Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What We're Making: WINE, Baby!

Last year for Mr. W's birthday, I bought him a guide to wine-making and promised that once he had chosen the best kit, I'd pay for part of it and/or the grape juice so he could finally give home wine-making a whirl. For my birthday, he bought me a toilet. But that's another story.

He finally got around to ordering the kit this past fall, and in October began the process of making 30 bottles of home-brewed Merlot. We chose Merlot because we thought it might be easier than a bigger red or pretty much any white. Here's what the kit looked like after we unpacked it:


Basic contents are: A bucket to mix the grape juice with various additives. A glass jug that holds the wine for aging - and bottle brush for cleaning it. Some sort of siphoning squirty thing for transferring wine from "barrel" (jug) to bottle. A corking tool and a bunch of corks.

After sterilizing everything with a special solution, Mr. W set off on his Mad Scientist adventure.

Grape juice was added to the bucket:

And a hydrometer was used to test its gravity. No idea why. Maybe so when we drank it, we wouldn't float away like that one burping scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Clearly, Mr. W should be writing this post...

Once gravitational pull (I just made that up) was established, the wine was poured back into the bucket where it was mixed with additives and yeast to help mimic the flavor and chemical reactions that occur when wine is in a barrel. As usual, the cat was extremely helpful during this entire process.

For about 8 days after this step, that bucket sat in Mr. W's bathtub doing its thing. He had to retest the gravity (which I just found out measures alcohol content) and temperature several times to determine when fermentation had stopped. At that point, the wine was ready to get "racked"—i.e. put into the glass jug to age.

In this jug, nestled among the remote-controlled helicopters, dust bunnies, and landscaping books in our guest room, the wine aged until this past Sunday.

Then it was time to be bottled.

We carefully sterilized 36 bottles in the sink, 32 of which we ended up filling with wine.

Can you tell Mr. W just got a haircut the day before? I'll tell him you said you liked it.

Once the bottles were sterilized, the siphony sucker thing was used to transfer wine from the jug into each bottle.

I'll be honest: part of me was totally jonesing to cut those bottles up and turn them into candle hurricanes for my Etsy store. But we have to reuse them when we do this again, so I will refrain...

After all the bottles were filled, it was time to cork. We realized after doing a few on the countertop that it was about a hundred times easier to force the corks in while kneeling on the floor.

We left one bottle uncorked and drank part of it with our dinner. I have to say, it was pretty good considering it was our first time. And all this only cost about $13 a bottle, which isn't horrible—especially since we can use the equipment again.

For the next batch, we think we'll try making chardonnay. I'm hoping this is just the beginning of a long career of wine making together.


  1. That is so awesome that you are making wine. I am a bit jealous. I have cousins form Ohio that make homemade wine and they brought some to my wedding pre-dress rehearsal party. We drank it up!

    On a side note THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for the Dirty Life book recommendation. I read it in three days. I did not want to put it down. I just loved hearing about her farm adventures. It made me realize how hard a farmer works and how I don't. So the next day I decided to embrace that farmer mentality to work, work work and do as much in a day as possible. God I was exhausted. I feel like I am still recovering :)

  2. love merlot!
    and love your kitty.

    Thanks for this post, I've always wanted to try my own and this gives me food for thought. Or would that be drink for thought?

  3. Are we going to get to try some at Easter dinner? Did you crush the grapes out on the back lawn like "I Love Lucy" to get the grape juice, or did you just buy Welch's at the store? Can you really "sterilize" wine bottles in the kitchen sink? That part scares me a little - will we all get botulism or something?

  4. What a great project! And to have wine you can actually drink is impressive. I don't think I'd get that far.

    P.S. I had a dream last night that I visited you and brought my dogs. Shh, don't tell your cat!

  5. This is so cool. I want to try it now!

  6. Suzy - It was so fun - you have to try it. I know you'd probably make some awesome sauce. :P

    And I'm SO glad you liked the book! I want her to write more - I couldn't put it down either.

    Bethony - Thanks. :) I think you should grow some grapes in your great garden and give wine-making a try!

    Sister - YES - we're bringing it on Sunday! You'll like it! And we can even give you a few bottles. And no, you will not get any diseases. I think on top of the sterilizing, the alcohol will kill most germs. Most of the sterilizing is just to make sure nothing taints the taste of the wine.

    LesleyG - When you and your dogs come out to visit, we'll open a few bottles. ;)

  7. You could've just gone to Bev Mo!

  8. Christine - We would totally hook you up.

    Laura - Why go buy 30 bottles of wine when you can take 6 months to make them and then take 2 cases to your parents' house on easter to store in their basement?

    Jeff - We only have one jug. But thanks. You should see the junk I have in the trunk of my Prius...


Well, whatdya think?