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

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1d10t

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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.
There was some clarification a while back. "Intern" was widely abused. They are there to learn, not provide anything of value to the company. When I said 'hangout', that is what I meant. Just observe and ask questions. No running for coffee, picking up laundry, etc. ;) However, it sounds like you got what you wanted from your meeting? Maybe no need for that?
 

NCWC

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Not sure of your age but here in Ohio if you are 60+ you can take up to 20 hours of a college course. There is Vesta which is online, take Cellar Operations, and you get to intern at a winery and learn 1st hand about Winemaking. I am in the Kent State enology program, but I am paying for the full course. I have a small winery in Cleveland, Ohio area. (1000-1500 gal) We put 3 wines in the SF Chronicle and just won a Double Gold, Gold, and Silver. The most important things I have learned are yeast selection, blending yeast, blending barrel types, blending varietals. Holding back 5-10 percent freerun in a carboy to blend in / at bottling for more fruit. Pre and Post must analysis. Proper fermentation temperatures like 80-90 for reds under 60 for whites. Enzymes to add for extraction of phenols, and color. Whites are way harder to make than reds for me at least. Many other small details that all add up to great wines.
 

MarkT

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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.
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Casque is one of our favorite wineries. Which group are you in and is it open to newbies?
 

NorCal

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@4score, @Busabill , 4Score's son and I first sat down at a local cafe with the owner/winemaker and the hired UCD winemaker and talked for a solid hour 15 minutes over lunch (we bought). We then went to the tasting room and tasted and discussed the wines (4 whites, 4 reds) they were pouring. After we were done tasting we asked if the owner/winemaker if he wouldn't mind tasting our wines, which he said yes. We had left them in the cars.

There was a lot of information discussed and it was in conversational mode, so it while we covered a lot of territory, it wasn't in the exact question/answer manner that I was thinking. So instead of listing the questions and answers, I'll list the takeaways from 3 of us.

#1 French oak rules for Bordeaux and Rhone wines.
#2 Aggressively adjust up-front, get below 3.6, add, check next day, add again
#3 Ability to control fermentation temperatures is the biggest gap, ice jugs, dry ice, insulated foam boards...or get a chiller
#4 Great fruit, long controlled ferments, French oak, purposeful blending, aging before releasing seems to be major focus areas
#5 More modest of SO2 adds, (get pH down!) not exceeding 200 total or feels like it strips wine

#1 Not necessary to rack as often as we do after gross lees removal
#2 Be more modest on the SO2 adds
#3 Do big adjustments pre-ferment if required
#4 Go long on MLF if necessary
#5 Keep an eye on cleanliness everywhere

#1 acid adjust to 3.4 or 3.5 before fermentation - don’t be afraid.
#2 might be worth playing with extended maceration...at least for a week or two.
#3 We use too much SO2, better to take the risk than over SO2.
#4 Keep it topped and limit rackings.
#5 Don’t be scared of new oak - always strong after a couple months, then it will integrate later
#6 Fruit flies suck and do a lot of damage to wine flavors
#7 Choose varietals we know grow well in our climate – Cab Sauv and most whites are a stretch

When asked what he saw as the biggest mistake made by home winemakers, he replied not keeping things sanitized.

The feedback on the wines we brought to taste (2017 Bordeaux Blend, 2018 Cab Franc, 2019 whole cluster press Tempranillo rose, 2018 Cab Franc) was good. His words were, "you don't need my advice, these wines are really good". He has told me my wine were not good in the past, so I trust that when he says he thought the wines are good that he means it.

Overall, I felt re-inspired to push my wine making to the next level. I really think either making less wine, so I can focus on things like fermentation control, or invest some money into equipment and maintain my 150 or so gallon per year scale.
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Ajmassa

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Fantastic stuff here!! Really top notch. Very much appreciate you sharing all of this info with us. I’ll be making some changes based off this thread now.
I’ve been naturally gravitating to a lot of these techniques already. The modest so2, minimal racking during aging, letting MLF run longer etc.
The temp control is something I haven’t entertained yet. But if frozen jugs can get me more days on the skins and the pros say it’s worth doing then think I should give it a shot.
The Biggest takeaway by far for me is the acid adjusting. Very reassuring to hear it. This was my plan going into my last batch too. Was gonna go to 3.6 come hell or high water! But Come game time I wimped out! Was hesitant to overdo it with 4.0 must. My addition barely made a dent.

Now that’s I know its ok to be aggressive I will be doing exactly what was suggested. Shooting for under 3.6. check next day and adjust again.
Thanks @NorCal @4score
 

Boatboy24

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Thanks so much for this. Fascinating comments regarding the aggressive adjustments up front. I think a lot of us are afraid to do too much and therefore end up with wines that aren't quite what they could have been.

A little confused on this comment regarding sulfite: "#5 More modest of SO2 adds, (get pH down!) not exceeding 200 total or feels like it strips wine". I hope that's not saying don't exceed 200ppm.
 

NorCal

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Thanks so much for this. Fascinating comments regarding the aggressive adjustments up front. I think a lot of us are afraid to do too much and therefore end up with wines that aren't quite what they could have been.

A little confused on this comment regarding sulfite: "#5 More modest of SO2 adds, (get pH down!) not exceeding 200 total or feels like it strips wine". I hope that's not saying don't exceed 200ppm.
The comment means, aggressively add acid up front to bring the pH down, so you don't need large SO2 adds through the life of the wine. He said, if you keep the pH down, where your target adds are 30, then you can keep total SO2 under 200ppm.
 

Boatboy24

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The comment means, aggressively add acid up front to bring the pH down, so you don't need large SO2 adds through the life of the wine. He said, if you keep the pH down, where your target adds are 30, then you can keep total SO2 under 200ppm.
200ppm sounds really high to me. Maybe not for commercial wines, but far more than I use for my own.
 

CDrew

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Was there an upper limit addition of tartaric acid to achieve the desired pH?
 

cmason1957

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The other interesting thing I read was homeworkers rack to often. I have sort of been thinking that same thing and am considering cutting back to every 6 or maybe even 9 months while bulk aging for longer.

And go long on MLF, the rush to get it under sulfite isn't a good thing.
 

NorCal

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Was there an upper limit addition of tartaric acid to achieve the desired pH?
They use the same Cab Franc grapes from the same vineyard as I do. It regularly comes in 3.8 to 4.0 at 25.5/26 brix. I’ll add a pound of tartaric in the macrobin and it will drop the 1,000 pounds down .2 I’ve never dared going further than that, but I will this season, all the way down to 3.6, but in smaller increments than a pound at a time.
 

NorCal

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The other interesting thing I read was homeworkers rack to often. I have sort of been thinking that same thing and am considering cutting back to every 6 or maybe even 9 months while bulk aging for longer.

And go long on MLF, the rush to get it under sulfite isn't a good thing.
I asked the winemaker if “wanting something to do” was a good reason to rack, he chuckled. My usual regime is press, let settle for a day or two, rack1. Let mlf complete in the barrel, rack2. Wait 3-4 months rack3. Right before bottling rack4. I think it’s safe to eliminate rack3. If I let it stay in the barrel for 18 months vs 11 months, maybe I’d do a rack3.

He really advocated keeping the barrel topped every 3 weeks, aiming for topping additions of 500 ml. If you are using more, top sooner, less stretch out the interval.
 

NorCal

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200ppm sounds really high to me. Maybe not for commercial wines, but far more than I use for my own.
At 3.9 pH the target level is 74, which I’ve had a number of wines at. Wine in barrels eats up 2X as much SO2 as in glass, so I’ve hit 200 pretty easily on some of my wines. At 3.6 the target is only 38 ppm, thus the emphasis on making the big brave adjustment up front.
 

Dom Lausic

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Wow! Thanks @NorCal, what a great post. So motivating and validating to get such feedback from an accomplished winemaker! Glad to hear it worked out better than anticipated!
 

Ajmassa

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200ppm sounds really high to me. Maybe not for commercial wines, but far more than I use for my own.
I assume that meant 200ppm total so2 added over the course of the aging process. So x4 overall additions of around 30ppm keeps it reasonable at 120ppm
But my 3.9ph wine for instance, in bulk for 1.5 years, required over that cumulative 200ppm added throughout aging- maintaining a 70ppm free so2 level. Had I not been a wimp at crush it would eliminate the need to flirt with that so2 threshold.
Seems like long term barrel aging would make keeping that number down difficult though.

*edit- ah my bad. didn’t mean to be redundant @NorCal.
 
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NCWC

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I rack about 24 hours after press then I ML. Then I rack in 3 weeks. Then in 3 weeks I rack to barrels and add SO2 but I store in barrels with a 25ppm of so2.
Make small acid adjustments (.1 .2 up or down) during barrel aging. Then I stage to bottle in a stainless steel tank and do final SO2 adjustment to what it should be normally around 50-60 ppm. You really don't need to go too much higher. Even if the wine is 4.0ph You are going to drink it in the next 5 years right. I have wine 10 years old and it is fine
 

ZebraB

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Great info. Did he state what the target addition of SO2 for white wines or is the 30 for both red & white wines?
 
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