Real grapes or kit for first ever batch.

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David Engel

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Hi All,

Probably a couple years away yet for my own grapes. I'm going to dive in this year and get equipment. Question is do I get a 6 gallon equipment kit and a couple lugs of grapes or get a wine making kit with the juice included?

Dave
 

winemaker81

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Buy an equipment set -- typically the price is a bit better than buying components individually. If you have a local shop, see what they have, else look at difference sources online. S&H can jack the cost.

Start with a kit, buying from a reputable vendor such as RJ Spagnols or Winexpert. The instructions will walk you through the winemaking process and you'll get a respectable result. Make a couple of kits to get comfortable with the process, then branch out.

I liken it to when I learned to drive. My older siblings learned to drive on a stick, which is analogous to starting with fresh grapes. They had to learn it all at once.

My dad taught me and my younger brother to drive on an automatic, as it let us focus on certain aspects of driving. A few months later when I was comfortable with driving an automatic, we hopped in the old truck and I learned stick. I did the same with my sons, breaking the process up, and was very successful. I'm sure you can see the analogy to kits.

EDIT: go with a higher end equipment kit, especially upgrading the corker. If you get serious, you want a floor corker.
 

heatherd

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Hi All,

Probably a couple years away yet for my own grapes. I'm going to dive in this year and get equipment. Question is do I get a 6 gallon equipment kit and a couple lugs of grapes or get a wine making kit with the juice included?

Dave
I have a 6 gallon equipment kit like this one from Presque Isle Wine: Deluxe Home Wine making Kit designed by PIWC (piwine.com) I'd jump in and get frozen white juice or frozen red must, which is available all year from Brehm Vineyards. Their product is beautiful, they're happy to talk you through things, and they have pails that are balanced pH-wise. Cabernet Sauvignon, Seven Hills Winery Estate | The Rocks AVA - Brehm Vineyards or you can get white juice Spring Sale on White Juices - Brehm Vineyards. I've done this before and had good luck. You can press the reds by hand at first, and wait to get something further down the line.
 

heatherd

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Another option for grapes is Wine Grapes Direct. Shop — Wine Grapes Direct I like that they have red and white ingredient kits that are tailored to the wine. These are also pH balanced.
 

Tandrup

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Hi All,

Probably a couple years away yet for my own grapes. I'm going to dive in this year and get equipment. Question is do I get a 6 gallon equipment kit and a couple lugs of grapes or get a wine making kit with the juice included?

Dave
For what it’s worth David, I am in a similar situation. Just planted my vineyard and I went ahead and purchased an equipment kit from a local retailer. I will first do a couple or three kits from WineExpert. Then I’ll move on to grapes after that.
 

NorCal

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I first spent $10 (hydrometer, airlock) making prison hooch out of a container of welches, followed by a carboy of Skeeter Pee, then on to Dragons Blood before ever touching grapes. I learned so much at each step of the way, that I felt that by the time I spent real $ on grapes I was ready for the incremental steps of handling the fresh fruit. I bought nearly all my equipment on Craigslist for less than 50% of what it was new.

The welches was completely undrinkable, the Skeeter Pees went off without a hitch and the Dragon's Blood is still being asked for. Hmmm....it might be time to make a batch in time for summer.

skeeter.jpg
 

Tandrup

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Fantastic! I just checked out the link to Brehms that was inserted above. Looks like they offer a pickup in Richmond, CA for some of their frozen juice. That sounds interesting to me as well. Keep us updated on how you proceed with your next steps. There are so many good posts in here and so much valuable information to tap ino.
 
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Bts

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Do at least one or two kits before you touch juice buckets or grapes. Any of the major bands lower end kits will give you some practice and quickly/easily/reliably/cheaply produce a very respectable table wine. If you really want to do grapes early you can get by with a few extra 5 gallon buckets for fermentation vessels(6 gal of wine is like 8-9 gal of crushed grapes), hand crushing(what a pain), and a bucket press(surprisingly OKish). But do yourself a favor and make a kit or two over the spring/summer first.
 

winemaker81

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This thread illustrates what I believe is the hardest part for a new winemaker -- who is right?

The problem is that the answer often is "everyone". In winemaking, there is often more than 1 valid answer for any question. Deciding which choice to go with can be difficult, and should be based upon the new winemaker's interests, desires, and risk tolerance.

Whattaya wanna make? Chateau Petrus or Chateau Plonk? How much ya wanna invest? $ or $$$? Are ya gonna quit if the first batch doesn't turn out well?

@heatherd's advice to start with a juice bucket will get you closer to Petrus than Plonk. It's higher risk as the newbie is relying on advice from the internet (and we all know just how reliable that is!) and has more money invested, but the results have a greater chance of being really good. [There is great support here, as dozens of us put a lot of effort into helping beginners make successful wines.]

Kits? The risk is lower as the cost is often lower and the instructions from reputable vendors are really good. It's not going to be Petrus, but it will be better than Plonk. Starting with a low end kit ($60 to $100 USD) works, although the higher end kits will often produce a better result. [If there's a bottle left from that 1st batch a year later, you're unusual, regardless of what you make.]

I hadn't considered @NorCal's advice to start with Skeeter Pee and/or Dragon's Blood, but he's also spot on. The financial risk is lower, but the risk is a bit higher than kits. Both are at the Plonk level, but who cares? They're FUN! And the process is essentially the same if you're pouring 4 bottles of RealLemon into the bucket or crushing the grapes you mortgaged the next 12 generations to purchase from Petrus.

The only stupid question is the one you don't post. Pick a first wine and get crackin'!

Off the record, I realize I'm never gonna make Chateau Petrus, and I'm cool with making fun wines that people enjoy. THAT is one of the points of winemaking. If folks have an empty glass out for a refill, you've succeeded.
 

heatherd

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Fantastic! I just checked out the link to Brehms that was inserted above. Looks like they offer a pickup in Richmond, CA for some of their frozen juice. That sounds interesting to me as well. Keep us updated on how you proceed with your next steps. There are so many good posts in here and so much valuable information to tap ino.
They have instructions on their site and also state that they'll help you with anything you need.
Winemaking - Brehm Vineyards
 

heatherd

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This thread illustrates what I believe is the hardest part for a new winemaker -- who is right?

The problem is that the answer often is "everyone". In winemaking, there is often more than 1 valid answer for any question. Deciding which choice to go with can be difficult, and should be based upon the new winemaker's interests, desires, and risk tolerance.

Whattaya wanna make? Chateau Petrus or Chateau Plonk? How much ya wanna invest? $ or $$$? Are ya gonna quit if the first batch doesn't turn out well?

@heatherd's advice to start with a juice bucket will get you closer to Petrus than Plonk. It's higher risk as the newbie is relying on advice from the internet (and we all know just how reliable that is!) and has more money invested, but the results have a greater chance of being really good. [There is great support here, as dozens of us put a lot of effort into helping beginners make successful wines.]

Kits? The risk is lower as the cost is often lower and the instructions from reputable vendors are really good. It's not going to be Petrus, but it will be better than Plonk. Starting with a low end kit ($60 to $100 USD) works, although the higher end kits will often produce a better result. [If there's a bottle left from that 1st batch a year later, you're unusual, regardless of what you make.]

I hadn't considered @NorCal's advice to start with Skeeter Pee and/or Dragon's Blood, but he's also spot on. The financial risk is lower, but the risk is a bit higher than kits. Both are at the Plonk level, but who cares? They're FUN! And the process is essentially the same if you're pouring 4 bottles of RealLemon into the bucket or crushing the grapes you mortgaged the next 12 generations to purchase from Petrus.

The only stupid question is the one you don't post. Pick a first wine and get crackin'!

Off the record, I realize I'm never gonna make Chateau Petrus, and I'm cool with making fun wines that people enjoy. THAT is one of the points of winemaking. If folks have an empty glass out for a refill, you've succeeded.
Great advice! I forgot about skeeter pee and dragon's blood. For a kit, I would also recommend Finer Wines from Label Peelers since that'll get you closer to a winemaking process and working with skins, oak, and a yeast-starter. I ordered two double-skin kits from here and they're in process. Super Tuscan Finer Wine Kit | Label Peelers, Inc.
 

AR324

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I was in the same position a few months ago. Dipped into the waters slowly with a cheapie one gallon Merlot turned out ok. Then made a blueberry that seems good so far.
Took the plunge in January with a 6 gallon Malbec. It’s been bulk aging for about two months and tasted it tonight. Very pleased with the taste and color. Can’t wait to taste it in 6 months.
I’m glad I started slow and read a lot. I want to try a juice bucket and graduate to grapes one day. I do find the idea of using grapes intimidating.
Now I’m also got a RJS Merlot going and am experimenting with 2 one gallon cabs from WE.
Starting with kits was great for me but I guess it all depends on your comfort level.
 

SLM

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Funny, almost everyone I talk to says their first wine was terrible. For me, my first effort was a winner, from fresh blackberries. Had no clue what I was doing, just followed a reliable recipe and it went well. It's my second wine that bombed. In the past 6 months I've made several batches from kits, juice, and frozen must. None of them are very drinkable yet so I don't know what the finished product will be like. But I figure if you're going to dive into this hobby you can't wait around for a year to decide how you did and if you want to continue. You need practice. So my answer would be, why choose? Do both!
 

Bts

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+1 on do both. Or preferably several of both. Gotta remember that you ideally want to maintain maybe 2 or 3 years of red consumption in the cellar, so going from 0 to that is a fair bit of brewing(I'm assuming...we do tend to drink a fair bit of wine around here :)). If you don't/can't do that then you'll be tempted to drink up your reds before their prime which is really kind of a shame. Light/tart kits(Beaujolais/gamay, valpolicella, etc) are great in this respect because they actually drink pretty well even super young, so you can bang them out as needed and drink them while the bigger stuff ages. Same for most whites. All grape reds, and, to a lesser extent, red buckets and premium kits generally need the 2 years to really come round. If I were starting over I'd bang out 2 to 3 years worth of heavy reds(premium kits + a fall all grape), plus one gamay kit, plus one or two whites. And then subsequent years brew a selection that's about what I want to drink in an average year.
 

winemaker81

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Funny, almost everyone I talk to says their first wine was terrible.
IME it's the folks who dive in without a clue that have the hardest time. Folks that do a bit of research and learning first appear to have a better first batch, especially with kits.

(I was in the "no clue" bunch)
 

SLM

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IME it's the folks who dive in without a clue that have the hardest time. Folks that do a bit of research and learning first appear to have a better first batch, especially with kits.

(I was in the "no clue" bunch)
Agree. I wouldn't recommend anyone follow my evil ways. I will say I got lucky, but now that I know a little I wouldn't change anything I did. Next harvest I will use the same procedure, except that I will understand what I'm doing!
 
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