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Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Grapes Are Ripe

The birds were telling me for days that the grapes are ripe.  Then a week ago Thursday around midnight I was awakened by a racket on the deck. At first I wasn't so keen to get up and investigate because we have a resident skunk that uses our backyard for a thoroughfare, traversing it first by walking calmly across the deck. Actually, I'm not sure where he lives exactly, but he's intermittently regular, so I was wary that it might be him. But the racket persisted, so I grabbed my headlamp and went out there and peered up into the pergola and who do I see amid my grapes? Raccoons!! Three of them!

I quickly grabbed my critter gitter, AKA my spading fork, and start jabbing at them. A few minutes later the yard was free of raccoons and I was amped on adrenaline.  Fighting raccoons always stimulates my fight or flight response and I was absolutely jangling. So sleep was out for awhile, but it was obvious I had to get the grapes in if I was going to get any wine made this year.

So that's what we did.  We made a quick trip into Portland the next day to get yeast and an acid test kit plus a couple other items from F. H. Steinbart, and then came home and started picking grapes.  We de-stemmed them by hand.  Don't let anyone fool you. De-stemming grapes by hand is a LOT of work. And crushing them by hand to get the juices going (so you can put a campden tablet in the juice to kill all the nasties before you go to pitch the yeast) is hard on your hands also, particularly if you have a touch of arthritis in them. Which I do.

Eventually over a couple of days we got enough grapes crushed and juiced to make up a full fermenter of wine must.  I have to thank Steve (and did) for all his help because he knows what he's doing with a fermenter and with the sanitation of all things fermenting-related.  We finally pitched the yeast, and are now on the way to having somewhere around five gallons of wine in the near future. Or wine vinegar. We could be making a lifetime supply of wine vinegar.

The grape I chose to grow is called Marechal Foch, and I chose it because it handles cold really well. It's grown in upstate New York and Canada, so that should give you some idea of the kind of cold they can handle. What I didn't know when I bought them was that the grapes themselves are very small, and are subject to bird pressure. Nuts.  Then it occurred to me that I didn't know what the wine was supposed to taste like.  I looked online for where I could either taste some or buy some nearby and luckily there were two wineries fairly close by that had it, so one day early this summer Steve drove me out to Newberg, Oregon to the Purple Cow Winery where I had my first taste of Marechal Foch wine. Which I did not like. Double nuts.  Didn't stop me from buying a bottle to put down; the vintner said that it would be much better in eight years, which puts us at 2025.  Then Steve drove me to August Cellars, where the Marechal Foch I tried there was a little better, but that was because it was older.  I bought a bottle that was ready to drink now, but it is lying under the dresser in my bedroom with the Purple Cow because I am not opening the August Cellars until I've lost ten pounds.  Which means by the time I get to it, it will probably be a LOT better.

So it looked like I was going to have to find a place to store a bunch of wine while it sat awhile becoming drinkable.  The only person I know with a basement and plenty of room is my sister-in-law, and she lives five hours away.  That would certainly keep me out of the wine while it aged.   Fortunately, I ran across a PDF on how to make wine with Marechal Foch and Millot grapes, and it said that you can make a blush with them.  I really like a dry rose, so I researched making blush wines, which sounded like a lot less trouble than a red, so that's what we did.

The must is happily bubbling away in one of Steve's stainless steel fermenters in the kitchen.  It's been bubbling pretty steadily at the same pace for a few days now, so it's not slowing down yet. Once the bubbling has stopped, the fermenting is over, and we'll let it sit in there for another month before we go to bottle.

Whether we bottle wine or vinegar remains to be seen.



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