Adventures in Winemaking

So, we made a bumper crop of grapes in July, and naturally our thoughts turned to winemaking. Because, really, just how much jelly CAN one make? From the three varieties we have now, we picked, cleaned, then juiced until we wound up with NINE gallons of juice!

IMG_0837-0We’re not sure what variety this grape is, but they are tiny little grapes that made the most luscious, blush-pink juice; I’m calling them my Champagne grapes. They made gorgeous jelly, (see Cookbook, Condiments for my jelly recipe); can’t wait to make some wine with them.


These are Concord; and below are Thompson Seedless

IMG_0838    It took the better part of two days to get all these grapes picked, cleaned, de-stemmed, and another couple of days to get them all steamed. We stored 9 gallons of juice in the freezer until February of 2015, when we decided to start our “Adventures in Wine-Making.”

grapevine2Arrowhead Vineyards Inaugural Wine Rungrapevine1

For our first attempt, we are trying to produce five gallons of red wine from our Concord juice and five gallons of white wine from our Thompson Seedless juice.
First we assembled all our supplies. Here’s what we found we needed:
2 gallons frozen Concord grape juice, thawed                                        From the Brew Hut:
2 gallons frozen Thompson seedless grape juice, thawed                    2 5-gallon glass carboys
2 5-gallon orange plastic (Igloo) water canisters                                2 fermentation locks
with lids and spigots at the bottom                                                        2 rubber stoppers
5 gallons bottled spring water (don’t use distilled)                             a hydrometer
20 lbs. granulated sugar                                                                          4 oz. BTF Iodophor Sanitizer
4-cup glass measuring cup                                                                      1 oz. Pectin Enzyme Powder
2 metal shish-ka-bob skewers                                                                2 oz. Campden tablets
White kitchen string                                                                                 4 oz. Fermax Yeast Nutrient
2 4-foot lengths plastic tubing (siphon hose)                                     3 oz. Acid Blend
1.5 oz. Tannin Powder
2 (5 g.) packets RC212 wine yeast
2 (5 g.) packets D47 wine yeast


Getting Started:

Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015

  • Clean and sterilize all canisters, tools, and supplies you’ll be using with a solution of one gallon tap water to 2 tbsp. BTF Iodophor Sanitizer. Swish the solution around the canisters and lids, submerse all tools and supplies in the solution and allow to air-dry. Do not towel-dry.                                                                                                                   Wine2
  • We used two 5-gallon orange water containers as our primary containers. In each sterilized water container, pour 2 gallons of grape juice.
  • In a four-cup glass measuring cup combine the chemicals; crush the tablets before adding. Add enough water to form slurry; pour into the grape juice and stir with a large long-handled spoon.

For Red(Concord grape juice)             For White (Thompson seedless grape juice)

2 ½ tsp. pectin enzyme                      8 tsp. acid blend

5 tsp. acid blend                                   1¼ tsp. tannin

5 tsp. Fermax Yeast Nutrient             5 tsp. Fermax Yeast Nutrien

5 Campden tablets, crushed              5 Campden tables, crushed

  • In a large pitcher, mix half the sugar and enough water to dissolve it. Add to the grape juice; stir with large long-handled spoon. Repeat with the other half.

For Red (Concord grape juice)                       For White (Thompson seedless grape juice)

16 cups granulated sugar (about 8 lbs.)        12 cups granulated sugar (about 6 lbs.)

  • Add enough water to fill each of the canisters to about 6 inches from the top.
  • Test with the hydrometer, adding sugar to achieve a Specific Gravity (SG) reading of 1.090.
  • Cover canisters loosely (we just set the plastic lids on top of the canisters, but didn’t screw them on) and place in a warm, dry area for about 24 hours. We didn’t want them to leak, so we set them inside our foyer closet. We put a beach blanket on the floor and two metal baking sheets on top of that. Then we carefully placed each canister on top of one of the baking dishes. This worked well to capture drips and overflow when we added the yeast and it began fermenting.

Monday, Feb. 9, 2015

  • Dissolve 2 (5gram) packets of yeast in ½ cup water and stir into the grape juice concoction. The yeast will float to the top, but that’s okay, the fermentation process will begin.

For Red (Concord grape juice)    For White (Thompson seedless grape juice)

RC 212 red wine yeast                       D47 white wine yeast

Cover very loosely (VERY loosely, since fermentation will cause the solution to foam up, possibly over the top) and allow to ferment for 5-7 days or until fermentation has slowed almost to a stop. Do not stir, but check daily. Foaming and fizzing should be happening along with a strong rotting fruit smell, so be prepared (all my coats in the foyer closet smelled like rotten fruit).


Sunday, February 15, 2015  First Racking

  • Sterilize the glass carboys, stoppers, fermentation locks, funnel, measuring cups, siphon hoses, and shish-ka-bob skewers in iodine solution and allow to air-dry.
  • Place carboys on low chairs, stools, or on the floor, and place the primary containers on counter-top or table above them.
  • Float the hydrometer in each of the wine-filled containers and make sure the SG reads 1.040 or less. If not, it’s not ready for racking. Gotta be patient, so wait a few more days.
  • Crush 5 Campden tablets in a small amount of water and pour into the carboy; repeat with the other carboy.
  • Using two short lengths of kitchen string, tie one of the shish-ka-bob skewers to one end of one of the siphon hoses, extending the point of the skewer about an inch or so longer that the end of the hose. This will weigh the hose down, but keep it off the bottom and out of the bottom sediment. This is why you can’t use the spigot at the bottom of the canister; it will allow too much air and bottom sediment into the carboy. It’s much better to siphon.
  • Blow on the other end of the hose, gently blowing air bubbles in the wine, then suck until a siphon starts. Carefully place the end of the hose into the glass carboy (you may want to use the funnel in the carboy, but we didn’t) and let it siphon into the carboy. Make sure to stop before it drains completely, and don’t let any of the bottom sediment transfer to the carboy.


  • Repeat with the other canister and carboy.

We siphoned a small amount of both into shot glasses just to see what we had:

Red (Concord grape juice)               White (Thompson seedless grape juice)

Light pink, watermelon color         Cloudy white peach color

Acid tasting, but sort of sweet       Tingly acid taste, left an astringent taste on the

Yeasty, fruity smell                            tongue, not really bitter,  but almost

                                                            Very little smellWine8

We set the carboys back in the foyer closet on a beach towel and inserted the rubber stoppers. The wine continued to fizz and foam for a few more days, so we waited to put the fermentation locks until the fizzing stopped.

Second Racking: June 6, 2015

We repeated the first racking procedure; siphoning both out of their carboys into the water canisters. We checked SG readings; both batches were at 0.99 We added 3 1/2 cups sugar to each batch, 5 crushed campden tablets, and 1 1/2 tsp. potassium sorbate (to prohibit any further fermentation). We took new SG readings; red, 1.010 and white; 1.011. Our alcohol content is now at 11% for the red and 10.5% for the white.


Concord:  plum colored                                         Thompson: yellow, looks like pineapple juice

                 bitter taste-tart with a                                 tangy, bitter taste, aftertaste is not as fizzy

                 lingering fizzy taste on the tongue             as the red

                chemical smell                                            no smell at all

So, we siphoned the wines back into the cleaned carboys and replaced the airlocks. We placed them back in the foyer closet and covered them with towels to protect from light.

And finally, we bottle!! September 6, 2015

So, here it is, Labor Day weekend, and we are finally ready to bottle our first batch of Arrowhead Winery Red and White! So excited!!

So what we did was; Friday afternoon, we filled a clean 100 qt. ice chest with water and added an 8 oz. canister of One Step No-Rinse cleaner (from the Brew Hut) and mixed it well. Then we sank our empty wine bottles in it and let it sit overnight. We were able to fit 40 bottles in the ice chest, and we boiled a huge gumbo pot of water to sterilize the other ten we were going to need. We bought a package of 50 corks and a hand corker and a plastic bottle tree. (Boy, the Brew Hut is sure going to stay in business with us around).

Saturday morning, we drained the ice chest and the bottles and refilled it with fresh water and 8 tbsp. BTF Iodophor Sanitizer and rinsed the bottles in it them placed them on the bottle tree to dry.

We used the solution in the ice chest to sterilize our siphon hose and the corks. Then we carefully transferred our carboys full of wine (trying to minimize as much movement as possible) to the kitchen table. We siphoned a small amount into a shot glass and into the hydrometer tube to check SG reading and taste.

Our notes:

Concord:  SG 1.01                                                                Thompson:  SG 1.01

               alcohol content 9%                                                                     alcohol content 8.5%

               clear rose color, very pretty                                                       cloudy, lemonade color

              just a bit of an aftertaste, but not unpleasant                            pleasant mild grape taste

              nice wine smell                                                                          pleasant neutral smell

time to enjoy the fruits of our labor
time to enjoy the fruits of our labor

We began siphoning the wine into the bottles (holding the siphon hose against the inside of the bottle to avoid splashing and oxidation) and corking them. We got 25 bottles of red and 25 of white from each 5 gallon carboy (Ha! A fifth!) We’re leaving them standing for one week, then we will store them horizontally in our newly built wine shelf in what was formerly known as the coat closet, but from henceforth will be known as the wine cellar. I ordered labels, so more picture will follow.

Wine14                   Wine15

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