Sunday, September 28, 2014

Greenhouse Installation

It has been a while since we purchased our greenhouse (see previous post).  We finally had time to actually set it up in it's permanent place, i.e. in the herbgarden in front of the house.

We started by clearing the space, measuring out the dimensions and marking the four post holes. We used the posthole digging attachment with the tractor to make the holes.

Next we cemented the four corner posts and let them settle overnight.  The next day, we build the frame that would anchor the greenhouse, leveled it and started filling it with gravel.

In order to keep the greenhouse level, we had to really built up the back part of the plot.  We used field stones from an old stone wall to build a retaining wall, and back-filled with gravel and dirt.

Once the frame was solid, and the inside filled with gravel, we laid down large cement platters for a center walkway.  After that is was just a matter of carrying the greenhouse frame (no glass yet) and securing it to the foundation.

Next step:  installing all the glass panels, the door and the louvered windows...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Update on the Rosé Experiment

Surprisingly, both of the 3 gallon carboys full of  the "sludge" that had settled out of the pressed juice, did clear somewhat.  We were able to rack off another 2 gallons into the fermentation tank - the rest of the "sludge" went to the compost pile.

Fermentation of the soon to be  rosé wine is now well under way, and we'll be monitoring it daily until it reaches completion.    Stay tuned :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Makings of Rosé

There are a couple of options for making a rosé, including blending different wines together, but we opted for using red grapes and basically processing them just like a white wine.  

With other words, we picked the grapes, ran them through the crusher/destemmer and the put them into the press.  We collected all the free run juice first (about 40 gallons), and then started to gently press the grapes for another 5 gallons, which were added to the free run juice.  We continued pressing the grapes, but kept this juice separately - which yielded about 7 gallons.  Toward the end of pressing, the juice had a distinct “vegetative” flavor, from the bits of stems and seeds that got crushed – not nearly as pleasant tasting as the free run juice.

ice bag floating in the fresh juice
We cooled the juice by dropping previously frozen and sealed ice bags into the wine, to keep the temperature around 65° F. 

After treating the juice with SO2 and adding Pectinase, we covered the barrel and let the juice sit overnight.  This should help with settling out impurities.  We also took a juice sample to test the pH, sugar level and TA (total acidity).

Today we racked the clear  juice into a new barrel - you can see the rose colored juice being pumped through a clear hose in the left picture.  There was a surprising amount of "sludge" left near the bottom of the barrel, nearly 5 gallons.  We racked the sludge into two small carboys to see if it would clear anymore (I just don't see how it could).

We did the same with the 7 gallons of pressed juice, added the hydrated yeast to both containers and let the fermentation begin!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Harvest with Upgraded Grape Equipment

We harvested over 750 lbs of our Chambourcin grapes this morning to experiment with making rosé wine.  This relatively small harvest served a double purpose:  to try and make rosé, and to make sure our new (used) grape processing equipment will work as we hope before be pick the bulk of the grapes later this month.

We got an early start, the fog had not even lifted, and it was still pleasantly cool.  First order of business:  remove the bird netting:

nice cluster!
We alternated picking and crushing/destemming, then dumping the   grapes into the press.  All this took five of us about two and a half     hours, plus another half hour for clean up.

The used crusher/destemmer we got earlier this summer worked surprisingly well.  Jeff had to rewire the barn in order to get a 220 V outlet, and a friend build us a stand for underneath the destemmer, which made it a lot more sturdy.  Yesterday we scrubbed everything again with soapy water, then power-washed it prior to using it today.  Here is a video showing how it worked:

We then dumped the crushed grapes into the press, and collected the free run juice first.  This will be the juice we use for the rosé wine.  We then pressed the grapes and collected the pressed juice for a separate batch of wine.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Meet our Basket Press

Our latest equipment upgrade was a used "Zambelli" basket press with a capacity significantly larger than anything we had ever used before.

We actually found this on Craigslist - in Maryland (and pulled it on a trailer across the Bay Bridge).

Not only does this press have larger capacity, it also comes with a hydraulic mechanism, making it a manual hydraulic press.  And it has a pressure gauge!

The basket itself is so large that it can be taken apart into two sections, which is handy for cleaning, but even handier for removing the pomace after pressing is done.

We have to move the press with the tractor though, it is much too heavy for any of us.

Crushed and destemmed grapes are
dumped into the basket

Grapes are pressed and juice runs out

When the pressing is done, the basket pieces can be removed and the pomace is exposed, which can then easily be removed with a pitch fork and carted to the compost pile.