Saturday, October 4, 2014

Harvest Moon

     A few days ago (as all good stories start, because that means at least one person survived), I went to my meager vineyard (yes, the Cronis Vineyards, in the same vein my grandfather before me did from the Old World yay, verily) and lo and behold, several of my wine Catawba grapes were on the ground, at least a few fistfuls.  Granted, I had several pounds of grapes and a supremely bountiful amount due to a rather rainy Colorado season this year.  I've noticed a wet season in Colorado every 5 years, give or take.  This year was ample rain and most of my grapes were plush and foxy with that desired white foxy sheen to them, rich and sweet (like my butt)  WOT?!  Er, nevermind.  Erase erase control-alt delete! Task manager, kill process.  End task-manager.  Erase.  Ahem.

From the Cronis Vineyards, Catawba grapes!

     Well, having been up all night as I've been working mids (and training this Marine kid about being a Ground Systems Engineer and all that comes with it [though I have to admit he was a fast study]) and it was 6am but Bacchus insisted by way of sending one of his minions, seemingly Rocket the Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy (and perhaps to include Vin Diesel as "Groot") having their fill, and a frosty morning indicating (as Iron Maiden would say in Number of the Beast) I knew my "time was short".  Though groggy and weary, I went to fetch my Mundial brand Brazilian grape-stem cutter "girdler" and went at it.

     To my surprise, some of the grapes were hybrid-ized.  The Catawba grape creates a pink wine naturally, due to sugars and acidity and is a bit of a red grape (some come out green, though very few) but some of the grapes were Concord looking.  With trepidation, I tried one.  Amazingly sweet!  On the same vine as the rest, a few bunches and some singles in a bunch were dark, dark purple!  This is a new breed of grape, no doubt produced by cross-pollination from some lucky honey-bee or rogue she-chipmunk wandering by and got pollen on her cheeks (or any number of other natural pollination methods, such as hamadryad or war-kitten a'plunder).  Huzzah!  The new species I shall call the Cronis Grape!  Sweet and sassy and just a bit foxy.

     The Cronis Vineyards is meager, taking only a cubic volume of 15x15x8 feet.  This crop was twice as bountiful as last year, and bunches were full and lush.  At about a 42 pound yield left me with plenty for 2 gallons of wine and enough to make jam preserves afterwards!  Harvest (despite its diminutive size) took me all of 2 hours, peaking through leaves and avoiding the occasional vineyard defender-spider.  A ladybug was busy stopping aphid infestation thankfully.  I thanked God, the vines themselves, and the ladybug for their great work under a new moon as the golden rays of a frosty dawn warmed the dew on the grass.

     Half the grapes I froze for jam and the other refrigerated to eliminate any bacteria (if any) and bugs (if any microscopic ones were around).  After a few days I went to spending the whole night going through each grape, one at a time, washing each one, inspecting for quality, discarding those unfit (quite few this time due to such a perfect yield) and pulling the "jacks" off the berries (the tiny stems) as well as the main stems and then mashing them with a sanitized glass' heel into a sanitized ceramic bowl, then dumped ungraciously into a sanitized (get the theme here?) "must" bucket where the crushed grapes are to be then re-sanitized with Camden powder (just a teaspoon per 5 gallons).  This process took 3 hours, much shorter than the 10 hours it took me the first time, partially because now I knew what I was doing, and also such a quality yield.

Frozen batch for jam

     Checked the specific gravity of the "must" (ie. grape mash, which, by-the-way, is not produced by chipmunk-y Italian girls in skirts smashing them with their feet, which I believe was a way to get the yeast started as they would inevitably fall into the grapes and 18th century Italian girls were not known for their, um, "cleanliness" so yeast was "introduced" in that method so the wine-master would not have to pitch any yeast specifically, that was the girls' job unbeknownst, plus it's fun to see girls fall down in grapes all barefoot "powderpuff-style" bouncy-bouncy as I did back in 1987 watching in my senior year girls try their hand at hokey for the Methuen Rangers in high school.  So many bruised backsides due to lack of skill that day.  So many needing tender, attentive care afterwards [dreamily]) and it was quite low at 1.010.  Added natural organic sugar to create a dessert wine level of 1.050.  Tasty tasty.

Grape "must" example (not mine).

   Tested the PH acidity and found it to be an astoundingly low 2.9, which is about as acidic as lemon juice and nearly as acidic as stomach acid (though not quite) and it needs to be the acidity of orange juice which is 3.5 so I needed to "raise" the PH.  Some add water to the mix but I instead decided to add a tablespoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).  Sadly, I had no fresh baking soda so I went off to WalMart to find some on a quest.  I ended-up with baking powder which has a sodium potassium in it and calcium carbonate as well (which combined is actually better than baking soda in this instance) and adding it fizzed-up CO2 pretty fantastically for 5 minutes and then mixed I was at 3.5.  Huzzah!  Alchemy WIN!

Remember when this show was good?
Tasted it to be sure it was okay with a spoon (as opposed to a mallet I guess).  Yep.  Grape juice ala organic.  Tasted as good as grape juice (with pulp) if you could imagine that.  Not unpleasant.  Mixed-in the Camden and let it sit for 24 hours as per tradition to kill-off any rogue yeast or bacteria, covered lightly to allow sulfur (if produced) to escape. 

Chipmunk-y Olympic gymnast winner Shawn Johnson approves of my wine-making abilities!

    No sulfur was produced (by my nose, anyway) which meant the entire process was pretty gosh darn surgically clean (good) then prepped and pitched a recommended yeast by master winemakers Yeast 71B for Catawba blush-pink wine (I had used another strain last year, ending in a bit of a cranberry-tart wine that was very dry, and I had not known that you are to "back-sweeten" it before bottling (ie. add sugar) because the yeast strain EATS all the sugar completely, though making very strong alcohol in the process, which is also yum.

This isn't wrocket sci-wence, kidz.

     Yeast took to it like a Pitbull takes to a toddler's face in no time flat (literally in about 15 minutes, which is insane, as most people struggle with this process and it takes several days)  Huzzah!  Alchemy WIN again!

     After 5 days I checked the specific gravity again using a hydrometer and it read 1.030 which means it's TIME TO RACK into a "carboy" and cork it off.  This involves a syphon and some of the grape skins will indeed make it into the first racking (as you see on the top of the neck there).

Syphoning method not used

     After 5 days now, the fermentation process from the dry, pitched yeast is producing is still going strong, as in this short video here.  Fermentation is when yeast turns sugar into alcohol.  Notice the pink color (natural) and some of the sediment is being produced.  This process will continue until Thanksgiving where it is to be racked again (sans sludge and grape skin) into a second carboy where I add oak to simulate using an oak barrel.  Using an actual oak barrel is a very advanced process and you can't see into what's happening so it's all on faith if you do, and there's the issue of barrel quality, leakage, etc. 

Kari Sweets says, "Ooopsie!  I crapped my pants!"

   I'm not that advanced and don't have enough crop yield yet to experiment on that level, so it's oak chucks for now.  That racking will remain (and quite possibly ferment further) for another 2 months where often most people stop, but I go for clarity, so another Camden tablet added to a third carboy, syphoned "racked" to let sediment fall and be discarded to the final syphoning and sweetened to-taste into bottles by St.Patrick's Day in March. 


     Most people don't take this long route as they're impatient but good things come to those who wait.  My unsweet wine of last year is as clear as pink ice and tastes incredibly clean.  I may add applewood to the mix for depth and complexity along with the oak, but only a tiny amount.  Let's hope for a good batch!

Miss Veruca Salt wants it, apparently, "1997 NOW".

Oh, and here's a secret:  I added a handful of fresh blackberries into the 5 gallons of grapes for a hint of sass from the wild blackberry bush next to the vineyard.  Sassy sassy!

Kim still uses her Blackberry?


Bye bye, f'n Mike Cronis!

Oh, wait.  You wanted some sort of rant?  Okay, for Sean, here goes...

     Guy at Subway's ordered a meatball sub today, then asked for light lettuce on it, I gave him a wtf "look".  When he asked for banana peppers, I sized him up disgustedly.  He then asked for cucumbers and I stopped the line (I was in front of him).  "Hold on a minute." I told the cashier.  Then I confronted him and asked, "What are you doing?"  He had a pencil-thin beard and a skin-tight, red, camel-hair sweater and shorts with sandals.  Obviously a Gen-Zero'er.  He ignored me and I noticed also he was mulatto (so half white, half brain-damaged).  I was expecting he'd put watermelon Skittles on it as well but I just shook my head and growled at him.  I glanced at the sub-maker but she was in "minimum wage trance mode".  Just doing.  Not thinking, except to wonder about a jailbreak from this nightmare, and maybe if this is all there is to Life.

     Which parents failed this kid?  Is all of Colorado high?  Who would order a pasta dish with lettuce and mayo on it?  Do you order your spaghetti and meatballs with that?!  Are you CULTURALLY RETARDED?!  This freakishly tall creature from Star Wars' planet Camino?  Why did he think a Vis'-a-vis' marker beard-line applied with a eyebrow pencil like a gay bitch's bitch would look fetching?  Maybe to a "gay".  I'm very against these skin-tight mo-hair sweater-hoodie things too.  This one was sans-hood but it looked so gosh-darn feminine.  WHY are guys trying to look more feminine than girls?!  Ugh.  I remember in the 1980's guys would have long hair, though that goes back to the 1960's honestly.  Ear-rings were a bit edgy then too for a guy, though usually a lot of that resulted in proper beatings from society, but today's "Society" accepts feminine, helpless she-men with manicured fingernails and soft, gentle assy-asses.  "Touch my assy-ass!  I'm a fairy princess!  I hope I don't break a Lee Press-On nail!  Eek!  A carbohydrate!  I'm gluten intolerant!  Keep peanuts and gluten and dairy away from me!"


Okay, now..


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