$35 category and I have seen their winery grow a lot in the past 5 years. The owner/winemaker is passionate with intense attention to detail and the hired winemaker is a UCD grad and has really improved their wines since joining them around 5 years ago. They have plenty of 90+ point wine enthusiast, wine spectator wines and have done well at SF Chronicle event as well. They are the only wine club I belong to and I shake my head when I drink their wine, saying, why can't my wines taste like this. @4score have a list of 46 questions right now, so we are going to have to figure out how to make the session flow, without it being a big question answer session, while still getting the answers to the questions we want to ask.
 

NorCal

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Here is an easy one. I am pretty sure most if not all wineries in WA State do not adjust the pH at all. If the grapes come in at the proper phenolic/physiological ripeness they go with it. Much the same growing conditions in your area of NOCAL maybe even hotter. Do they mess with what Mother Nature brought them?
I will ask. The grapes from our area tend to be out of balance pH wise. I make Cab Franc out of the same grapes they make their Cab Franc out of. I dump a pound of tartaric acid in every bin (1,000 pounds) of Cab Franc I make, to bring the starting pH closer to 3.6-3.7, from 3.9-4.0
 

Rocky

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Guys, please! I posted that in jest. (For some reason I can't get emojis to work consistently on my posts or you all would have understood that.)

I know what NorCal means and what he is trying to do and I applaud his efforts. I am also sure that his wines are much better than the credit he gives them. I know this, a. because he is an old car guy (like I used to be with my Packard's), b. because I read his posts which are invariably accurate and sensible and c. because anyone who could restore that 'Stang like that has to be a perfectionist. In the patois of the classic car hobby, he is not trying to make just a "driver," rather he is going for Pebble Beach.
 

NorCal

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Would they let you hang around if you managed to get some vacation days at the right time/times?
You would think it would be that easy, but not in California where you cannot volunteer for a for-profit business. It is hard to believe, but it's true (article).

Thanks @Rocky for your impression of my capabilities, but I truly feel like I'm still on the wine making learning curve and that I should be producing better wines than I am, with the fruit that I have available. I feel like I can make wine that is clean and free of faults, but I don't see them winning 90+ points from a major review source. Hopefully I'll gain some info to close the gap between where I am and the commercial quality wine I aspire to make.
 

Johnd

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I want to make the best wine possible on a small scale. If I can duplicate the techniques of the best Napa wineries, that has to improve my wine; don't you think?
I subscribe to the theory. You can learn to make wine without flaws, and you can duplicate many of the techniques, the hardest part is getting your hands on the fruit. Some techniques may be a bit of a stretch if costly equipment is involved, carbonic maceration comes to mind.

One of my favorite wineries is Del Dotto, I’m using the same yeast and barrels that they do for some of their cabs, but couldn’t weasel much more info about their production process, there are so many other variables to consider. Without the fruit, whether it’s from the best areas of CA, or WA, or OR, it’s hard to duplicate superior results. I’m satisfied making the best wine I can from the fruit I am able to get, at least for now....
 

mainshipfred

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You would think it would be that easy, but not in California where you cannot volunteer for a for-profit business. It is hard to believe, but it's true (article).

Thanks @Rocky for your impression of my capabilities, but I truly feel like I'm still on the wine making learning curve and that I should be producing better wines than I am, with the fruit that I have available. I feel like I can make wine that is clean and free of faults, but I don't see them winning 90+ points from a major review source. Hopefully I'll gain some info to close the gap between where I am and the commercial quality wine I aspire to make.
That's interesting, I often help out at wineries as do many others. I wonder if Virginia has the same law.
 

NorCal

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We had our meeting. It FAR exceeded my expectations.

There were 4 home winemakers, the owner/winemaker and the hired UCD winemaker. We were there for a total of 3 hours and included tasting all their wines and the owner/winemaker tasting ours. There is a lot of information and I want to gather everyone’s collective thoughts/take aways and I won’t be able to do it until Monday.

Suffice it to say, I have a number of things that I know I can do that will make a substantial difference.
38AC995D-110F-4458-BB60-471E4322509E.jpeg
 

jburtner

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That’s great news. Looking forward to reading your notes.

Cheers!
-johann
 

Boatboy24

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That's interesting, I often help out at wineries as do many others. I wonder if Virginia has the same law.
I'd be surprised. There are a ton of places that wouldn't get harvest done if it weren't for volunteers. Granted, the volunteers usually eat and drink fairly well when the work is done, but they certainly aren't paid.
 

bshef

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The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits employees from volunteering at a for profit business. So how does all that work in Virginia? It can get complicated. The vineyard on a farm winery may be an agricultural entity that sells grapes to the winery. Depending on the number of employees on the farm, the farm may be exempt from the agricultural provisions of the FLSA. Some Virginia vineyards really rely heavily on volunteers. Others not so much or none at all. Virginia is heavily supporting agrotourism so it appears the state is not worrying about a little volunteerism. The feds are too understaffed to bother enforcing volunteerism by rich wine geeks when the minimum wage and overtime laws are ignored for folks earning $7.25 per hour.
The California situation was the state of California enforcing the state minimum wage and overtime laws. That was not the feds. The feds are more concerned about migrant workers not being paid and being housed in hovels.
This may change in Virginia. OSHA has started inspecting small wineries so who knows what is next?
 

Boatboy24

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CA requires min wage $12, going up $1 hr each year for the next 3 years. Love the weather, not fond of the politics.
Sounds like you need a firm, fixed price contract with them. ;)
 
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