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Garage Mini-Winery: Part 4 [Agriculture
Posted on November 8, 2016 @ 06:39:00 AM by Paul Meagher

My Garage Mini-Winery project is now into production so I though I would provide an update on where things stand and what my vinification plans are. For some project background, you can consult part 1, part 2 and part 3 of this series.

My total farm wine production for this year is shown in this video. The video shows the current state of my wine making room and the process I use to "punch down" my red wine during primary fermentation. Some vinters also refer to this activity as "maceration".

Overall I'm quite happy with the harvest-to-fermentation steps so far. I don't think there were any major faults except perhaps that my grapes didn't come in at 22-24 brix, but mostly in the 17-18 brix range. That is to be expected given that I am growing on the northern margins of where you can grow grape vines. While they may not have achieved full brix, I do think they reached physiological maturity and when this happens you get a tasty balanced grape even through it may not be as high a sugar content as they get in California.

A decision could have been made to ferment without adding sugar but I opted to add sugar to bring the wine into normal levels of alcohol content (12-14) for red wines. I also added as small an amount of water as needed to achieve the appropriate volume of wine needed to maximize wine production in each 5 gallon fermenter.

When you decide to standardize on 5 gallon pails then you can refine your protocols for dealing with that specific size batch. You know how many campden tablets to add to each pail, how much pectic enzyme, how much yeast nutrient, how much potassium sorbate, sugar, water and yeast. There is no reason you can't do this process as good as a big winery with more expensive equipment and facilities.

Future vinification plans involve keeping the fermentation room at 23 C / 73 F for another month, then adding potassium sorbate to stop any further fermentation and as a preservative. The room will be kept at this temp for a few more days so the sorbate can coat the yeast with a covering to stop reproduction. The room will then be non-heated and will go into cold stabilization for a couple of months with a racking in between. The cold-stabilization will be used to deacidify the wine which is in my opinion one the most serious wine faults that can happen to wine in this climate. After cold-stabilizaton the wine will be moved to a cellaring area that I will have ready in the spring (basement of our 170 year old farm house). Temperature in the rock cellar will be around 4 C / 39 F all the time without any attempt to use energy to achieve those temperatures or the appropriate humidity levels. The only temperature cost during this process is to keep the winery heated during primary and secondary fermentation.

What guides me in my wine making is not a vision of making a perfect wine, but rather a wine without any serious faults, a wine that is drinkable. I am not going to take any risks in the process, no funky departures from established protocols at my level of knowledge and wine making ability. Solid execution all the way through, and getting stuff built as lean as possible, is what I'm after. This will be an organic wine as far as I'm concerned because the farm the grapes are growing on was organic before I bought it and I've done no spraying or fertilizing or soil tillage to maintain the grape vines. A small glass of this wine would ideally be a sociable health drink.

My vineyard production this year is not that impressive. I expect production from the vineyard to double next year and then double again as the 2 to 4 year old vines mature and become more productive. I will also have apple trees coming online in the next couple of years that can be used to make apple cider. As a licensed farm mini-winery with the required amount of producting vineyard acreage (2 acres), I can then buy local fruit like blueberries from local growers and vinify that. My garage mini-winery is a critical learning step before I build my next winery at the site of the farm. I'm hoping it will also help with the winery/wine certification process which I might start in the next few months (another set of milestones).

It has been a 5 year process to get to the current stage of this venture and there are many more steps required before I have an official mini-winery license and an ability to sell wine at my farm. Lots can still go wrong. What I do know is that my goal seems more doable as I keep achieving new milestones (cost effectively) and the goal closes in.

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