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WineXpert WE SE Sonoma Cab / Stags Leap Merlot Questions

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andrew

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I recently purchased two WE SE kits and have a couple questions before getting things going. The kits are the Sonoma Valley Cabernet and Stags Leap Merlot. I've brewed beer for years and made a couple red kits (a shiraz and a cab, don't recall exactly but I believe they were vinter's reserve) a few years back that, while certainly drinkable, were too thin for my liking. I haven't had many kit wines besides but they also had what may have been a subtle "kit taste". After all that waiting, which was difficult for a beer brewer, I was somewhat letdown in the end, unlike the vast majority of my beer making ventures. I decided to give it another run since I'm now drinking more wine than beer and went with the highest quality kits I could find. I am planning on generally following the guidelines in Tim Vandergrift's "Make your kit wine shine" article but am seeking some advice. I intend to let these age in the bottle for at least a year before beginning consumption and I want to try and make the best finished product possible. I've read through numerous posts on this forum (which is the best I've found on the net so far) and searched the internet a fair bit but here's several topics I wasn't certain about given that the general consensus with these kits seems to be "follow the directions".

Fining: I plan to do a 5-20-40-90 schedule, perhaps longer for the final step if recommended. Both kits come with chitosan, the Cab kit with 2 packages, the Merlot with 1 package. Would cutting back or eliminating these (or the bentonite for that matter), even if it means extending the bulk carboy aging, improve the finished product at all?

Sulfites: Both kits contain a single packet of k-meta, which I assume are 4 grams from the printing on the package ("4 Gr."). It seems the going rate is somewhere around 1/4 teaspoon per 6 gallons every other racking or every 3 months-ish if bulk aging but I wasn't certain if this pertained to all kits. I ask because the instructions for the Stags Leap specifically say (in bold print) in Step 4 to add 1/4 teaspoon additional sulfite if planning on aging more than 6 months while the instructions for the Sonoma Cab make no mention of adding additional sulfites at all even (though the WE flyer on their website for this wine kit says it will benefit from 18-24 months of aging). Does the cab kit have a higher initial sulfite level than the merlot? Given that I follow a 5-20-40-90(180) schedule, when would 1/4 teaspoon additions be recommended?

Sorbate: I clean and sanitize meticulously and was not intending to use this additive at all (per the Vandergrift article) but maybe boosting sulfites a bit if that is necessary. Is this a good idea? Regarding sanitation, are there any reservations about using a "no-rinse" iodophor solution and air drying?

Thanks in advance for any advice/recommendations. I hope this wasn't too many questions in one post.
-Andrew
 

phermenter

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Andrew: I'm at work so can't take time for too much (and I can't claim the expertise to answer all your questions). You can probably skip the finings (if you're aging 6 months or so) and the sorbate, but you want to use the bentonite, which helps the fermentation get going strong, and yes to the sulfite additions. I've never seen a WE kit that didn't suggest using an extra 1/4 tsp if aging beyond 6 months. I'm surprised the cab instructions don't mention it.

Jim
 

cpfan

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Jim :

I haven't made a Crushendo, but I thought that Crushendo instructions did NOT recommend the extra K-meta.

I'm no expert on the WE lines but aren't both of these Crushendos? I wish Andrew had been specific about what kits these are. Does SE mean SElection or Selection Estate (or Special Edition)? I looked at the WE web-site but still wasn't positive.

Steve
 

phermenter

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Jim :

I haven't made a Crushendo, but I thought that Crushendo instructions did NOT recommend the extra K-meta.

I'm no expert on the WE lines but aren't both of these Crushendos? I wish Andrew had been specific about what kits these are. Does SE mean SElection or Selection Estate (or Special Edition)? I looked at the WE web-site but still wasn't positive.

Steve
It looks like they're both Selection Estate kits, and you're right about the Sonoma Cab being a Crushendo. I've never made one either. Didn't know about they didn't call for the extra sulfites. Good catch.
 

andrew

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To clear up the confusion both kits are Selection Estate series, Sonoma Valley Cab. Sav. (Crushendo) and the Napa Valley Stag's Leap District Merlot (Not Crushendo). I tried linking to Winexpert's site to the kit instructions that came with these kits but since I'm new to the forum I couldn't include links. But if you go to

www_DOT_winexpert_DOT_com/kit-instructions

you can find PDFs of the instructions for the SE Crushendo and SE Original series.

No mention of additional sulfite in the Crushendo instructions but it does have a little blurb about filtering your wine in step 4 that is not in the instructions below, perhaps mentioned because of the inclusion of grape skins

The SE original series mentions adding additional sulfite in step 4.

Thanks,
Andrew
 

andrew

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I tried posting a reply this morning but it never showed up so I'll try again, my apologies if it shows up twice. I wanted to clarify the kits, which are Selection Estate Sonoma Cabernet (crushendo) and Selection Estate Napa Valley Stag's Leap District Merlot. The complete instructions for both kits can be found at the link below. I'm forbidden from posting links yet hence the _DOT_

www_DOT_winexpert_DOT_com/kit-instructions

The selection estate and selection estate crushendo series have different instructions and the selection estate crushendo series has no mention of adding additional sulfite while the selection estate series does.
Thanks,
Aaron
 

andrew

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I asked WE about additional sulfites for Crushendo kits and thought others making these kits might find the response useful:

"There is no instruction at bottling for adding a quarter teaspoon of sulphite to the Crushendo kits. This kit does not need extra sulphite for ageing. We include a higher level of sulphite in the kit to begin with. At bottling it will be approximately 30 PPM FSO2-higher than our regular kits, but still less than half of the legal level for commercial wines. The high level of tannin in the kit acts as a natural preservative, protecting the wine from oxidation."

-Andrew
 

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