WHERE DO YOU START?
Selecting the Variety
Click Here for our Varietal List! We have a great selection of white grapes that includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc (2 clones) and Viognier (2 clones). Our red grapes include Cabernet (4 clones), Merlot, Malbec (the best Malbec clone), and Petit verdot (a great French clone) for Bordeaux blends as well as Zinfandel (40 year old vines) and Petite sirah (great Zin blender). Past homewinemakers have made wonderful blends from many of these varieties – your only limitation is your imagination!
PLEASE NOTE THAT IT IS MUCH, MUCH EASIER TO START WITH RED GRAPES AND MAKE RED WINE. WHITE WINEMAKING TAKES SOME TYPE OF METHOD THAT KEEPS THE FERMENTING JUICE VERY COOL. I HAVE USED KEGERATORS, OLD REFRIGERATORS WITH INEXPENSIVE THERMOSTATS, AND FROZEN WATER BOTTLES THAT ARE EXCHANGED WHEN THE ICE INSIDE HAS MELTED. Some method of cooling must be used. The cooler the fermentation the greater the number of fruit characters that are retained in the wine.
Assembling the Tools
You will need some basic tools to get started and they will be found at your local wine/beer making shop. We have a great shop up in Sonoma County called The Beverage People but, if you are coming on a Sunday, they will be closed! Since we crush all our grapes and press our white varietals with you, you do not need those two pieces of equipment (although a press will need to be purchased or rented to press the red varietals). At a minimum, you will need rubbermaid brutes to ferment in, glass or stainless steel demijohns or kegs to store the wine in, and food grade plastic hoses to transfer wine by siphon. A list of winemaking supplies at the Beverage People is HERE. While I do provide you with your initial additives, you will need to have a method of weighing and measuring the additions of other additives plus have those additives available when you need them during fermentation (ie. DAP (diammonium phosphate) and SO2 in some form to add after the fermentations are complete). A basic hydrometer to measure the rate of fermentation plus a thermometer to measure the temperature of fermentation are required along with fermentation traps that fit on the djs or kegs.
It’s Harvest – Watching Ripening
We use exceptionally nice software called iContact to securely manage our email list. These emails are the way that I connect with you about our extensive sugar sampling that occurs pre-harvest. We begin sampling once a week and will then move to two or three times a week as we get closer to harvest. I also update you with current and forecasted weather to let you know how that might affect harvesting decisions. Please add your contact information HERE!
I am certainly biased about the wine style that I prefer and make for our own Estate 1856 brand. I do prefer to harvest our red grapes at around 25.5° Brix and then manipulate the fermentation so that the wine final alcohol is between 14.0-14.5% alcohol. If you do not prefer to follow these guidelines, I am more than willing to harvest when you prefer. PLEASE NOTE that we sample 2-4 acre blocks and there will very possibly be block variation that will affect your ideal sugar content. Welcome to what winemakers experience each day of harvest! It is very easy to make sugar corrections at any point during the fermentation.
Just some details to read about before you come about Healdsburg that you might like to know before you drive up here. Also some notes about what the temperature might be, what to wear and where to eat!
Directions to the Vineyard
We have included driving directions to the vineyard in another page!
A selection of some of the most helpful books that I have found at HERE!
A listing of interesting online resources including classes, homewinemaking websites, blogs and magazines are HERE!
I’ve added some interesting calculations that help you figure out how many lbs you need for your project HERE!
CLICK HERE TO MOVE TO STEP 1!