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Micro-Winery: The Smallest Batch of Wine, Ever!
Oct 25th, 2013 by

Teresa and Frank sampled the homemade vino. The grape vines were planted along the fence in back.

Teresa and Frank sampled the homemade vino. The grape vines were planted along the fence in back.

My wine-making partner Teresa did the impossible. She planted eight grape vines in her backyard in Arlington, Mass., harvested the fruit and turned it into about 10 oz. of wine. It has to be one of the smallest batches of wine ever produced.

The grapes she used were Leon Millot, which are a red variety suited to growing in this New England climate. Her neighbor, Frank, had experience with vineyards in Italy and pruned the vines for her.

The wine had a deep, rich color.

The wine had a deep, rich color.

Teresa picked the grapes and then popped them open, using a spoon over a strainer, at her kitchen counter. The crushed grapes fell into a plastic container, stems, seeds, skins and all. She then covered the container with gauze (usually we use cheesecloth, but she didn’t have any on hand, and gauze seemed appropriate for this baby batch).

The grapes fermented for about three days (usually they ferment for about 10 days). The juice was then bottled in an air-tight glass container.

Teresa invited Frank and I over to taste the wine a few weeks ago. Ordinarily you’d wait, at least until December, before tasting the wine but Teresa grew impatient and was eager to test the fruits of her labor.

The wine was surprisingly good: a bit sweet and yes, a little young, but still delicious and made more precious because of how little there was.

Bottling the ‘09 Vintage
Apr 2nd, 2010 by

The corking machine is simple to use. You place a bottle inside the spring-loaded mechanism and then drop a cork in a hole that is perfectly to the top of the bottle. Then you press the lever down.

The corking machine is simple to use. You place a bottle inside the spring-loaded mechanism and then drop a cork in a hole that is perfectly aligned to the top of the bottle. Then you press the lever down.

Today I bottled some more of the ‘09 vintage. I tasted it again and I believe it’s as good as the previous year’s award winner. However, the grapes were a little sweeter in ‘09 and I think it may have more of a kick.

The process at this point is simple: I use a plastic hose to siphon the wine from each 5-gallon carboy to five, 1-gallon wine jugs. I use cheesecloth over a small piece of screen placed in a funnel when I do this to prevent any sediment from the bottom of the carboy from entering the bottle.

I then pour the wine from the 1-gallon jugs into smaller-sized wine bottles using a funnel. I place a bottle in my manual corking machine and place a cork ontop. (Note: Just prior to doing this I boil the corks in water to soften them.) And then I pull the lever down on the corking machine. This action compresses the cork as it pushes it down into the bottle.

The wine is siphoned out of the carboys and into 1-gallon jugs below.

The wine is siphoned out of the carboys and into 1-gallon jugs below.

And there you have it.

A label and a sleeve can now be put on the bottle if desired. But I’m a little bit lazy and only do this when corking a bottle to give as a gift. Because for me, the pleasure is more in the drinking than in the preparation and presentation. Salute!

How To Make Award Winning Wine
Oct 12th, 2009 by

BREAKING NEWS OCT. 7, 2009: THIS JUST IN — Wine made last year in the RootsLiving wine cellar took first place in the Zinfandel category at this year’s Topsfield Fair. This was the first time the RootsLiving wine cellar entered one of its wines in a competition. The 2008 Zinfandel is on display at America’s oldest agricultural fair through Oct. 12. More details and photos to come.

The judges must have liked the wine because many of the bottle on display were nearly empty.

The judges must have liked the wine because many of the bottles on display were nearly empty.

That was the excitement, just a few days ago, when we found out RootsLiving took top honors in the Zinfandel category at the Topsfield Fair. But what we didn’t realize until yesterday when we visited the fair was that RootsLiving also took a third place award in the “Wine Label” competition.

Both the wine and label were on display at the fair in the Fruits and Vegetables Farmer’s Market building — the same room where the giant pumpkin was on display.

Below are links to seven previous posts which trace the victorious journey of last year’s batch and also document the creation of this year’s batch, which was created the same way and now awaits Mother Nature’s magic in the RootsLiving Wine Cellar. Will we have another winner on our hands?

I took the photo used in this label last summer from Long Beach in Gloucester.

I took the photo used in this label last summer from Long Beach in Gloucester.

Wine Entered in Topsfield Fair Competition (Aug. 10, 2009)

Nature is Key in Making a Good Batch of Wine (Sept. 20, 2009)

Preparations and Equipment Needed to Make Wine (Sept. 21, 2009)

Getting the Grapes (Sept. 28, 2009)

Crushing the Grapes (Sept. 29, 2009)

Shhh! Listen and Watch the Wine Ferment (video) (Oct. 1, 2009)

Taking the Wine Out of the Barrel and Pressing the Grapes (Oct. 7, 2009)

This Win is For My Father (June 4, 2009)

(Photos by Gabriel Micheli)

The Grapes Are All Crushed
Sep 29th, 2009 by

Standing on a small wooden chair I drop the grapes into the grinder stem and all.

Standing on a small wooden chair I drop the grapes into the grinder stem and all.

The easy part is over.

On Friday, I purchased 13 cases of grapes: 10 old vine Zinfandel; 2 Muscato; and 1 Alicante. I’ve been using this recipe for years. My father always said to add the white Muscato grapes because they’re sweeter and will generate a higher alcohol content. The red Alicante grapes, he said, are good to add color.

On Sunday, with the help of some good friends, I crushed all 480 pounds. To crush the grapes, you just put them in the grinder, which sits on top of the oak barrel, and turn the crank. The grapes are not really crushed: the grinder merely pops them open and drops them into the barrel.

After the crushing, I covered the barrel with cheesecloth to keep out the dust.

It usually takes a few days before the grapes start fermenting. Fermentation starts when you hear a low rumbling noise, similar to water boiling. However, this batch started fermenting early.

This morning when I woke up, I went down the to the RootsLiving wine cellar, pressed my ear up against the wood barrel and heard the most beautiful sound.

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