The 2008 harvest (of real wine grapes) was nearly over and we were having a heck of a time trying to find someone who would sell us less than 2000lbs. It turns out grapes are generally sold by the ton… not by the pound. Our search took us all the way to Grand Forks in the West Kootenays… yes, they actually grow grapes there.
A nice grower named Terry was kind enough to let us U-pick what he had left of his Marechal Foch grapes. It was the first weekend of November, the leaves had already dropped, and it had just rained. Not quite the romantic image we had for our first grape harvest. This didn’t dampen our spirits in the slightest, as we were just stoked to have tracked down some nice looking grapes that we got to pick ourselves.
Upon arrival back at the crush pad (Mike N.’s garage) we didn’t have enough time left in the day to deal with our trunk full of grapes. When we reconvened the next evening we discovered to our horror all sorts of white fuzzies growing amongst our grape clusters. Yuck. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work separating out the worst affected clusters, hoping our wine could still be saved. Mike R. rubbed the good berries off each stem, while Mike N. mashed a tray of grapes at a time with his Pampered Chef(TM) potato masher. This tedious operation took us well into the middle of the night and to a near state of hypothermia, but we had 120 Lbs of grapes ready to ferment!
A juice sample was taken and we headed upstairs to do some readings and to warm our blood. According to our wine testing kit, which looked more like a Fisher-Price chemistry set, we had Brix of 25.2 and Titratable Acidity (TA) of 10 g/L. Wacky stats for a red wine, both high readings. Usually, the higher one number, the lower the other. But who knows what the numbers should be for Grand Forks Foch harvested in November?!
The last thing to do on our epic crush night… give our chosen yeast (Assmanhausen) a fighting chance. We doused our freshly crushed Foch with a higher than normal hit of sulphites to neutralize all the other cooties that might be growing in there. Then we left the sulphites to fight their battle overnight before adding our yeast culture (and Superfood yeast nutrient) to what would hopefully be a more hospitable environment the next day. And now… we could rest.
Lessons learned: 1. don’t harvest when the grapes are wet; 2. make sure you’ve cleared sufficient time in your schedule to deal with your grapes on harvest day; 3. find a better way to crush and destem grapes.
Of course, the crush and tossing in yeast is just the beginning of a wine’s journey. Heck… it’s not even wine yet. But in this case, we could say we had made wine in 11 days. Within that time our Brix were down to zero and all the available sugar had converted to alcohol… 14.5% alc. to be exact. We were ready to press the new wine off the skins and seeds. This time we decided to upgrade from the ladle and sieve method and rent a proper press from Bosa Grape. Our nifty mini bladder press swiftly squeezed out just under 30L of cloudy, deep red wine. Enough for a full 23L carboy + top up. Remarkably, we had not only managed to make wine from grapes we picked ourselves, but there were no perceivable issues from the white fuzzies. Disaster averted.
For fun we decided to “season” our Foch with American Oak cubes since we were no where close to filling a barrel. Two months and two rackings later we had ourselves a beautifully clear, deep purplish wine with flavors and aromas of deep purple fruit, brambles, tart wild berries and hints of mincemeat. Wine adventure success!
P.S. This post was written while sipping our last bottle of 2008 Foch four years after we made it, and it ROCKS!