Wine juice kit suggestions?

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Feb 8, 2009
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I'm planning to make wine for the first time and wanted to get some advice from the experts on juice kits (I will be using my beer brewing equipment). Can anyone suggest a good brand or type of kit that will provide the best results possible for a first timer? I want to make a Cabernet or Zinfandel, but I am also open to other robust varietals.

I should also mention that I live in Rocklin, California, which is surrounded by (within 2 hours or less) Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Livermore, Sierra foothills, and other established wine regions in N. California. I have in-laws living in Sonoma, where I have tasted wines extensively, and my sister works at a winery down south in Paso Robles..... In other words, I'm spoiled, so the wine I make has to be good;> !!!

Thanks! Mike.
Hi Mike, welcome to the forum. Lots of great advice, help and wisdom in here. Alot of the more senior members are real familiar with kits and am sure you can expect some qualified opinions on kits. A few others are "old-timers" (and they know who they are) and will be so envious that you are so close to so many fine grapes and are considering a kit, they may not answer you at all!!!!:) Just kidding bro'. Hope you can find some advice in here to help you be successful. The search in here isn't Google, but you can find alot of info in there with your key words.
Take Care

Perhaps you can explain what you mean by a "juice kit". Nearly all wine kits are blends of juice & concentrate.

Also, the type of wine you describe would have to age for at least a year, even if the instructions say 6 weeks.

(I will be using my beer brewing equipment).

If you can avoid it I would not use any equipment that was used for beer, because it can impart bad flavors or bad yeast into your wine. But if you have to I would scrub the equipment with sanitizer very well. I was thinking about making some beer my self someday when I have more money.
Dont know what size carboy you have but almost all wie kits are 6 gallons with a few sweeter wines that are 3 gallons, what size carboy do you have?
Thanks all for getting back to me!

Wade E and peagen - my carboy holds 7 gallons max (designed for 5 gallon beer batches). I'll go buy a new and bigger one if necessary.

cpfan - by "juice kit" I was referring to one of the off-the-shelf all-in-one ingredient kits (as opposed to buying grapes, etc.). Really I am just looking for any suggestions for making a first batch. I have read some other similar threads and the person's location and varietal preference seemed to play a big factor in the response they got. I also don't mind waiting a year for good results. It will take me at least that long to drink 6 gallons of wine anyway!

As with a lot of things "you get what you pay for," :D but with that said, I made a Vino del Vida White Zin (an inexpensive kit) last year, which I thought turned out very good (but I didn't grow up in California wine country:cool:). If you are trying to impress someone I would go with a higher end kit (usually more expensive)

In my experience, there are three possibilities for what "juice kit" means, thank you for clarifying your meaning. You are asking about a plain old wine kit. I don't really know what brands are available from stores in any part of California, but all of the following are available from mail order.

Since you are concerned about quality of the wine, and are willing to age, I'm going to give some suggested brands (all 15 litre kits or larger). Note all kits make 23 litres (6 US gallons).

Winexpert - Selection (Original, International, Estate, or Limited Edition)
RJ Spagnols - Cellar Classic, Cru Select, En Primeur
Vineco - Ken Ridge Showcase, Ken Ridge Founders Series
Cellar Craft
Heron Bay
US Elite

There are other manufacturers but I either don't think they are available in the US or don't recommend them.

What variety to make? Well that's a personal choice. For example, I don't particularly like Chardonnay, but you might. I love Gewurztraminer and Riesling, you might not.

The big thing these days with red wine kits is grape skins included with the kit. Spagnols has two types of skin packages - dry and wet (or jammy). I don't recommend the skin kits to newbies because of the extra aging required for the wine to reach it's best, and the extra work handling the skins. But it`s your choice. Personally, I have some extra tools in my wine equipment assortment specifically purchased for handling the skins. Others use large straining bags from Home Depot.

Hope this helps a bit. If there are any specific brands-varieties that you see, fell free to ask about them.

Wade E and peagen - my carboy holds 7 gallons max (designed for 5 gallon beer batches). I'll go buy a new and bigger one if necessary.

For making a wine kit, you need 6 US gallon carboys. I like to have one per batch on the go, plus a spare for racking. So four kits on the go, 5 carboys. I actually have 6 glass carboys and three plastic Better Bottles. I don't have
much experience with the Better Bottles, but have used other plastic carboys in the past.

In addition, you need at least one primary fermenter. I recemmend that it be at least 7.9 US gallons if you plan to make any grape skin kits. The extra space is required for the volume that the skins add, stirring, and foaming. Personally I use 11-12 US gallon primaries (they're called 46 litres but I think they are slightly smaller than that) for everything.

Thanks everyone, this was the kind of feedback I was hoping for! Of course any additional will be appreciated as well.