Monday, November 29, 2010

I wanted to share a great site about wine and winemaking.  It is called GrapeRadio.  It is a weekly radio program that features a regular staff of winemakers and different guests each week.  I have learned a lot from this site.   The best thing is they have about 5 years of archived shows available to listen on their site.  Just click on the "past episodes" tab at the top of their site and it will take you to the listing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

US Wine Shipping Map

If you really want to make your head hurt, start studying up on US interstate wine shipping laws.  It has been said it is easier to sell and distribute wine in the former Soviet Republic than it is in the US.  That's  a pretty true statement.  Some of our 3-tier laws go all the way back to Prohibition.  These laws that inhibit interstate commerce and the enjoyment of good wine have been kept in place by powerful lobbyists that influence their legislatures into thinking this system is a good idea.  We all know it's not, but change comes very slow when it comes to interstate alcohol regulations.

This map came from the editors at "The World of Fine Wine" (, a magazine based in the UK. 

US Wine Map

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Most wines are meant to be consumed when you buy them

This is a question that comes up a lot.  What wines should I try to age on my own?  I'll post this link below that will help answer that question. (see the heading "which wines age well") 

Based on this article a year after fermentation most wines are as good as they will be.  So consume between 1-5 years and you're OK. 
What I have heard is that less than 10% of reds and 5% of whites are ever meant to be aged past 5 years.  And according to this article, aging more than 5 yrs may actually reduce the quality of the wine.  But there are a few that will improve with age and appreciate in value.  See the article.

Aging wine?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Where did they get that price?

You're walking into the wine store getting ready to load up the day before Thanksgiving.  You want to be prepared for family events all day.  This is no occasion to be sober.  Football, food, and family.  Wine just makes it that much more interesting.

You want to impress everyone on this special occasion, so price is no object (at least less of one, maybe).  Is that $60 bottle of wine really going to taste better than the $13 one?

Read more here:

what determines a wine's price?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just signed up for CellarTracker

I recommend this website to anyone who wants to get information about a bottle of wine and/or to track their own inventory of wine. 


It is free to use (they ask for donations), and you can find almost any wine you're looking for, and add your own opinions on wine you have tasted, as well.  Let's face it, you walk into a wine store, you stand there, and unless you know specifically what you're looking for, the choices are overwhelming.  And you end up picking the one with the nice label.

This will allow you to do a little research before you spend $40 or $50 on a wine.  Because, as we know, a higher priced wine doesn't necessarily mean it's a better wine.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Little Perspective

I think it's always good to get out and see what is going on in the world.  We get so consumed in our own little corner of the world we lose perspective sometimes.  Wine making is truly a universal concept, and one that has been carried on for 1000's of years.  Today I am looking at a website dedicated to "natural" winemaking, and it is based in France.

Much like the production of Beaujolais Nouveau, this group of producers do things a little differently than what we are used to.  They rely on wild yeasts, not commercial yeasts that are primarily used in the US.  And they place the grapes(and stems) directly in the barrel with no pressing or destemming.   So the grapes ferment on the whole berries.  The barrel has no airlock, so the carbon dioxide produced in fermentation is not released, but compresses the grapes and helps them ferment.  This is also why some of these wines produced have a "fizzy" taste when you drink's the residual carbon dioxide in the wine.  This wine making process is called carbonic maceration.

"Natural" wine producers also don't use sulfur (or sulfites).  They rely on the natural protection that carbon dioxide provides to preserve the wine.

Check out their site.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Preparing the barrel

I tested for malic acid tonight.  We're still above 300 ml, so no rush with moving the wine from our carboy to the barrel.  You want to make sure you prepare your barrel, though, too.  Making sure there are no leaks or issues with the bungs before you put your wine into it.  So tonight I filled it with hot water, and will wait to make sure there are no leaks.  The directions say it could take up to 7 days for the joints to expand and fill all cracks that could possibly leak. 

After I have determined it has no leaks, I want to add some sulfited water in it to make sure there is no bacteria in there before the wine goes in.

Here is the one I'm using this year.  It is 20L, or approx 5 gals:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Beaujolais Nouveau

I had no idea what this was until a few years ago when my aunt brought a bottle of this to Thanksgiving Dinner.  It was a tradition for her to pick up a bottle at the same time in November every year.

Beaujolais Nouveau in a nutshell is wine that comes from the Beaujolais region of France that has only been fermenting for a month or two, depending on when France had their grape harvest that year.  We are both in the Northern Hemisphere so their harvest is typically Sept-Oct time frame so that means it would have been fermenting for a month to month and a half.
They rush it into warehouses around the world by FedEx, and then release it on the 3rd Thursday of November for sale. 

That's November 18th this year.

So go buy a's not bad.  Very light and fruity, but it's more tradition than it is taste!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

TN Law to allow "Spirits" makers

Tennessee, traditionally one of the least progressive states when it comes to wine, beer and spirits making and distribution, is close to passing a law that will allow "spirits" to be made in all 95 counties (or at least counties that are not presently dry).

Chinese proverb:  "The Man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones".

Here is the link:

BusinessTN Article

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Winemaking Log

Especially if you're just starting out, it helps to keep a log of your activities.  It helps you do things in an orderly manner and it also allows you to share your experiences with other winemakers. If you don't already have one, here is a good one I found on the internet. Here it is.

Winemaking Log

I will post it in the references/tools tab, as well.  I recommend using this.  It helps to compare different vintages and also to document the process.  I find that I will test the wine on a timely basis if I'm writing it down.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Corks....and the tools that go with them

It is early to be thinking about items needed for bottling but I wanted to make this post now that I'm thinking about it.  When buying your corks, choose winery grade corks, not pure agglomerated.   Agglomerated is basically like particleboard they use on houses.  It takes chips of cork and by products and glues them together to form a cork. Winery grade uses natural cork on the ends and some agglomeration in the middle.  They are longer, and non-chamfered (non-tapered).  Winery grade corks will cost more, but it is worth it.  I have used the cheap, agglomerated corks and (depending on how old they are) can crumble and come apart as you insert them into your bottles.

You spent a lot of time and money on your wine.  Don't skimp on the cork.

Here is the tool I would recommend using to insert them.  This is the base-level tool you should use.  I wouldn't go with anything less complex or cheaper.  Hand-ratcheted devices are harder to use and can leave indentations in the top of your cork, and the corks rarely go in evenly with the hand-corkers.

It retails in the $60-$70 range.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

WA narrowly defeats I-1100

An initiative in Washington State that would have eliminated the "3-tier" system (producer sells to distributor, who sells to consumer) was defeated this week by a somewhat narrow margin.  It is good to see that voters are challenging some of these laws that date back to Prohibition!  The Federal government allows the states to create monopolies in liquor distribution that can often lead to less selection and higher costs for consumers when there are additional layers in the supply chain.  Layers that are essentially unnecessary.

Here is a link to the article:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

So has your 2010 wine gone south?

It happens.  Maybe you had H2S issues you couldn't recover from.  Maybe too much oxygenation.  Maybe your primary didn't complete and you can't restart.  Here are a few options if your wine from this fall's grapes has become undrinkable:

Chile-  Chile will be experiencing their grape harvest about time it is spring in the US.  April or May.  You can get fresh grapes from a few suppliers or order frozen must fresh from the 2011 spring harvest.  Check my references/tools page for more information or send us an email.

Frozen pails from the US-  There are a few suppliers that stock frozen must available year-round.  No matter where you live they can ship it to you, overnight.  It may involve a trip to the airport to pick it up, but that's about it. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

So how is 2010 CA vintage looking?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  That is really what you hear when people talk about California's wine grape harvest 2010.  It was much cooler and wetter than normal, leading to very late ripening and some that were ruined by the late rains that came in October.  But on the other hand, the grapes that were harvested were excellent.  I was very happy with mine. There is a very deep, inky color in my wine I haven't seen in a Cabernet.  Less harvest quantities are supposed to mean more concentration of flavor and acids in the grapes that make it.   We'll see!  But I think 2010 is already shaping up to be a great year......

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Come follow our home winemaking journey starting with fresh grapes from California in fall 2010.
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