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Who is Jack Keller?
Jack Keller lives with his wife Donna in Pleasanton, Texas, just south of San Antone. Winemaking is his passion and for years he has been making wine from just about anything both fermentable and nontoxic.
Jack has developed scores of recipes and tends to gravitate to the exotic or unusual, having once won first place with jalapeno wine, second place with sandburr wine, and third with Bermuda grass clippings wine.
Jack was twice the President of the San Antonio Regional Wine Guild, is a certified home wine judge, frequent contributor to WineMaker Magazine, creator and author of The Winemaking Home Page and of Jack Keller's WineBlog, the first wine blog on the internet, ever. He grows a few grapes, still works for a living, and is slowly writing a book on -- what else? -- winemaking.
Some Other Wine Blogs
There are hundreds of wine blogs. According to Alder Yarrow (see below), none have been around as long as Jack Keller's WineBlog, but 99% of these newcomers are for wine consumers, not winemakers. They have anointed themselves the official "wine blogosphere." You can count on both hands those of us bloggers dedicated to actually making the stuff they write about, and yet our blogs are largely ignored by this elite. Still, they exist and are important. There are some who write for the buyer / consumer but still occasionally talk about the making of wine, even if they usually are talking about making it in 125,000-liter stainless steel tanks. Or they might talk about grape varieties, harvests in general, the cork-screwcap debate, stemware, or other subjects I think you might find interesting. They're worth reading even if you aren't interested in their tasting notes. Then again, that just might be your cup of tea. Here are a few of them I like, listed in a loose alphabetical order (by blogger):
Remove the patriotic colors and replace the parenthetical items with their symbols.
Blog entries are generally presented in reverse chronological order, with earlier entries at the bottom and recent ones at the top so the newer can be read first. An archive is more useful if the entries are presented chronologically. I have thus rearranged them as such.
January 4th, 2009
Happy New Year one and all. I hope each of you made a healthy transition into 2009 with assets and resources
sufficient to your needs. If you have that and a little common sense, you are blessed. If you have more than that
...well...you are rich. If we keep these things in perspective, we will all be so much happier for the good cards
life deals us.
If you haven't reached it yet, one day you will reach an age when you realize that good health is the best hand
any of us can be dealt. In early December the youngest (six years old) daughter of one of my cousins was
diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Nothing really prepares you for this, but a close and strong family, sufficient healthcare resources, knowledge
of where medical science is with respect to the disease, and lots of prayer all help to get us past the dark
moments. Laine's little body seems to be responding well to the harsh treatment demanded, and so the New Year
seems much brighter than the closing days of the one left behind, but a lot is going on in her little head. It is
an awful lot for a six-year old to struggle with. Everyone, please, count your blessings.
No, they have not found that resveratrol, the compound in red wine suspected of many health benefits, will cure
acute lymphoblastic leukemia. But, during the year just past, researchers did investigate several new potential
benefits which, if applicable to humans and fully developed, would be of great importance. The most exciting of
these, to me at least, were the findings of University of Wisconsin Professor of Genetics Tomas Prolla. A low
dose regimen of resveratrol prevented some age-related changes in genes of mice. Changes were noted in brain and
muscle tissues, but most notable in heart functions.
Many of you may have heard of these results some six months ago, as they were published June 4, 2008 in PLoS
ONE and then reported by Reuters and others. I read them then but held off mentioning them as I had planned
an entry summarizing this and other research as well. In retrospect, I think this the more significant because,
unlike other age-inhibiting research that used massive doses (22 or 186 mg kg-1 day-1) of
resveratrol to achieve results, this one used low doses (4.9 mg kg-1 day-1) and achieved
significant results in some parameters and less significant results in others. Still, overall, significant aging
parameters for cardiac dysfunction were retarded.
The original article is available on-line in its entirety at the first link following today's entry. I have not
really described the study or even mentioned the control group, a concurrent caloric restriction study group and
comparisons of the three, so I invite you to read it if you are at all familiar with global gene expression
profiling as a research methodology. The study appears to be well-designed and executed, and the low dose regimen
encourages the two-glass red wine ration I am trying to maintain. Cheers...!
A very dear friend who recently lost his wife of over half a century discovered a box among his wife's hidden
treasures. In it was a single bottle of wine bearing a label that said she made the wine from the petals of the
roses he gave her on their 45th anniversary. He didn't know she had made it and of course has no intention of
ever opening it. But when he told my wife and me of the wine I remembered I had a gallon of rose petal wine
waiting to be bottled.
My Rose Petal Wine label
My wine was made from flowers from my wife's rose bushes. It turned out quite well and three of the five
bottles have been given as gifts. It is quite easy to make and I urge one and all to try making it one day. Here
is my favorite tried and true recipe. Three preliminary comments are in order.
First, both color and fragrance will vary with different roses, but even roses of the deepest red make a white
wine with only a hint of pink so expect a white wine. Second, the fresher the flower the stronger the color and
fragrance, but the rose must be fragrant to begin with or the wine will have no aroma and develop little (if any)
bouquet. It is perfectly acceptable to use petals from flowers whose blooms are wilting, but get them fermenting
before they dry out and turn brown. Third, I used Gervin Yeast Varietal B, a Rhine strain that produces highly
aromatic wines. The only other yeast I would use for this wine is Wyeast Vinter's Choice 3783 Rudisheimer,
another Rhine strain. For the latter, due to its expense I would activate the liquid culture and divide it among
several small batches suited to this strain.
Rose Petal Wine
6 cups fragrant rose petals
2 fl oz (no more!) of pure white grape juice concentrate
water to 1 gallon
2-1/4 lbs granulated sugar
2 tsp acid blend
1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
1 crushed Campden tablet
Rhine wine yeast and nutrient
Pick the rose petals just before starting, so they're fresh. Boil 7-1/2 pints water and pour over all ingredients (except yeast and pectic enzyme) in a primary, stirring gently until sugar is dissolved. Concurrently, activate yeast in starter solution and husband it until needed. Cover the primary with cloth or plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 24 hours. Add pectic enzyme and yeast and recover the primary. Set aside until vigorous fermentation subsides, stirring daily. Do not exceed 10 days. Strain liquid into secondary fermentation vessel, top up with water if required and attach an airlock. Rack after 30 days, then again after additional 30 days. Do not sweeten. Bottle when clear and store in dark, cool place. It will be fit to drink after 6 months, but will improve enormously after a year.
Today's entry will be short because I have little time and want very much to get the topic below posted as a
favor to a friend - not the one mentioned, but still one who has contributed significant tidbits to my knowledge.
One should always strive to return favors - especially when not expected.
Setting out to make one wine and making something entirely different is not a rare occurrence, but neither is
it common. My unnamed friend enticed me to do this more than once, and each time the result was better than I
suspect the originally intended wine would have been. The wine below presented such a result.
My wife loves key lime and key lime wine, so when we ran out of the latter about 14 months ago I started a
3-gallon batch. Over time the wine evolved and so did my knowledge. Martin Benke, inventor of the Carboy Lifter,
shared a secret with my wife and me concerning a wine he gave us called "Lime-A-Rita." I incorporated his secret
into my key lime batch, which was already darned good, and because the secret is an ingredient used in making
margaritas, I followed Martin's lead and "Key Lime-a-Rita" ended up on the label. My only dilemma is whether or
not to share Martin's secret.
My career is in the intelligence business, so I live with secrets and polygraphs prove I can keep them. On the
other hand, Martin didn't exactly say it was a secret. What happened was I asked him the "secret" to his
"Lime-A-Rita" and he freely shared it with us without any expressed or implied confidentiality. I therefore think
I am ethically off the hook. Thousands of winemakers are going to be pleased.
My Key Lime-a-Rita Wine label
I have previously published a basic, tried and true key lime wine recipe. This time, however, I tweaked that
recipe both during and after fermentation and added the secret ingredient, so I am integrating all the changes
into the recipe below. It is, after all, a completely different wine. While I made a three-gallon batch, the
recipe below is for a single gallon. If you want more, do the math.
Key Lime-a-Rita Wine
zest and juice from 10 key limes
juice from an additional 10 key limes
11.5 oz. can Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate
1 lb. 10 oz. sugar*
1 tsp. pectic enzyme
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1/4 tsp. powdered grape tannin
3.25 qt. water
1/2 tsp. potassium sorbate
potassium metabisulfite (or finely crushed Campden tablets) as needed
200 mL Finest Call Premium Triple Sec Syrup
Red Star Côte des Blancs wine yeast
*To produce an initial dry wine, sugar should not be increased; the grape concentrate will provide 8.45 oz. of
additional sugar. Initial PA will be reduced after topping up following racking but this is expected. This wine
is not balanced above 13% abv.
Collect the zest from 10 key limes and then juice them and 10 more, Put zest, juice, tannin, yeast nutrient,
and sugar in primary. Add grape juice concentrate and water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in pectic
enzyme and cover primary with sanitized cloth. Wait 10-12 hours and add activated yeast in starter solution.
Recover the primary, set aside until vigorous fermentation subsides and transfer to secondary. Top up to within 3
inches of mouth of secondary and attach airlock. After one week, stir in 1/16th tsp. potassium metabisulfite (or
one finely crushed Campden tablet) and top up to within 3/4 inch of bung. Wait for wine to ferment to absolute
dryness (30-45 days) and rack, top up and reattach airlock. Rack again when wine is brilliantly clear (additional
45-60 days). Add potassium sorbate and additional 1/16th tsp. potassium metabisulfite (or another finely crushed
Campden tablet) and let bulk age 3 months. If additional sediments have formed, rack once again. Obviously, the
"secret" ingredient is the Triple Sec syrup. Add it now and stir. Bottle and set aside to age. Do NOT taste this
wine for at least 6 months --1 year if you have real willpower. It will be worth the wait, but you will hate
yourself if you don't make several gallons initially. [Author's own recipe, with inspiration from Martin Benke
Postscript on the Carboy Lifter: As I mentioned a couple of months ago, Martin and Lesley have acquired
a lakefront property and are consumed with making it into a home but fishing keeps getting in the way. He's
suspended production of the Carboy Lifter until the property is up to his standards, all his freezers are full of
catfish fillets and he rebuilds his production shop, but bug him anyway. Your back deserves his attention.
I want everyone to know that I try very hard to answer my email, but last year almost 260 emails were never
answered. I simply could not find the time to get to them. Since I kept falling farther and farther behind, I
posted a notice on my site that emails may never be answered. I did this not because I am uncaring, but because
demands on my time have exceeded what is available. I make no further apologies. I will not ask you to stop
writing, but I warn you I probably won't answer. Last week I received 42 emails asking questions about winemaking.
I only answered four. Most of the questions are answered on The Winemaking Home Page or this WineBlog
. People just don't read.
So once again I want to point out that my site has a search engine. It searches the basic site, but not this
WineBlog. I have no idea why it doesn't search the blog entries, but it simply doesn't. Anyway, if you
have a question, 09:12:38 PM 06/16/2009e search the site before opening your email program. The search engine is linked to from
the Home Page and immediately following today's blog entry.
I was recently asked if I had any unpublished pointers regarding making chocolate wines. I understand the
desire to know if I might have second thoughts and recall something left out. In this case, however, I think I
said all I need to say in previous WineBlog entries. The only things I might add are to use a good cocoa
powder and don't rush it. I've had two people write that they used a cheap brand of cocoa powder and were less
than thrilled with the results. As in most things, you get what you pay for. Another wrote that his wine dropped
sediment in the bottles, which simply means he bottled it too soon. The wine not only has to be clear before
bottling, but it has to go at least 30 days without dropping any sediment -- not even a fine dust.
Other than that, let your taste buds be your guide for any post-fermentation tweaking the wine might need. If
it tastes "flat" or lifeless, add acid. If too dry, stabilize it with potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite
and then sweeten it to your own taste preference. In other words, follow good winemaking procedures.
Back in April of 2008 I discussed how I go about devising recipes for something never before tried or for which
I could find no adequate recipe. The first one I illustrated was Bay Leaf Wine. As I said at the time, I had no
idea how many bay leaves would be required to make this wine but I had plenty thanks to a dear friend who lives in
the Sierra Nevadas of California and has a bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) growing on his property. I then
walked through the steps of determining how many bay leaves would be required for a gallon of wine by making an
infusion and diluting it at various strengths. When I settled on a strength, I did the math and devised the
recipe. Now, nine months later, I bottled the wine. My wife and I are most pleased with it and so I am posting
here the tweaked and final recipe.
My Bay Leaf Wine label
But first, a brief discussion and warning. As I said in the original WineBlog entry, more bay leaves
or a stronger infusion is not better, as either will leave an long-lasting and disagreeable aftertaste. Indeed,
when you make the must for this wine it is essential that you taste it before pitching the yeast. Allow the must
to wash your tongue and mouth and then swallow. Do not cleanse the palate or drink anything for a few minutes,
but note how long the aftertaste persists. If longer than a minute, dilute the must with water and perhaps a
little white grape concentrate, then adjust the sweetness to 1.090 specific gravity. Taste again and repeat until
the aftertaste does not remain longer than a minute. Even my original infusion was too strong after fermentation
and so I've had to adjust the recipe accordingly.
The aftertaste is primarily caused by cineole, also known as wormseed oil or eucalyptol (C
10H18O), which exhibits an odor of camphor and a resinous taste.
Like vanilla extract, in small amounts it is very pleasant but when a threshold is exceeded it is quite
disagreeable. Get it right before you pitch the yeast.
Finally, I am absolutely certain there is a huge difference in the potency of various bay leaves. The most
preliminary of internet searches reveals numerous varieties with inherently different potencies, but even potency
of a particular species varies depending on the age of the tree, when the leaves were picked, how they were dried,
and other factors. The recipe below worked fine for the bay leaves I used. Your mileage will almost certainly
differ, but if you follow the advice above you will be able to cope with and work around any variance.
Bay Leaf Wine
36 Laurus nobilis bay leaves, whole
1 lb. 12 oz. dark brown sugar
water to one gallon
zest and juice of 2 bitter oranges or clementines
1 11.5-oz. can of Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate
1 tsp yeast nutrient
White wine yeast
Place the leaves in a 1-quart pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer under a lid
for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, use a grater to remove the zest of the oranges and then juice them. Add the juice to
a primary and the zest to the simmering bay leaves. Add the brown sugar, grape concentrate, 5 pints of cold water,
and yeast nutrient to the primary. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. When time, strain off the bay leaves and
orange zest and add only the infused water to the primary. Stir and allow to cool until under 90 degrees F. Add
activated yeast and cover primary. After 3 days, transfer to secondary, top up and attach airlock. After 30
days, rack, stir in one finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet, top up and reattach airlock. Repeat every
30 days (only add Campden tablet every other racking) until clear and no new sediments form. If you want to
sweeten, stabilize with potassium sorbate and finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet, sweeten to taste with
simple syrup, reattach airlock, and set aside 30 days. Bottle and allow at least 3 months before tasting. Will
probably improve with additional aging. [Author's own recipe]
I want to thank all of you who have subscribed to the RSS feed from the WineBlog. It is rewarding to
see subscribers from the United Kingdom, Iceland, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Israel,
Iraq, Qatar, Australia, Japan, Canada, Brazil, and throughout the United States. Wow! What a rush for this old
boy in Texas.
I also want to thank all who have taken the time to sign the Guestbook on my Home Page. I do read the entries,
and appreciate each and every one. Thank you for your sentiments.
While researching an article for WineMaker magazine, I summarized the medicinal uses of elderberries.
The berries of the black elder have a long and almost universal tradition in folk medicine, but modern medical
science have run clinical trials with an extract of the berry and confirmed its efficacy in treating ten strains
of influenza A and B and believe it also strengthens the immune system and slows down the aging process. Since I
did not use this material in the article, I thought I would cover it here.
The Black Elder (Sambucus nigra) is a fast-growing perennial shrub native to the British Isles, all but
the very northern reaches of Scandinavia south to North Africa and east into Asia. It has become naturalized
almost everywhere it has been planted as birds readily spread its seeds. While it is but one of as many as 33
species of elder native to Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the two American continents, it is this elder that
is best documented in traditional folk medicine and in the modern clinical trials.
The black and blue-black berries are consumed as a laxative, diuretic, and treatment for respiratory and
gastrointestinal mucus. A tea made from the dried berries is used to treat colic and diarrhea. Elderberry juice
has been used to treat bronchitis, colds, sore throat, coughs, upper respiratory infections, neuralgia, fever,
vitamin deficiency, and the common flu. It is the latter that an Israeli team headed by Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu
sought to test.
During a flu epidemic in Panama, clinical trials were run in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized
study. Sambucol, an extract of Black Elder berries, was administered as a tea several times a day. Significant
improvement of flu symptoms occurred in over 93% of the patients ingesting sambucol within two days, whereas less
than 92% of the patients ingesting a placebo showed similar improvements in six days. A complete cure was
achieved in nearly 90% of those taking the sambucol in 2-3 days and 100% within 4 days.
The researchers concluded that elderberry extracts activate the immune system in many ways. It may be
beneficial for patients with HIV and AIDS and other suppressed immune conditions. Lectins and anthocyanins
present in the berries of Black Elder protect cells from damage by free radicals, strengthen the immune system and
may even slow down the aging process. If it does, the question remains if elderberry wine would have the same
affect. I know of no answer to that question, but the wine is excellent and I'll drink it anyway "just in case."
Look for my elderberry article with four recipes in a future issue of WineMaker magazine.
Don't get WineMaker magazine? Subscribe here!
For treatment of fever, colds and flu, 10 grams (3-4 teaspoons) of dried black elderberries are placed in 150 mL of water, slowly brought to a boil for 5 minutes and then allowed to stand 10 minutes. The berries are strained out and water added to the extract to increase the liquid to a cup. Fresh preparations are consumed 4 to 6 times a day. The tea can be made more palatable with lemon and/or sweetener.
A precautionary warning is mandatory with elderberries. While many of us, myself included, have eaten raw
elderberries without noticeable adverse effects, the uncooked fruit of all species of elder can induce nausea and
vomiting. Further, even the cooked fruit of the American Red Elder (S. pubens) is toxic enough to cause
severe side effects. Finally, only the flowers and fruit of the elder (except the aforementioned American Red)
are edible. The stems, leaves, bark, and especially the roots are all toxic to humans and many animals and should
not be prepared in any manner for consumption.
A gentleman wrote about doing something many, including myself, have done at least once - he thought he was
adding potassium sorbate and added potassium metabisulfite instead. With ten times the amount of free SO2 required or desired, he thought his wine was ruined. He tossed a "Hail Mary" pass my way and
asked if there was any hope.
Because he wrote me in November and I did not get to his email until January, I thought he might have already
solved the problem He had not. He used an electric drill-driven degasser and was able to get the free SO2 down to 300 ppm, but beyond that he simply removed the water from his airlock and plugged it
with cotton in hope that the sulfite would find its way out. Otherwise, he was in a holding pattern.
My advice was to sanitized two pails, pour the wine into one of them, and then pour it back and forth between
the two for about 5 minutes (a long time when lifting pails, but not unreasonable). Then wait 10 minutes and test
the wine again for sulfites and see how much it has declined. That will give an idea of how much can be driven out
by pouring in a given amount of time. I suggested he try to get it below 75 (but no lower than 50 ppm), then send
it back to the carboy and put the water back in the airlock. Wait a few days for it to settle down and then
bottle it. He will have to drink it within a year to a year-and-a-half, but that's what he made it for....
He then asked what I considered the high end of potassium metabisulfite concentration. I certainly understood
the reason for the question. I told him I never bottle a wine with less than 30 ppm free SO2
. That is the absolute minimum. The upper limits depend on pH and how long I expect the wine to be bottle-
aged before I even taste it. The lower the pH,the less SO2 the wine requires to achieve
and maintain and aseptic state. You can read about these levels elsewhere (see the link following this entry).
If I intend to bottle-age a wine for two years, I will raise the free SO2 level to 50
ppm (assuming a 3.5 pH, give or take point one). But I have bottled many wines -- most notably heavy ports or
very tannic elderberry or dark grape wines -- that I know are going to sit in the cellar for 5-7 years before I
even taste them. These I might load up with 100 ppm of free SO2 -- even more if the pH is
Aerating the wine does drive off excess SO2 because it is, in the final analysis, a gas
without much bonding potential as is. But all that aeration exposes the wine to unwanted O2
, so I bottle it at a higher sulfite concentration than I would otherwise AND I make it a point to consume
the wine earlier than I might otherwise. The higher SO2 is necessary simply to retard the
inevitable and more rapid decline through oxidation. If I open a bottle and can smell sulfur, I simply decant it,
wait a half hour or so
and then drink it.
Sulfite Calulator, Daniel Pambianchi's versatile tool and article in WineMaker magazine
Well, it's Saint Valentine's Day -- a time to tell all those special people in your life
that you care about them. My wife was surprised last night when I was rubbing her feet and
the clock struck 12. I jumped up and brought her a musical card that plays "Only You" (by
the Platters) when opened, a 3-pound box of Jordan Almonds (her favorite) and a large vase
of flowers. She then brought me a card, five individual one-pound bags of designer coffees,
a box of homemade chocolate chip cookies (using white, semi-sweet and light milk chocolate
chips), a caramel apple cobbler, and her love. I love Valentine's Day.
Be sure to let that special someone in your life know that you're thinking of them and
you care. A phone call costs so little.
The Winemaking Home Page was once again selected as an Encyclopaedia Britannica
iGuide Website. I believe this is the sixth year to be so selected, but I cannot be
sure as I lost my old email, including my backups, in a hard drive crash several years ago.
Lesson learned: do not store your backups on the same drive as your original files. Duh...!
Encyclopaedia Britannica explains their iGuide website selections thusly: "The
Britannica iGuide is basically our directory of the Web's best sites as determined by our
editors. Each year, our editors review and then handpick websites that relate to one or more
of our topics and are found to be of top quality. We then present links to these iGuide
sites alongside our own content for that topic." I am honored to once again be included in
this group of sites.
Several years ago I started making a list of songs about wine or that at least had wine
mentioned in them significantly. This was not a "major effort" on my part, but it did seem
to take on a life of it's own at times. Then I misplaced the file, but continued collecting
song titles on scraps of paper. A few weeks ago I discovered the file and added about 130
songs I had collected. With my list at 553, I've decided to stop. Below are the songs
starting with A and B. You will notice that many songs are listed several times by different
artists. I know full well I have missed many covers of many songs. If you want to send me
any I've missed, correct spelling or an incorrect name, I'll appreciate it and incorporate
it into my big list. I might not ever get around to thanking you individually, but you will
have my thanks anyway. Here are the As and Bs (and a couple that begin with numbers):
The San Antonio Regional Wine Guild had a heck of a gathering last weekend at the lake
house of two of our members. The setting was picturesque, the crowd large, the food
absolutely heavenly, and the wine were plentiful, varied and delicious. What more could one
ask for. And we honored one of our elder members on the occasion of his 90th birthday with a
bucket of wines.
I strongly recommend to everyone that they join a winemaking circle, club, guild, or other
flavor of group. Even if it is just four people meeting to share their wines and talk about
them, each gains considerably from the shared experiences and interactions. That is why
people join forums, but it's much nicer to meet in person and share those wines.
In a recent forum discussion a wine maker expressed fear he had encountered a pectin haze.
He gave his reasons. He was making his first ever non-kit wine, starting off with a Welch's
grape juice wine and adding blueberries and black cherries to it. "It hadn't even started to
drop any sediment as of a week ago so I threw some clarifier in. Now there is about an inch
of sediment but the wine is completely hazy and not even starting to drop that after a week."
Two contributors, in my opinion, nailed it. Time is the winemaker's greatest ally and
this fellow wasn't practicing patience. But there are other considerations as well and I
could not remain silent to them.
Rightly or wrongly, I don't think it is a good idea to kit wines exclusively and think
you've learned much about winemaking. The latter is learned from making wines from scratch.
This fellow is expecting scratch wines to act like kit wines. They don't. The concentrates
and juices found in kits are processed before they are packaged and almost all kit
manufacturers have you mix Bentonite in the must early on to force-clarify the wine and
present the illusion that the wine is made quickly and can be consumed early. When you make
wine from scratch, you are doing the processing. If you don't add Bentonite up front you
will not see progress similar to what kit wines exhibit. If you do add Bentonite early, you
will see somewhat similar results but, again, it is an illusion. Just because you force a
wine to clarify does not mean the wine is ready to bottle. Indeed, I have always argued that
kit wines are not ready to bottle after the short preparation time allowed by the kits'
instructions. That is why Ed Goist, myself and others developed extended instructions for
making kit wines. Kits have improved considerably over the years since the extended
instructions were penned and the instructions need an overhaul to allow for this, but the
original premise is still valid - kit instructions rush the process along and give one a
false sense of completion before the maturation process has even started.
Next, I noted that the specific fruit used, the small quantity used and the fact that the
fruit wasn't heated during the preparation phase made it unlikely a pectin haze would form.
I think the wine just needed more time.
Finally, I pointed out that opaqueness, cloudiness and haziness are not the same things.
All wines are opaque while fermenting. Billions of yeast cells make it cloudy, but the
billions of microscopic bubbles of CO2 they emit refract light and cause the liquid to go
opaque. Once yeast end their vigorous fermentation phase, the yeast cells lose the buoyancy
and refractability the CO2 provided and start to settle and lose that opaqueness, but
millions of them persist as suspended matter and continue to create a cloudy condition for
some period, which can be short or long. If alcohol toxicity is reached, the cells die off
wholesale and you might enjoy the phenomenon known as "falling clear." The cloudiness just
drops and settles into a layer of lees, leaving the wine above clear but possibly hazy. The
haze can be pectin, starch or metal casse, or perhaps even a few stubborn yeast that refuse
to die. The haze may clear up on it's own, but more likely than not it needs a catalyst. A
catalyst is anything that initiates or causes a reaction to occur. It could be an enzyme, a
reagent or simply a small amount of already brilliant wine.
The important message I am trying to convey is to first of all don't compare apples and
oranges. Scratch wines and kit wines are very different and behave dissimilarly. Second,
pectin hazes only occur under certain conditions. If you don't meet those conditions you
shouldn't expect or get a pectin haze. Finally, all wines go through specific phases and
display corresponding optical characteristics. Learn them and you won't panic when things
are within normal boundaries. Further, my advice is to learn to make wine from scratch and
then make a few kit wines, not the other way around. You learn winemaking by making
those scratch wines. After learning the art (or craft or skills), you will approach kit
wines with a completely different perspective and understanding, cognizant of the fact that
the instructions would rush you along to bottling a wine before it is really ready for
bottling. Instead, you can bulk age it a while and see if it needs an additional racking.
A friend gave us a box of grapefruit and my wife squeezed most of them while I was at
work yesterday. When I came home she proudly presented me with a gallon of juice and said,
"Now you can make some grapefruit wine." I asked the obvious question; "How many grapefruit
did you use to get this much juice?" Not a clue, so I dug through the trash and counted 28
halves. Hmmm. Two gallons of wine. I started weighing and stirring in sugar and somewhere
along the way decided to make a 5-liter batch because I have a 5-liter secondary. It's
gonna be strong on flavor and acidity, so I also started a gallon of white grape from
Welch's 100% Niagara frozen concentrate in case it needs blending. Perhaps I'll start
another gallon of Niagara just in case.
I'll admit right up front that I'm winging the grapefruit. I didn't even look at a
recipe. I just added the sugar (s.g. is 1.086), some yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, 1200 mL
of water, let it sit overnight, then pitched a yeast starter I initiated last night. The
yeast is 1/2 sachet of Unican Sauternes. I didn't measure the TA or pH, but the more I
think about that much grapefruit juice the more I think I should get the pH meter out. It
isn't too late to buffer it if need be.
I am amazed by how many people are sending me songs. Please wait until I post the songs
beginning with a particular letter of the alphabet before sending me songs beginning with that
letter you think I might have missed. Last week I posted songs beginning with A and B and
received song citations all over the alphabet. I had all but one of those sent. Thanks
Marcy for the Buck Owens song. I should get around to posting it in a couple of months.
So, here's the next installment of my list, 98 songs beginning with C, D, E and F.
There is a dated joke about the Iraqi's long struggle to create a workable constitution.
Why don't they just use ours? After all, it was written by some of the wisest men ever to
contemplate government, has worked well for over 200 years, and we aren't using it anymore
I don't always appreciate the way the federal government throws money around at programs
and problems implicitly or explicitly reserved for the states by the words found in the
Constitution of the United States. The clause most often used to justify doing things not
mentioned in the Constitution is the interstate commerce clause, a short phrase that allows
the federal government to regulate unspecified aspects of commerce between the states. The
meaning of "interstate commerce" has been broadly and loosely construed by every party
wishing to expand the role and reach of the federal government. It has been used to justify
everything from consumer safety to habitat protection for endangered species. It also allows
the federal government to do more with agriculture than it might otherwise get away with.
This is not all good, but as you will see below it is not all bad either.
The USDA's Agricultural Research Service is building a new Center for Grape Genetic
Research at the Geneva, NY campus of Cornell University. Making sense of the story,
published online at EmpireStateNews.net, requires some experience in how the federal
government funds new construction projects and how public affairs and news agencies report
them. The Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2009, which only passed the U.S.
House of Representatives on February 26th (FY 09 began on October 1st of 2008), includes
$2.2 million for the $29.6 million facility. This raises the total of what has been
appropriated for the project to $13.13 million. In all, the Omnibus Appropriations Bill
included $7.18 for New York ARS projects, including some earmarked for Cornell University
and $1.4 million to create a funding pool for grants administered by the Viticulture
Consortium. The Consortium has now received more than $10.3 million for grape production
The ARS has now completed planning, design and site preparation work for the new Center
for Grape Genetic Research and is ready to begin construction as soon as Congress
appropriates the unfunded balance. Doling the money out a little at a time allows Congress
to extract multiple concessions from those who really champion the project and have to "do
deals" for each installment of the project's total. It also wastes an unnecessary portion of
each of the pitiful installments of the project as inflation devalues what was originally
planned. While politics are unfortunately necessary due to diverse opinions and priorities,
it is disgusting to see the heights to which the past and current Congresses have raised the
wasteful art. What ever happened to serving the people?
The reporting, of course, does not mention the "politics as usual" aspects of the deal or
that the project's value declines steadily due to inflationary losses imposed by the way
Congress doles out the funds a bit at a time over several fiscal years. I have few qualms
with the projects themselves -- only with the way Congress does business and the price exacted
for every vote by the partisan tyrants in the House and Senate leadership. They are supposed
to serve us, not their political party.
For those of you unaware of the work that the ARS does at Geneva, go to the USDA-ARS link
following this entry and follow its links. For years I have ordered grape cuttings from the
National Plant Germplasm grape catalog. This is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to
add a few grapevines to their collection. Just be aware that there are two ARS sites for
ordering grapes - the Geneva site and the UC-Davis site. They are administered quite
differently and I avoid using the Davis site if possible. You, of course, are allowed to hold
a different opinion.
Yesterday marked the one hundred and seventy-third anniversary of the fall of the Alamo.
For some it was just another battle among hundreds of thousands of battles in human history and
to memorialize it would require that every battle be memorialized. Thankfully, those who think
that way are few. Those who understand the events leading up to the final assault on the Alamo
cannot but stand in awe of the sacrifice given by so many. Certainly those who wished to escape
could have. Every messager Colonel Travis sent from the besieged mission made it through the
Mexican lines and to whatever destination they had been dispatched. That at least 189 chose to
stay and face inevitable death is a testimony to the duty they assumed, the honor they
displayed through sacrifice and to their courage.
Whatever else may have happened that morning in the final moments of the battle, I judge
each man by the decision he made to stay and face the assault. It's a sobering judgement.
Some years back Tom Asp was good enough not only to share his golden chanterelle mushroom
wine recipe, but also to send me some dried golden chanterelle mushrooms so I could make the
wine myself. I not only made the wine, but relished it so much I would not waste any by
entering it in competitions. Although I shared the recipe, I have not received any indications
that anyone else has made this wonderful wine.
I recently found some dried golden chanterelle mushrooms at a specialty market in San Antonio
and decided to make the wine again. It smells wonderful fermenting. With eternal thanks to
Tom, I'll share the further tweaked recipe.
Golden Chanterelle Mushroom Wine
1/2 cup dried golden chanterelle mushrooms
1-1/2 lbs granulated sugar (approximate)
24 oz jar canned apricots in syrup
11.5 oz can Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate
2 tsp acid blend
1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
1/4 tsp grape tannin
3-1/2 qts water
1/2 tsp potassium sorbate
2 crushed Campden tablet
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Set Welch's frozen concentrate out to thaw about two hours before starting. Two hours later,
bring water to a boil. Meanwhile, drain the apricots but save the liquid they were canned in.
Chop fruit and put in nylon straining bag with chopped, dried mushrooms. Tie bag and put in
primary. When water boils, remove from heat and add grape concentrate and liquid from canned
fruit. Stir in 1 lb. sugar and stir until dissolved. Measure S.G. and continue adding sugar
(1/4 cup at a time, then stir to dissolve) until S.G. reaches 1.090-1.095. When S.G. is right,
pour sweetened water over fruit and mushrooms. Add acid blend, tannin, yeast nutrient, and one
crushed Campden tablet and stir. Cover with cloth, wait 12 hours, then add pectic enzyme.
Recover, wait additional 12 hours, then add activated yeast starter. When fermentation is very
active, stir and push bag of fruit under. Don't worry if it floats back up. Ferment 5 days,
stirring daily and pushing bag under liquid several times. Drip drain the bag (don't squeeze),
return drained juices to primary and discard fruit and mushrooms. Transfer liquid into sterile
secondary and fit air lock. Rack after two months and again after additional two months,
topping up each time. Wait final two months, stabilize with potassium sorbate and another
finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet, wait additional 14-21 days, and rack again if
needed. Sweeten to taste with up to 1/4 cup sugar dissolved in 1/8 cup water and bottle the
wine. Allow wine to age one year before tasting. [Recipe by Tom Asp with adjustments by Jack
This wine is quite heavenly. The blending of the Niagara grape concentrate, canned apricots
and dried golden chanterelle mushrooms creates a unique flavor unlike any other. But as
important as the ingredients is the required one year of aging. If you make this wine, do not
rush it. You will gain nothing
My last entry, although posted on March 7th, did not display because of a typo in the name
of the file. Luckily, it did not interfere with the display of the previously posted files and
so no harm was done.
For those unaware, I do not use a template or automated blog software to produce this blog.
I do it all by hand, writing all the HTML and ASP code and even writing the XML file for the
RSS feed. People ask why I don't just go to Blogger.com or some other such site to post my
entries and I always say I want to have total control over my own pages. The only way to do
that is to own your own domain and upload the content yourself. Yes, it's more work and
sometimes I can't easily figure out exactly how to create a new effect I want or figure out
what I did wrong when a display is not as I intended, but I can live with that. I have control.
I received an interesting letter telling about the sender and asking a number of questions.
All were fairly standard and I replied by listing several URLs on my website. Near the end,
however, were two simple questions I realized I have not adequately answered before. It asked
why do we need to add yeast nutrients and what do they consist of?
The simple answer to the first seems obvious to me. All living things need nutrients of one
sort or another to achieve and maintain health, and way back when I first began making wine I
was told that grape musts contain everything the yeast need to make wine, but non-grape musts
need nutrients, acid, sugar, etc. It wasn't long before I found out that this simply isn't
true. Many grape musts are deficient in one or more nutrients required for optimum health and
native grapes, for example, are often deficient in sugar as well. This doesn't mean they won't
support yeast growth and alcohol fermentation, but they will support both better if the
chemistry is right.
Yeast nutrients ideally consist of a prescribed mix of vitamins, minerals, lipids, amino
acids, sterols, and nitrogenous compounds. Commonly, a mixture of DAP (diammonium phosphate)
or DAHP (diammonium hydrogen phosphate), yeast hulls or ghosts, vitamin B1 (thiamin), and
possibly trace elements as salts satisfy the supplemental nutrient needs of yeast.
Yeast nutrients promote yeast growth and reproduction, contribute to healthy cell wall
formation, support enzyme cofactors and amino acid metabolism, reduce the formation of off-odors
during fermentation, and ensure a reliable, final fermentation. But there is a proper sequence
for adding nutrients. When rehydrating active dry yeast, it is best to use a mineral water (not
distilled or deionized water), some fruit juice (grape, orange, apple, etc.), a small amount of
dissolved sugar, and a pinch of yeast hulls. After the culture is actively reproducing, one
can then introduce DAP or DAHP and vitamin B1. For this reason it is best to activate the
yeast in a starter solution, maintain the solution for 12 or more hours, and then add it to the
prepared must in which the premixed yeast nutrients are dissolved.
A note from Martin Benke informed me he is once again producing his Carboy Lifter. This is
good news to frustrated winemakers who, like me, have lower back problems any really do need
help lifting those 6-gallon or larger carboys. As I mentioned back on November 3rd, 2008,
Martin can be somewhat difficult to reach these days, but not impossible. One of the problems
is that he and Lesley recently purchased a "get-away" home on Lake Corpus Christi and are in
the process of "renovating" it, but fishing keeps interfering with good intentions. I can
identify with that. Be that as it may be, he can be reached. Try "martinbenke[at]yahoo
[dot]com" or call (210) 535-7105 and be prepared to leave a message and practice patience.
I will see Martin next Sunday at the San Antonio Regional Wine Guild meeting (here at my
house) and will get more information from him then, if any.
In this entry I conclude the wine songs I've managed to catalog over the years, plus a few
titles sent to me by readers. These are the last 130 and begin with the letters U through Y
(I couldn't find a Z). In all, 557 recordings are represented in these lists.
Well, it's Saint Patrick's Day and I celebrated this evening with a traditional green drink
- a shot of homemade absinthe, dutifully diluted with ice water poured over a sugar cube on a
slotted spoon. Okay, I had three of them, but it's Saint Patrick's Day….
I will not go into my method of making absinthe, but will say that I use Artemisia
absinthium (wormwood), anise, fennel, rosemary, hyssop, juniper, star anise, angelica, and
coriander, all of which are available at several places in San Antonio. Most of the herbs are
dried, so I add a drop of green coloring for effect. But it still clouds up when diluted and
"opens up" after sitting diluted for about 15-20 minutes. My absinthe is around 160 proof.
Last Sunday the San Antonio Regional Wine Guild met at our home in Pleasanton, Texas. I
slow-cooked a brisket overnight, glazed during the last hour-and-a-half with a chipotle-honey
concoction I whipped up the night before. After a social hour of drinking and another of
eating, we had a short business meeting and a two-event program. Martin Benke showed off his
redesigned Carboy Lifter and then I administered a 28-question quiz. I thought I'd repeat the
quiz here for your benefit, with minor editing. Good luck.
1. One pound of sugar occupies about how much volume?
a. 1 3/4 cups
b. 2 cups
c. 2 1/4 cups
2. To make "simple syrup," you dissolve one pound of sugar into how much water?
a. 1 cup
b. 1 1/8 cups
c. 2 cups
3. A 5-gram sachet of active dry yeast contains about how many yeast cells?
a. 150 million
b. 1 billion
c. 150 billion
4. Ameliorate is to add water; chaptalize is to add:
5. Balling refers to:
a. Using a ping-pong ball for an airlock
b. One of several scales for measuring specific gravity
c. A sexual activity
6. Number the following still wine bottles in ascending order of size (1 being the smallest, 6 being the largest):
7. Mousy wine is caused by:
a. Mouse droppings
c. Too much air in the bottle
8. Rotling refers to:
a. Wine made by mixing red and white grapes at crush
b. Small, rotting fruit or berry
c. A miniature dog
9. Maceration refers to:
a. Adding spice to a wine
b. Period during which juice is in contact with the pulp and skins
c. The process of mashing fruit
10. Acetobacter can be easily stopped by:
a. An aseptic level of sulfites
b. Fermenting to 12% alcohol
c. Sweetening after fermentation
11. A wine that is "flat" can be corrected by adding:
12. "TA" correctly refers to:
a. Too Alcoholic
b. Total Alcohol
c. Titratable Acid
13. A liter of wine weighs:
a. 100 grams
b. 1 pound
c. 1 kilogram
14. A grape harvested too early will have too much:
a. Green sap
b. Inverted sugar
c. Malic acid
15. A braggot is:
a. Someone who brags
b. Mead flavored with malt
c. Best of Show winner
16. Adding too much sulfite can often be corrected by:
a. Sweetening the wine
b. Aerating the wine
c. Placing strong magnets around the carboy
d. Adding potassium sorbate
17. You "stabilize" a wine with:
a. Potassium sorbate
b. Potassium metabisulfite
c. Both of the above
18. A "corked" wine refers to any wine:
a. Not sealed with a screwcap
b. With 2,4,6-tricloroanisole (TCA)
c. That was opened and resealed
19. Mead is made with:
b. Maple sap
20. You "make" wine but "brew":
c. Barley wine
d. Maple sap wine
e. All of the above
21. Perry is:
a. Wine started on the Passover
b. Mead made with pears
c. The son of Ernest Gallo
22. If you cook fruit to extract their juice, you risk the resulting wine tasting:
23. "Crust" refers to:
a. Floating skins and pulp
b. The "flor" of sherry yeast
c. "Age sediments" in a bottle
d. A fungal growth floating on the suface of a carboy
24. A "punt" is:
a. Wine sneaked into a football game
b. The raised bottom of a wine bottle
c. Wine that needs "long aging"
25. A dessert wine is:
a. Sweet to very sweet
b. High in alcohol
c. Both of the above
26. Pectinase is:
a. A haze caused by pectin
b. Jelly-like lumps in wine
c. An enzyme that acts on pectin
27. You fortify wine with denatured alcohol
28. "Flowers of wine" refers to the wine's bouquet
Some answers really don't require an explanation, but some do. If I think an explanation is
warranted, I'll provide it.
1. A pound of sugar weighs: c. 2 1/4 cups
2. "Simple syrup" by definition is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water, so if a pound of sugar is 2 1/4 cups (previous question), the water required is: b. 1 1/8 cups
3. A 5-gram sachet of active dry yeast contains: c. 150 billion yeast cells (give or take a couple)
4. Chaptalize is to add: b. Sugar
5. Balling refers to: b. One of several scales for measuring specific gravity
6. The bottles in already listed in ascending order of size: Split (375 mL), Pot (500 mL), Winston (600 mL), Standard (750 mL), Magnum (1.5 L)
7. Mousy wine is caused by: b. Bacteria
8. Rotling refers to: a. A rose-colored wine made by mixing red and white grapes at crush
9. Maceration refers to: b. A period during which juice is in contact with the pulp and skins
10. Acetobacter can be easily stopped by: a. An aseptic level of sulfites
11. A wine that is "flat" can be corrected by adding: b. Acid
12. "TA" correctly refers to: Titratable Acid
13. A liter of wine weighs: c. 1000 grams, or 1 kilogram
14. A grape harvested too early will have too much: c. Malic acid
15. A braggot is: b. Mead flavored with malt
16. Adding too much sulfite can often be corrected by: b. Aerating the wine
17. You "stabilize" a wine with: c. Both potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite
18. A "corked" wine refers to any wine: b. With 2,4,6-tricloroanisole (TCA)
19. Mead is made with: c. Honey
20. You "make" wine but "brew": e. Beer, mead, barley wine, maple sap wine, and any base boiled (brewed) before fermenting
21. Perry is: b. Mead made with pears
22. If you cook fruit to extract their juice, you risk the resulting wine tasting: c. Caramelized
23. "Crust" refers to: c. "Age sediments" in a bottle, usually of long molecular chains of tannins
24. A "punt" is: b. The raised bottom of a wine bottle
25. A dessert wine is: c. Both sweet to very sweet and high in alcohol
26. Pectinase is: c. An enzyme that acts on pectin
27. You fortify wine with denatured alcohol: b. Only if you have a death wish, as denatured alcohol is poisonous
28. "Flowers of wine" refers to the wine's bouquet: b. Not! It's caused by spoilage yeasts or mycoderma bacteria on the surface of wine - both easily prevented with an aseptic dose of sulfite
Most of the questions were devised from the glossary entries or wine problems page on my
My wife is currently in Pennsylvania and I have much quiet time here at home, which I've been
spending cleaning after having old floor tile removed and new tile installed. It is at times
like this that my thoughts race along and some congeal and maturate. Today's entries are a
result of that process.
In all honesty, the list of topics ready to be discussed here is long enough for several
entries, but time is pressing, as always, and I have much other business to attend to. Among
them is writing another article for WineMaker Magazine and doing my tax returns - one I
welcome, one I dread.
I cannot truly express the value I place on my membership in the San Antonio Regional Wine
Guild (SARWG). The social aspect is worth the price of membership. The people are genuine
articles, always willing to speak plainly and tell you where they stand on an issue or wine -
or where they have doubts or confess ignorance. There is none of the pretentiousness I loathed
among members of a northern California "wine society" I once belonged to, where no one dared say
what they thought or dared pass judgment (lest someone passed judgment on their wine in
return). Asked what I thought of a wine, I'd say, "I like it. It's a little young, but the
acid should smooth out in time." Someone else would chime in, "Distinctive notes of black
currant, tobacco and burnt toast, with a hint of truffles appearing on the horizon." I
constantly wanted to choke someone while screaming, "Yes, you pompous ass, but did you LIKE it?"
There are none of those kinds of folks in SARWG.
The "program" portion of our meetings, where someone demonstrates something, talks about an
issue or topic, compares various additives, things or wines, or, as at our last meeting,
administers a "quiz," are often ad hoc and completely unpolished. After all, we're just
a bunch of plain folk enjoying our hobby. Our dues will not support bringing in a paid speaker
and our members' homes, where we usually meet, are not set up to project PowerPoint
presentations. Rather, we're just us, trying to make, enjoy and communicate about wine. That
includes all peripheral subjects, such as growing grapes, winemaking techniques, problems and
spoilage, specific additives, bottle styles, closures, and recognizing and appreciating nuances
of taste - not the "notes of green pepper" brand of nuance, but the "creamy, viscous mouth feel
and complexity one gets from sur lie aging" brand of nuance. In other words, we try to
communicate with and be helpful to one another.
Often, being helpful is simply saying, "It's a little hot," meaning the alcohol content is
too high. But it might be more involved: "You know, Lesley and I each made this wine a couple
of years ago. Mine had a little bitterness, like yours does, but Lesley's didn't. I think I
scraped my zest too deep and caught too much of the pith from the orange peel." This is Texas.
If you're not saying something, why talk?
There are other aspects to belonging. Members can network to share expensive equipment ("Our
crusher-destemmer ought to be free next Sunday if anyone wants to bring their grapes over."),
specific knowledge ("Luke, exactly how do you ferment Blanc du Bois?") and wine bases ("Hey,
Frank, our fig trees went crazy this year. You want some?"). We have our wine judge
certification process, which is on-going and fairly lengthy. Most members "grow" into judges;
few pass the battery of tests required for certification the first time around. We have field
trips, but usually we only visit one winery a year. You don't need to belong to a club to visit
wineries, so we limit that. And we have our Spring and Fall competitions. There are no entry
fees. Membership and adhering to our rules are all that are required. In my experience, I
learn more about winemaking from judging and then talking to specific winemakers about specific
wines. But the whole SARWG experience is enjoyable, rewarding and inexpensive (our dues are
still only $10 a person, $15 a couple). And that is why I encourage every winemaker to join a
winemaking club, or help organize one if one doesn't already exist in your area. You can't beat
At the last couple of SARWG meetings I've been having sidebars with other members about
bottle closures. There is only one synthetic cork I really like and I cannot find it anywhere
except in certain commercial wine bottles. I had a dealer bring one to a trade show to try to
find it for me, to no avail. Otherwise, I tend to prefer natural cork, although I have a few
cases of bottles sealed with screwcaps. There are other alternatives, but I still prefer
natural cork. And that brought up the subject of 2,4,6-Tricloroanisole (TCA) spoilage, or
For the record, I have never opened a bottle of wine and identified it as being "corked"
(and I have been exposed to real "corked" wine in a problem recognition seminar). Either I
have been very, very lucky or the incidence of "corked" wine is vastly overstated. I recall an
old study that showed out of 6,000 bottles of wine with natural cork closures sampled, only 32
were actually "corked."
The truth is that most studies of "corked" wine incidence were conducted by or sponsored by
the alternative closure industry. While sponsorship itself does not invalidate the studies, it
does cast doubts on objectivity. And, since we at SARWG find only rare incidence of "corked"
wine, we tend to agree with the afore-mentioned study.
Similarly, in studies that found natural corks to be the best closure, almost all were sponsored
by the natural cork industry. However, one recent study, although commissioned by a natural
cork manufacturer, seemed to be conducted correctly - ISO peer reviewed protocol, alternative
closure manufacturers' participation, life cycle analysis - and concluded that natural corks
are the most environmentally-friendly closure.
Environmentally-friendly does not necessarily equate to "best." For most wines, a panel of
experts in Decanter Magazine selected the screwcap, with one caveat - on the subject of
ageing wines, the jury is still out. I tend to agree with this conclusion. The screwcap allows
you to open delicate wines without sucking out the bouquet, resists oxidation longer than any
other standard closure, essentially delivers the wine that was bottled (with minor reduction-
oxidation reactions), and the list goes on.
It has been known for several years that oxygen plays only a minor part in the ageing of wine,
and with this knowledge came the realization that zero or low permeability closures are the
obvious choice where quality is the priority, and that current synthetic and natural cork
closures are too permeable and/or inconsistent to properly do the job of sealing the wine.
Personally, I believe there are exceptions. Grade 1 natural corks of at least 1-3/4 inch
length offer 20-year protection and are my cork of choice; they have just gotten to be very
A note for the reader is warranted. I recently had to free up some space on my C Drive and
in the process foolishly deleted a list of "duplicate" files a program found on the drive in
question without really looking at them. In the process, I deleted my Favorites file (I don't
know how it was a "duplicate, since when I was done there were no versions of it left on my C
Drive). So, when looking for specific points-of-view references for this entry, I went to a
source I knew had numerous references - Decanter Magazine. There are many other
references out there that both support and contradict the points I made here. You should do
your own research - or at least your own searches.
I want to thank the many, many people who sent me emails, forum messages and phone calls -
about 160 in all -- about my websites being down. Ken Payton of the Reign of Terroir
grew so concerned that he started checking the obituaries. He finally got hold of me and
posted my explanation (as I understood it at the time) on his blog. Unfortunately, it was
slightly more involved than that.
I promised each of you I would explain what happened in my next WineBlog entry. Well
this is it, so I will explain what I know (which certainly isn't all that much).
This is the tale of all four of my websites disappearing late Saturday night and not
reappearing until 9:26 a.m. today. If you are not interested in this tale, please skip it.
But there are at least two lessons to be learned from it.
A couple of months ago the company that hosts my domain and four websites was purchased
by another. Indeed, they notified me of this event and said that at some later date my domain
would "migrate" to their server and that I wouldn't even notice it. In the lingo of tech talk,
it would be "seamless." The "migration" occurred at 8:06 p.m. Saturday, March 28th. It was
anything but "seamless." This blog and all four of my websites disappeared. When anyone
attempted to access them, they were told they were not "authorized" to see the page they were
attempting to view. It ended with, "HTTP Error 403.6 - Forbidden: IP address of the client has
been rejected." This made a lot of folks think they had been "blacklisted" by me. I can't
even begin to describe what it caused me to think.
The first thing I attempted to do was log into my server address and see if I had
inadvertently left a critical element open or done something else stupid. I kept trying to log
in and kept getting a message that either my user name or password were incorrect. Since my
user name has not changed - ever - I assumed I had somehow gotten confused as to what my
password actually is and attempted to request that my password be sent to me. You do this by
telling it your user name or domain name and it sends the password to the email address on file
for the account. But it did not recognize my user name at all. Then it did not recognize my
domain name. Something was terribly wrong.
I found the email address for Tech Support and fired a red star cluster their way - the
universal military signal that a serious SNAFU existed. After sending the email, I retired at
about 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning. I awoke at 9:15 to a total stranger calling me to inform me he
was locked out of my site. After what may have been a rude reply (I honestly don't remember),
I discovered an email from Tech Support.
Whereas I sent my email to Tech Support for one company (I'll call it Old Company), I
received an email from Tech Support of another company (I'll call it New Company). Suddenly, I
had an inkling of what occurred, but no hint as to why. The email outlined a 5-step procedure
for restoring my websites, each of which existed as a subdomain of "jackkeller.net". The only
problem was that I could not log into my domain management site to perform the five steps, and
the techie who replied ignored that minor complaint. I fired off another email and answered
emails and phone calls while awaiting an answer. It never came.
Monday I went to work and discovered numerous emails from New Company. The first of these
(chronologically) informed me my domain had successfully been migrated from Old Company server
to New Company server. I noticed two odd things about this email. First, it was addressed to
"Dear Ray," whoever that is. The second was that it had my account name (a.k.a. user name)
listed and it was decidedly different than the user name I had always used. Another email
informed me that all correspondence would henceforth be to the email address "on record" (my
work address), but it also assigned me a temporary password.
I couldn't do anything at work because of new rules about computer use, but when I got home
I logged into my domain manager using the new user name and new password. Then I began
following the five steps outlined in the first email I had received. It quickly became obvious
that these steps created things I knew full well I didn't want to create. In a panic, I
spotted a telephone number for Tech Support and dialed it.
A very nice techie came on the line and calmly listened as I exploded with two days of pent-
up frustration. She apologized that they changed my user name. She apologized that someone at
New Company thought my name was Ray. She apologized for someone resurrecting an old email
address (I had changed my account's email address in 2007). She apologized for the five steps
I was sent and had followed - especially since they had really screwed things up big time. She
calmly undid what I had done, then guided me through another series of steps designed to make
things right. When I had finished, she said it would take a "few hours" for these steps to
bear fruit - they had to inform a DNS (domain name server) where my subdomains were. I asked
for a guesstimate of "few." She said maybe 4 to 6. Okay. I believed her and hung up.
About then I talked to Ken Payton, who recorded our conversation and posted it later that
evening on his blog (see link below). I spent the rest of the evening trying to reassure folks
the sites would reappear later that evening. At midnight, they still hadn't appeared. I went
At 3:15 a.m. I woke up and checked. No sites. I went back to bed. At 6:00 a.m. I got up
and checked while getting ready to go to work. Still nothing. At 6:20 I called Tech Support.
New person. She was very efficient and within 20 minutes she said she was elevating this up to
"echelon two support." I hung up and went to work. At 9:26 I received a phone call from New
Company saying all of my sites were back - for real this time.
There are at least two lessons learned from this ordeal. First, if your service provider
(domain, internet or wireless) notifies you that it has merged or been bought out by another
company and your service will "migrate," find out exactly when and get phone numbers for Tech
Support and Account Management at the new company. Second, when the people providing you tech
support don't even know your name, don't trust anything else they tell you. It goes without
saying that (potential lesson three) you need to keep your whole site backed up (I did and was
prepared to upload the whole thing if need be; thankfully, I didn't have to do that.
So, there it is - the whole story. If you've read this far, I want to reward you with
something special. Go to A Tribute and
turn up your sound. Hopefully, you'll be as moved as I was.
I have been tasting wines for a distant friend, who likes to make "my kind" (unusual) of
wines. She sends them to me in beer bottles, capped and all, and I enjoy them and then tell
her how much. So far, I have tasted the Golden Canadian Maple Wine (an excellent mead), two
fruit mélanges (one pomegranate dominate and the other heavy on mango), an excellent rhubarb
(this one would give Tim Vandergrift a run for his money), and a dry cranberry-Concord grape
blend. I still have Mandarin orange-chocolate and Bing cherry-chocolate to consume, and I know
they will be good. These are from the woman who shared with me her secret for infusing the
chocolate flavor into wines (see first link following this entry).
And I still have the better part of a case of wines (minus two bottles) from Cherokee Wines
to drink my way through, and four bottles from a very kind chap in Michigan who experiments
with various cherry varieties and both red and black raspberries. If you read my article in
the next issue (May-June) of WineMaker magazine, you'll get the idea that I especially
love black raspberry.
Raspberries belong to the Rubus genus, of which there are 300-400 species in the
temperate regions of the world. In North America, it is found throughout the Rocky Mountain
states, the Midwest, New England, and throughout Canada south of the Artic Circle. It can most
often be found along the margins of woodlands, streambeds, clearings, roadsides, and abandoned
fields. Red raspberries should be made as a fragrant, subtle wine. It should be made dry so
that a subtle hint of tartness carries its distinctive flavor to the sides of the tongue as it
is sipped, chilled. Like its cousin the red raspberry, the black raspberry is one of about a
dozen or so varieties of the raspberry species native to the United States and Canada. Its
wine is distinctively different from the red raspberry in flavor and can be made dry or sweet.
Of the two, I prefer the black.
The following recipe is a variation of one that won Best of Show some 8 or 9 years ago. I
made mine from frozen berries purchased in a gourmet market. They were expensive, the market
only had a limited supply (which I bought out), and the wine was heavenly. It was also my
wife's favorite wine.
Black Raspberry Semi-Sweet Wine
4 lbs black raspberries
1 9-inch long vanilla bean
1 tsp pectic enzyme
2 lbs sugar
7 pts water
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Red Star Côte des Blancs yeast
Dissolve the sugar in boiling water, stirring to dissolve. Maintain at a simmer, stirring
every 4-5 minutes to prevent sugar from caramelizing on bottom of pan. Wash, destem and tie
berries in nylon straining bag, with vanilla bean cut into short (1/2-inch) segments, and place
in bottom of your primary. Crush the berries in the bag with your hands (seriously consider
wearing rubber gloves) or the flat bottom of a wine bottle. Pour boiling sugar-water over
berries to set the color and extract the flavorful juice. Cover primary and allow to cool to
70 degrees F. Add yeast nutrient and pectic enzyme and re-cover the primary. After 12 hours,
add wine yeast and re-cover the primary. Stir daily for a week, remove nylon bag and allow to
drip drain about an hour while keeping the primary covered. Do not squeeze bag. Return
drippings to the primary. Continue fermentation in the primary until specific gravity falls
below 1.015. Transfer to an appropriately sized and sanitizes secondary, top up with water and
attach an airlock.
Use a dark secondary or wrap clear one with brown paper to preserve the wonderful color.
Ferment an additional 2 months, then rack, top up and reattach airlock. Rack again after
additional 2 months. Wait one month, rack again, stabilize wine, top up with 1/2 cup sugar
dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water and reattach airlock. If refermentation is not evident
within 30 days, bottle in dark glass. Drink after one year. This is an excellent sweet wine,
but the timelines described are critical. This batch only makes a gallon of wine. If you can
make more, by all means do so. I am always ready to "evaluate" samples of this wine.
Several months back a reader asked about barbecue sauces and suggested I publish recipes
every now and them. I requested reader input but received minimal replies and only one reader-
submitted recipe until now. This one actually came as a package containing a recycled barbecue
sauce bottle, a letter, and the recipe. I tried the sauce last night and it is very good. Here is
the letter that accompanied it.
"Jack, over the years I have mined real treasures from your web site and blog, while
becoming distressed whenever I read of your heart problems. I, too, have a bad heart and have
had to adjust my diet accordingly. Thank goodness red wine is still allowed and even
encouraged for health maintenance. I have a cookbook called 'Choices for a Healthy Heart' that
I would recommend you look into. Within it is an excellent barbecue sauce recipe. I am
inclosing a bottle of the sauce with the recipe printed on the back label, modified slightly.
I hope you enjoy it and continue your blog for many more years."
Healthy Heart Barbecue Sauce
2 (15 oz.) cans tomato sauce
1/3 c. cider vinegar
3/4 c. blackberry wine
juice and zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 c. liquid smoke
1 1/2 tsp. Tabasco Sauce
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1/3 c. brown sugar
In a medium pot, combine ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 1 1/2 hours. Five minutes before removing from heat, add
additional 1/4 cup blackberry wine and stir well. Makes 5 cups. Sauce will keep 4-5 weeks in
refrigerator and may be frozen, or processed in a boiling water bath for 18-20 minutes. The
flavor is superior to commercial sauces. Excellent on chicken, salmon and any other recipe you
have using barbecue sauce.
Thank you, Howard. I might add some finely diced white onion or shallot when I make it, but
it is very tasty as is.
Too much going on. Life is full enough without getting sick, having a sprinkler head break
and discovering a Form 1099-INT for interest income AFTER you mailed in your tax returns.
My medication has me wired, my irrigation specialist retired, and I have to figure out how to
file an amended tax return. Oh, how I long for simpler times, of chicken and dumplings and
April is the month I usually start a dandelion wine. Been too busy to think about it until
now, and I'm not sure my medication will allow me to venture outside too long. Seems my eyes
are terribly dilated and sunlight hurts. Maybe sunglasses will help, But I just tasted last
year's dandelion and have a new recipe I want share - if there really is such a thing as a new
Believe it or not, this recipe came to me in a dream - I made the wine in the dream and was
able to taste it as the dream time seemed elastic enough for the wine to age immediately. That
was last year and I have tasted this wine. It is very, very good.
This recipe actually marries two excellent wines at the very beginning and melds them
together as a complex "field blend." At the same time, it discriminates the "pickin's" to
include only true dandelions while rejecting catsears (I described catsears in a previous post
- see first link, below). You will need two nylon straining bags.
Dandelion-Golden Chanterelle Mushroom Wine
7 cups dandelion petals
1/2 cup dried golden chanterelle mushrooms
1-1/2 lbs granulated sugar (approximate)
20-oz can apricots in syrup
11.5-oz can Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate
1 medium orange, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
3-1/3 qts water
1/2 tsp potassium sorbate
2 crushed Campden tablet
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Thaw Welch's frozen concentrate before starting. Separate dandelion petals from flowers (no
"false dandelions" or catsears), saving petals only. Chop the dried mushrooms and tie in nylon
staring bag with dandelion petals. Bring water to a boil. Meanwhile, drain the apricots but
save the liquid they were canned in. Chop apricots and tie in second nylon straining bag. Put
both bags in primary. When water boils, remove from heat and add grape concentrate, liquid from
canned fruit and juice from orange and lemon. Add 1 lb. sugar and stir until dissolved. Measure
S.G. and continue adding sugar (1/4 cup at a time, then stir to dissolve) until S.G. reaches
1.090-1.095. When S.G. is right, pour sweetened water over nylon straining bags in primary.
Add tannin, yeast nutrient and one finely crushed Campden tablet and stir. Cover with cloth,
wait 12 hours, then add pectic enzyme. Recover, wait additional 12 hours, then add activated
yeast starter solution. When fermentation is very active stir, collapse bags by hand and push
down into liquid. Don't worry if they float back up. After 4 days, remove bag of apricots and
drip drain (don't squeeze). Return drained liquid to primary and discard fruit pulp. Two days
later remove bag with dandelion petals and mushrooms and squeeze gently to remove liquid.
Return liquid to primary and discard petals and pulp. Transfer liquid into sanitized secondary
and fit air lock. Rack, top up and attach airlock every two months until wine is crystal clear
and no new lees form between rackings. Stabilize with potassium sorbate and another finely
crushed and dissolved Campden tablet, wait additional 14-21 days, and rack again if needed.
Sweeten to taste with up to 1/4 cup sugar dissolved in 1/8 cup water and bottle the wine. Allow
wine to age one year before tasting. [Author's own recipe, inspired by Tom Asp and a dream]
I will be starting this wine next weekend. Join me.
I have written about this before (see link, below) but it still comes up as a new topic from
time to time. Recently two independent inquiries sought advice, each having unsuccessfully
attempted to stop and active fermentation in order to capture some residual sugar at the
correct balance point. What went wrong?
One did what most of us have done at one time or another - added the appropriate amounts of
potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite and waited, but nothing happened. Why not?
Yes, this is how you stabilize a wine from future fermentation if you are going to sweeten
it, but you stabilize a wine when it is still - when fermentation has already stopped. The
potassium sorbate "neuters" any residual yeast that may be hanging around (there usually are at
least a few), making them incapable of reproducing. If the added sugar revives them and they
resume fermentation, they will die of old age without leaving any offspring. And potassium
metabisulfite (I hope everyone learns this) does not kill yeast; it kills bacteria and
fungi and does many other beneficial things for the wine, but it doesn't kill yeast unless you
add so much of it as to make the wine undrinkable.
You can heat a wine or chill a wine to stop an active fermentation, but heating can adversely
alter the taste (see second link, below). And it takes time to chill a wine sufficiently to
kill all the yeast so you have to anticipate at what point you want fermentation stopped, guess
at how long it will take the wine to chill to that point, and calculate at what specific
gravity you should start chilling to make it all come together. I know it can be done, but I
have no idea how to figure it all out.
I once took an actively fermenting wine to work and placed it in a -40 degrees freezer to
get the temperature down quickly. The internal temperature got all the way down to 19 degrees
and ice was forming on the inside of the glass before it stopped and I took it out. Several
times I have placed carboys in regular refrigerators and seen fermentation continue for 12-16
hours. Regardless of the temperature limitations advertised for the yeast, once they are
thriving they don't want to give up on life.
Your best bet is to use a yeast that reliably stops at a given alcohol point and then prime
it with enough sugar to retain the residual sweetness you want and hope for the best. Even
better, set the starting gravity at the desired alcohol level, ferment to dryness, stabilize
the wine, and then sweeten to taste.
I'm having trouble with my internet connection again. The trees between my 50-foot antenna
and the transmitter for my wireless signal are affected by the 30 mph southeast winds and their
waving upper branches are waving through and slicing my signal. I am receiving much better
than sending, so this file, although written last night, was not successfully sent until today.
I visited a new shop in San Antonio this week - Home Brew Party, on Nacogdoches Road (for
those of you not local, most of us ignore the "g" in Nacogdoches when pronouncing it). Manager
Stu Hutchinson is also a member of the San Antonio Regional Wine Guild and Bexar (pronounced
"Bear") Brewers. He entered his first wine competition last weekend and did very well.
The San Antonio Regional Wine Guild held its Spring Competition last Sunday (April 19th) and
I entered seven wines. One (a Port) did not place, but three did very well. An Ison Muscadine
I left ageing in the carboy for four years tied for runner-up (Honorable Mention) to Best of
Show (Grape) with Martha Tarkington's Blanc du Bois. Then, a fruit wine (Key Lime) I made for
my wife won Best of Show (Non-Grape) and the Bay Leaf wine I featured on this blog took
runner-up (Honorable Mention) to Best of Show (Non-Grape). Thinking about these wins, I came
up with a few tips to share about each of these wines.
First, the Ison Muscadine. Luke Clark grew and brought me a large cooler of Isons some
four and a half years ago. Wanting to "do it right" and knowing no better maker of muscadine
wines, I prepared the must while Luke was still visiting. However, Luke did not guide me as I
had hoped he would, but rather helped me when requested and basically observed. This was not
what I had hoped for, but he explained it with the comment, "Jack, there are many ways to skin
a cat; I gave you the cat, so skin it." So we simply crushed eight gallons of grapes, added
3-1/2 gallons of water (this was a guess to produce a 5-gallon batch) and a quarter-teaspoon of
potassium metabisulfite. About 6 hours later I sprinkled in 5 teaspoons of powdered pectic
enzyme, stirred the mass to distribute the enzyme throughout and left it overnight. The next
morning I drew off a cup of liquid and measured the specific gravity, added sugar as simple
syrup to reach a specific gravity of 1.093, added acid blend to taste (2 teaspoons per gallon)
and stirred in 5 teaspoons of yeast nutrient. A little later I pitched a sachet of Lalvin
RC212, a tried and true Burgundy yeast with good extraction qualities and color stability. The
grapes were pressed four days later, volume was adjusted (added about a pint) and the wine
finished fermentation in about three weeks.
Label for Honorable Mention Ison Muscadine
I intended to bulk-age this wine for a year, so I racked it three times over a 5-month
period to achieve clarity approaching brilliance. Thereafter, the bung was not disturbed until
I bottled it last month. It bulk-aged almost exactly four years. I simply maintained the
liquid in the airlock. Why four years? Well, I simply have made more wine than I have room to
store in bottles, so it simply sat there. One day I checked the tag on the carboy, realized
how long it had sat there, and hesitantly opened it to see if it was still drinkable. Indeed
it was, so I bottled it.
SARWG President Larry Lothringer and Jack Keller holding Honorable Mention and Best of Show rosettes
On to the Key Lime. My wife loves this wine, which I featured here in late November 2007.
While making a new batch, I borrowed a tip from Martin Benke which I mentioned here a few
months ago. In addition to the can of Welch's 100% frozen White Grape Juice Concentrate per
gallon of wine, I added 200 mL of Finest Call (brand) Premium Triple Sec Syrup. I
really cannot describe what this does to the taste, but it both softens the key lime sharpness
and adds a mixture of flavors that set it apart. I was not surprised to won Best of Show (Non-
And now, the Bay Leaf. I have written here three times about the bay leaf wine, beginning
on April 18, 2008 when I started experimenting with how much bay leaf to use. I published the
final recipe three months ago in January, so refer to it for details. My tip here is age. The
wine was very good when I bottled it in January, but when entered last weekend it was exactly
one year to the day that I started the wine, and it was much better last weekend than it was
three months ago. So, aging it at least a year is a very strong recommendation.
At the wine competition last week, an amalgamated cork was too old and had lost its ability
to expand once removed from a bottle. Thus, when inserted into a bottle of elderberry wine
after a T-cork broke apart it was too small and was pushed into the bottle. After the
competition, I retrieved all my bottles to reuse them later. At home, I needed to remove the
cork from the elderberry bottle.
I assume most of you have seen the video on removing a cork that has been pushed into a
bottle, but in case you haven't I am linking to it below. I used this method to remove the
amalgamated cork, which now was swollen from laying in the wine. I twisted and inserted 2/3 of
a plastic shopping bag into the bottle, turned the bottle upside-down so the cork slid down
toward the neck, blew into the bag to inflate it, and then grabbed the end of the bag and
pulled. It took a hard tug, but the bag slid out with the captured cork. If you ever need to
remove a cork from inside a bottle, don't forget this method. It really works.
I once used this method to remove a bung from a carboy. The trick there is to make sure the
bung is aligned with the wedge pointed into the mouth of the carboy and that the plastic bag is
large enough to capture the bung. I used a medium-sized trash can liner for this one.
My thanks to Kenton for pointing me to a couple of problems with my RSS feed. His Google
Chrome not only told him there were problems, but pointed precisely to the line and row in which
the problem manifested. This was a great help and my sincerest thanks go out to him.
I know I could use a code generator and probably produce reliable pages most of the time
(code generators seldom are foolproof all the time), but I like to do it myself. That is the
only way I know of to ensure I know exactly what is happening (in theory) on my pages. You have
no idea how easy it is to type a colon in place of a semi-colon, a comma in place of a period, a
capital letter in place of a lower-case letter, etc. If the error occurs inside the html or xml
tags, things stop working. If you have trouble with my feed or one of my pages, let me know at
firstname.lastname@example.org (remove the patriotic colors from this address).
I received an email strongly suggesting I should open a Twitter account, an activity that had
never crossed my mind. Well, at 2 a.m. yesterday morning I did it. I really haven't figured out
how to use it yet, have no idea what I will use it for, but suspect I will figure it out.
Millions of others seem to have done just that. My Twitter name for those who tweet is
I don't know why I did this other than to satisfy the request of a friend, but I'm willing to
see where it goes. So far, I've spent several hours I didn't know I had to spare reading very
short entries by many different people. Right now I am following 20 winemakers. If you tweet,
follow me and I'll probably reciprocate.
I was watering my wife's roses and noted the ambrosiac aroma from one bush loaded with flowers
and I starting counting them -- 38. Since my wife is out of town and won't miss them, I got a
bowl and picked the petals. These are deep, velvety red. My last three batches were from yellow
roses, peach roses and white roses, respectively, and made pales white wines. This promises to
be a dark rosé if the color doesn't drop out.
Some will recall that back in January I said that even the deepest red roses will only make a
pale pink wine, and these were the roses I was referring to. Why then, do I have hopes for a
dark rosé this time? The reason is the initial color. The initial boiling water pour and one-
hour maceration pulled a good color with a very vibrant hue from the petals. I added sugar and
dissolved it before adding the frozen 100% white grape juice concentrate, which pulled the
temperature down enough to add sulfites, yeast nutrients and acid blend. I won't know if the
color sets until fermentation runs its course. Stay tuned....
I don't usually plug things like this, but a friend sent me a url, I went and watched. Now I
watch it first thing in the morning while waiting for the coffee to brew. What a refreshing way
to start the day!
More than 200 dancers performed their version of "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music
in the Central Railway Station of Antwerp, Belgium. With just two rehearsals, they created this
amazing stunt! Those four fantastic minutes started at 8:00 a.m. of March 23rd, 2009. It was a
promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone to play the
leading role, in the musical. Watch the expressions and reactions of the passers-by (some of
whom join in).
Scroll down to the January 4th, 2009 entry for my rose petal wine recipe
Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I am blessed that my mother is still with us, as is my father, and
am cognizant of all she and he and they have done for me throughout my 64 years of life. If
your mother is still living, don't forget her tomorrow.
If you, dear reader, are a mother, let me join your child or children in wishing you a very
happy Mother's Day. Lifting a glass of chilled, award winning Key Lime wine, "Cheers."
Okay, Pete, you win. I'm going to answer your question, so please stop asking it.
I have no idea where the term "minerality" came from, but it isn't officially a word. Still,
wine snobs use it so it must mean something. In my Glossary of Winemaking Terms I
relented and listed the non-word, defining it thusly:
Minerality: Claims that a particular wine captures the aroma and/or taste of a
place -- the gout de terroir -- through aromas reminiscent of minerals or vineyard
geology. While minerals don't have much smell to most people, some describe it as the aroma
that rises when rain falls on parched ground. The technical term for this smell is
petrichor, which is "the smell of rain on dry ground."
Now, I'll admit that I ripped that definition off, more or less, from Tim Patterson. But
when it comes to defining words that are not really words, you've got to turn somewhere for
inspiration. It just happens that I had bookmarked Tim's article on the subject because of the
interesting word petrichor, not because I cared one wit about what imaginary
characteristics people assigned to a wine. Tim noted:
Even though chunks of slate (or clay or sandy loam) don't make their way into the
grapes, some elementary minerals and mineral compounds do get taken up from the ground and end
up in the juice. They arrive in small quantities, not enough to independently influence flavor,
one way or another. They do, however, play an important role in yeast nutrition and metabolism
during fermentation. And they are not particularly glamorous minerals, not the stuff of lyrical
tasting notes: potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium are the major players, none of them with
noteworthy aromatic properties, particulary in such low concentrations.
There is, however, one elementary mineral that does sometimes become noteworthy in wines, and
not favorably - sulfur. I have yet to hear anyone refer to it as "minerality."
A good-too-many people think they are allergic to sulfites. A very small fraction of a
percentage actually are, but the majority of those who think they are aren't. I read somewhere
that the human body actually produces a gram of sulfites a day, about 10 times the amount found
in a bottle of wine. But sulfites are only one side of the sulfur equation. On the other side
Elemental sulfur is acted upon in one of two ways. It is either oxidized or reduced, two
opposing activities. Sulfur oxidizes to form sulfur dioxide, a gas which in excess stings the
nose while prolonging the life of wine. It also forms bisulfite and sulfite ions, which want to
bind with things in the wine and contribute to its ultimate complexity.
Sulfur reduces to form sulfides, of which there are many potentials. The best known is
hydrogen sulfide, a foul-smelling gas reminiscent of rotten eggs or smelly flatulence. There are
also a number of mercaptans with various odors such as asparagus, onions, wet wool, diesel fuel,
or skunk. In excess, these are all undesirable in wine, but a little bit - let me stress
little bit -- of any but the more vile can be a good thing in a young wine because they
will usually disappear within a year in the bottle and actually open up the wine. Here I am
referring to wine sealed under natural cork, as it does permit a gradual intake of oxygen to
counter the reduction. If the wine is sealed with a screwcap, reduction can continue rather than
Should you open a young wine during its first year and before all sulfides have disappeared,
you will probably be tempted to dump the batch. Don't. Give it further time and see if it doesn't
mature past the sulfide stage. If it doesn't, you can open the bottles and treat the wine with
I was going to mow the back acre today (it really needs it!) but it's raining. I will never
be ungrateful for rain, but I do wish it would confine its appearance to the hours of 10 p.m.
and 4 a.m. Still, my grapes need it.
Budbreak two months ago of my Blanc du Bois among the blue bonnets. Today the vines are loaded with grapes.
Look at the picture above and imagine the vines in full canopy and loaded with grapes. Also
imagine all those beautiful blue bonnet flowers gone and the plants brown and dead. Yes, we
need the rain.
A friend sent me some Medieval food recipes two days ago right around supper time. While
reading them, I became so hungry I went into the kitchen and integrated one of the dishes
(Whiskey Glazed Carrots) into the meal I had planned, which revolved around pan fried pork
chops. Today I found a bottle of my 2003 Beetroot Wine in a case in a closet. Tonight's meal
revolved around braised beef tips in porcini mushroom sauce on a bed of rice with another of the
Medieval dishes and something I cooked up. I used some of the Beetroot Wine in the beef tips
and mushroom sauce and also drank it with the meal. It was a fabulous pairing, so good in fact
that I want to share the recipe - for the buttered greens and leeks.
My friend included the link he got the Medieval recipes from, so I need to acknowledge it
also. See the second link after this entry. I've made two of the four recipes on the page and
both were heavenly, but especially the following.
Buttered Greens and Leeks
I'm going to make a couple of admissions here that could get me kicked out of the South.
First, for some strange reason I cannot explain, I have not, as an adult responsible for feeding
myself, ever eaten collard greens. I probably had a bad experience as a child in Louisiana, but
I have no memory of it and so cannot point to a reason for avoiding collards. The recipe below
calls for greens, mentioning collards, kale or chard. Yesterday my market had collards.
Secondly, I have only cooked leeks into soups. I had no idea they could be used as below.
Having said that, I am very glad I tried this recipe. Together, collards and leeks are wonderful.
With 6-year old Beetroot Wine, they are even better.
2 1-lb bunches of Collard Greens (or Kale or Swiss Chard)
4 qts water
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Trim the tough outer leaves down to light green from the leek with kitchen scissors. Trim
the inner leaves only to remove toughness; leave most of the inner leaves intact. Trim off the
roots and lay the leek on a cutting board. Halve it lengthwise with a sharp knife and then
halve each of the halves. Wash them under running water to dislodge any dirt between the leaves.
Back on the cutting board, cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces all the way to the trimmed
tips. Collect in bowl and set aside.
Wash the collards and prepare as follows. Lay a leaf on the cutting board with the leafy tip
away from you. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the leaf lengthwise on either side of the tough
rib. Discard the rib and tear or cut the two sides of the leaf into large (2 inch X 2 inch)
pieces. Toss the pieces in a large bowl and repeat until all the leaves are in the bowl.
In a large pot bring the water and salt to a boil. Stir in the greens and leek pieces and
boil about 5 minutes, or until soft but still bright green. Strain through a colander and pat
dry with paper towel. Melt butter in a large skillet and toast the bread crumbs, stirring
occasionally. I sliced and diced two English muffins for my bread crumbs and am glad I did.
When bread crumbs start browning, reduce heat to low and toss in the cooked greens and leeks and
stir well with a wooden spatula. Cook on low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, adding salt and pepper
to taste halfway through. Serve immediately.
The recipe says it will serve six, but my wife is away and it looks like I will get one fresh
and three leftover servings. I sprinkled sesame seeds over them at the table - just something I
like with spinach, so I thought it would work here (and it did). It was absolutely delicious
with the braised beef tips and porcini mushroom sauce, corn cooked with sun-dried tomatoes and
chopped roasted red peppers (my own creation), black bread, and the 2003 Beetroot Wine. That
was over two hours ago and I'm still stuffed.
I received an email that claimed that at 5:30 a.m. on an August morning in 1978, French
filmmaker Claude Lelouch mounted a gyro-stabilized camera to the bumper of a Ferrari 275 GTB and
had a friend, a professional Formula 1 racer, drive at breakneck speed through the heart of
Paris. The drive starts at Porte Dauphine and winds through Pl. Charles de Gaulle, Champs-
Elysees, Pl. de la Concorde, Tuileries, Pl. du Carrousel, Pl. de l'Opera, Pl. Pigalle, Pl. du
Tertre, and ends on Montmartre with the Cathedral Sacre Coeur behind the car. The drive is
nonstop and insane as the driver runs dozens of red lights, narrowly misses lorries, other
automobiles and pedestrians, and even goes the wrong way on a one-way street. The email claims
speeds of 140 mph in places, but I have my doubts.
The run is 8 minutes and 50 seconds. I must have watched it 4 or 5 times before I noticed
something. I used to own a Ferrari 250 GT SWB with a slightly smaller V12 than the 275 GTB and
the sound of the engine, the brakes and the heel-and-toe down-shifting are all real, but in a
few places the sounds just do not coincide precisely with the movements of the car. It's a good
dubbing, but a dubbing nonetheless. So I Googled it and discovered that the car is actually
Claude LeLouch's Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9, but the soundtrack really is Claude's Ferrari 275 GTB.
It's an excellent dubbing, but not perfect. If I hadn't mentioned it you might never notice.
Heck, you might not notice anyway. I had to watch it several times before I first suspected
I never put links in the body of the WineBlog. But I'm going to make an exception
here. Buckle up and watch the film here.
It's one heck of a drive.
The search engine on my site no longer works. Thanks Mark for informing me. I worked very
late last night so did not have time to fix the problem last night. I did, however, diagnose
the problem with the help of the support staff of my hosting company, which bought out my
previous hosting company. You may recall that when they migrated my site to their servers, my
site disappeared for three days. Shortly after they managed to resurrect it, I noticed my
counter had disappeared. Seems they do not support the code that ran the counter. Now the
search engine is down. You guessed it. They do not support the code that ran the search engine
I’ve found a third party, off-site search engine, but because I do not want to pay a monthly
fee it will come with embedded ads. Rather than install it, I will continue looking to see if
I can find a simple, server-side, non-branded engine my host will support (they’re pushing
Google’s site engine, which I do not want). If anyone out there has such an engine to recommend,
please contact me at email@example.com (delete the patriotic colors to reveal
the email address).
I was recently asked for two mead recipes. This got me thinking about honey, which provides
at least some of the fermentable sugar in all meads. I have discussed honey before because it is
such an amazing substance, but I thought I would do so again and expand upon the subject a bit.
When discussing the amount of honey to add to a mead, we normally measure it by weight abut
could measure it by volume. In the United States, weight of honey is measured in pounds and
ounces, while volumes would be most convenient in cups, pints, quarts and gallons, but metric
units can also be useful. For example:
Converting Honey Volume to Weight (in U.S.A.)
1 cup (8 fl oz)
0.75 lb (12 oz)
1 pint (16 fl oz)
1.5 lb (1 lb 8 oz)
1 quart (32 fl oz)
1 gallon (128 fl oz)
3.17 lb (3 lb 3 oz)
People often ask if honey can be substituted for sugar and I say yes, but honey is about 17%
water and 3% nonfermentable substances. According to one authority, honey contains more than
180 separate substances, which average (in descending order) fructose (38.2%), glucose (31.0%),
water (17.1%), maltose (7.2%), nonfermentable solubles [minerals, vitamins, proteins, amino
acids, organic acids, enzymes, etc.] (2.9%), trisaccharides and other fermentable carbohydrates
(2.1%), sucrose (1.5%). These numbers are averages, but close enough to a given honey to rely on.
Thus, only 80% of the honey is fermentable. This can (and often does) lead to adding too little
or too much honey to a mead.
If one takes a wine recipe and substitutes honey for the sugar unit for unit, the result is
not enough fermentable sugar to achieve the desired alcohol level. Two pounds of honey is equal
to only 1.6 pounds of sugar and in a gallon of water will ferment to 9.6% alcohol. Because
honey is more often than not sold by the pound rather than the volume, most mead recipes call
for 3 pounds of honey or (God forbid) 4 pounds per gallon. Three pounds of honey equates to 2.4
pounds of sugar, which will ferment to around 14.5% alcohol in a gallon batch. If you’re just
trying to produce something for a buzz, that’ll do it, but if you’re trying to produce a smooth
and balanced mead, you’re going to have to work at it to overcome the hotness of the alcohol.
Now, I do understand that 4 pounds of honey per gallon will not all go into alcohol, but you’ll
really have to select your yeast carefully to end up with a well-balanced, sweet, high alcohol
mead. It's much better to use a reasonable amount of honey and make a reasonable mead.
I mentioned earlier I was asked for two mead recipes -- one for a pyment made with native
grapes and the other for a pyment using more conventional wine grapes. I am sharing below the
recipes I provided. Each recipe can serve as a guide for each kind of pyment, but different
grapes will require different treatments. No other native grape compares exactly with the species
profiled -- the mustang -- but several are every bit as high in acid. Similarly, the
"conventional" grape I used is the Blanc du Bois, popular in the South but little known
elsewhere. Pity. The recipe might work as is with a Muscat or even a Riesling.
A preface. I do not put all of my mead in 375 mL bottles, even though I know many do. I
only fill two 375 mL bottles with each mead, and these are for tasting to see if the mead has
aged enough to drink. I enter full, 750 mL bottles in competition unless 375 mL bottles are
actually required, which they rarely are. You do as you desire.
A Texas Pyment (1 Gallon)
4 lbs Mustang grapes
2-1/2 lbs honey
Water to bring total liquid to 1 gallon
2 crushed Campden tablets
1 tsp yeast nutrient
wine or mead yeast
Crush grapes, tie inside nylon straining bag and place in primary along with any juice. Bring
one quart of water to a rolling boil, remove from heat and carefully add honey. Gently stir to
dissolve honey and let sit about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make a yeast starter solution and husband
it until needed. Add 1-1/2 quarts cold water to honey-water and stir in one finely crushed and
dissolved Campden tablet and yeast nutrient and carefully pour water over grapes. Cover primary,
set aside 10-12 hours and then stir in starter solution. Recover primary and set aside. After
5 days, remove nylon straining bag and press grapes, returning juice to primary. When vigorous
fermentation subsides, transfer to secondary and attach airlock. When fermentation concludes,
rack, top up and test acidity. Bring up to 0.55-0.6. Refit airlock and set aside 2 months. Rack
again, wait another 2 months and rack once more, adding another finely crushed and dissolved
Campden tablet. Make sure liquid level in airlock is sufficient and set secondary aside for 3-4
months. Carefully check bottom for evidence of fine dusting of dead yeast. If present, carefully
rack, wait 2 weeks and bottle; if dusting is not present, bottle. Mead improves incredibly with
age, so wait at least a year -- two if you are strong-willed. [Author's own recipe]
Blanc du Bois Pyment (3 Gallons)
14 lbs of Blanc du Bois grapes
6 lbs honey
Water to bring total liquid to 3 gal
Acid blend to raise acidity to 0.6 (5-6 tsp)
3 tsp yeast nutrient
wine or mead yeast
Disolve honey in 1 gallon of water. Crush and press grapes, add juice to honey-water. Add
water to make 3 gallons. Test acidity and add acid blend to 0.6. Add three finely crushed and
dissolved Campden tablets and yeast nutrient. Cover and set aside 10-12 hours while feeding a
yeast starter solution. After 10-12 hours, stir yeast starter into must. When vigorous
fermentation subsides, transfer to 3-gallon carboy and attach airlock. Ferment to dryness, wait
additional month and rack. Set aside 3 additional months and rack into sanitized carboy
containing 3 finely crushed Campden tablets and 1-1/2 tsp potassium sorbate. Wait 2-4 weeks and
sweeten with 1 to 1/12 pounds of honey. Stir well and set aside at least 30 days. Rack if
required and bottle. Age at least a year -- two will be better. [Author's own recipe]
Memorial Day: This American holiday, I assume, has counterparts in many (if not most)
nations. Unlike Veterans Day, which honors all who serve or have served in their country's
armed forces, Memorial Day specifically honors those who have given that "last full measure of
devotion" to their country. It is their ultimate sacrifice that we honor on Memorial Day.
My consideration of Memorial Day echoes a brief but beautiful presentation by Humanity
Healing Network called The Path of the Warrior. Rather than tell you about it, I'll
simply offer it. It is up to you to watch it or not.
An email from a Tarheel marooned in Maryland reminded me of a pyment recipe that would fit
well into his native state's culture. In the same vein, a phone call from an old Army buddy in
North Carolina prompted me to dig out one that fits into a huge area of the Eastern United
Wild Muscadine Pyment (1 Gallon)
10 lbs Muscadine grapes
About 1 lb honey (target starting SG at 1.095)
Water to bring total liquid to 1 gallon
2 crushed Campden tablets
possible acid blend
1 tsp yeast nutrient
wine or mead yeast
Make a yeast starter solution and husband it until needed. Crush grapes, tie inside nylon
straining bag and place in primary along with any juice emitted. Bring one pint of water to a
rolling boil, remove from heat and carefully add honey. Gently stir to dissolve honey and let
sit about an hour to cool. Stir in one finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet and yeast
nutrient and carefully pour the honey-water over the bag of grapes. Cover primary, set aside
10-12 hours and then stir in starter solution. Recover primary and set aside. After 5 days,
remove nylon straining bag and press the grapes, returning their juice to primary. Do not add
water at this time to make one gallon. When vigorous fermentation subsides, transfer to
secondary and attach airlock. Wait about a week and then top up. When fermentation finishes,
rack, top up and test acidity. It should not need much correcting, but bring up to 0.55-0.6 (if
using Scuppernongs, bring to 0.6 to 0.65). Refit airlock and set aside 2 months. Rack again,
wait another 2 months and rack once more, adding another finely crushed and dissolved Campden
tablet. Check liquid level in airlock and set secondary aside for 3-4 months. Carefully check
bottom for evidence of fine dusting of dead yeast. If present, rack very carefully, wait 2 weeks
and bottle. If dusting is not evident, go ahead and bottle. Mead improves incredibly with age,
so wait at least a year -- longer if you can stand it. [Author's own recipe]
Vitis Aestivalis Pyment (1 Gallon)
6-8 lbs of V. aestivalis (or V. aestivalis var. lincecumii) grapes
1 to 1-1/2 lbs honey (try to get a starting SG at 1.095)
Water to bring total liquid to 1 gal
Acid blend to raise acidity to 0.55 to 0.6
2 Campden tablets
1 tsp yeast nutrient
wine or mead yeast
Crush grapes, tie inside nylon straining bag and place in primary along with any juice
emitted. Bring one pint of water to a rolling boil, remove from heat and carefully add honey.
Gently stir to dissolve honey, pour over grapes in secondary and add a quart of cool water.
Wait about an hour to cool further and test acidity; add acid blend to 0.6. Add one finely
crushed and dissolved Campden tablet and yeast nutrient. Cover and set aside 10-12 hours while
feeding your yeast starter solution. Meanwhile, begin a yeast starter solution and maintain it
until needed. After 10-12 hours, stir yeast starter into must. After five days, remove grapes
and press, returning juice extracted to primary. When vigorous fermentation subsides, transfer
to secondary and attach an airlock. Ferment to dryness, wait an additional month and rack. Set
aside 2-3 additional months and rack into a sanitized secondary containing another finely
crushed and dissolved Campden tablet. Set aside at least 30 days. Rack if required and
bottle. Age at least a year -- two will be better but requires great will power. [Author's own
With only a little understanding of meadmaking, chemistry and native grapes, you can adapt
these recipes to other native grape species or varieties. One that works in my area with about
8 pounds of grapes is V. cinerea var. helleri, known to old timers as V.
helleri or V. berlandieri. Another I have used is V. monticola, adapting the
Mustang Grape recipe I posted last time. The grapes had undergone verasion but were not fully
ripe and had almost no sugar and high acid. I should have waited another 2-3 weeks, but there
was evidence everywhere that the birds were testing them and I feared if I waited they would be
gone. I've had similar experiences with other natives; some turned out well but one could not
be made into anything drinkable and I was sorry to have denied the birds the grapes.
I know this will not interest most of you, but earlier this month I started a new rose petal
wine, mentioned it here, and a few have told me they had taken the plunge and started one too.
I thought I would update those who have begun one on mine. With fermentation complete and
clarification all but complete, the wine has retained the color that has always eluded me and is
a bright, strawberry rosé.
You may recall that I have always maintained that rose petal wines seldom retain the colors
of the roses that lent them their scent and unique flavor. This time I picked a lot more petals
from roses with the color of deep garnet with a lovely fragrance. The petals were then steeped
in boiling water about a half-hour, which pulled the color from the velvety petals. About then
I dissolved the sugar and added 11 ounces of just-thawed 100% white grape juice concentrate
(Welch's). After about an hour's maceration, I dissolved in the sulfites, yeast nutrients and
acid blend. The petals were left in.
I covered the primary and separately made a yeast starter solution. After about 10 hours, I
pitched a yeast starter and recovered the primary. I left the petals in for the yeast to work
on for another 32 hours. There is nothing magical about that number. It just happens to be the
number of hours that passed before I thought they were looking depleted and feared that after
much longer they might begin to deteriorate. I removed them with a slotted stainless steel
spoon. The remaining liquid was opaque from a good bloom of yeast.
I took a hydrometer reading at day five and it was at 1.032. I went ahead and transferred it
into a 4-liter secondary, which gave it a little headspace for foam. After affixing an airlock,
I set the secondary in a pie-tin just in case the foam got too vigorous. This proved to be
unnecessary, as I used Unican Sauternes dry yeast and it is generally a low foamer. Fermentation
was complete in under two weeks and the wine fell clear in about 35 minutes. It always amazes
me to see this happen.
The airlock has been still for a week, so last night I racked the wine into a one-gallon
secondary and reset the airlock. The lees were very tight and I topped up with about a half-cup
(150 mL) of 2007 cranberry wine I was in the process of consuming. I doubt this will affect the
flavor much, but have noted it in my wine log just in case.
I found two wines in my bathroom. Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but it's true. About eight
years ago I filled all my wine racks and shelves and put a couple of cases - temporarily, of
course - in the corner of my bathroom. Two cases became four, then six, then eight. Then I
started on a closet. There are several problems with this practice, not least of which it is
difficult to find a specific wine you might want. After a few years, you forget what you even
have. Yes, the cases were marked, but as wines were removed others replaced them and the markings
eventually became meaningless.
A few nights ago I removed every case of stored wine and opened them. I found a lot of wine I
thought I had long ago consumed, but four bottles particularly caught my attention. I will only
mention two - Luke Clark's 2004 Southern Home Muscadine and my own 2004 Red Raspberry Melomel
'Southern Home' is a cultivated muscadine by John Mortensen (Leesburg, FL) obtained by crossing
Vitis rotundifolia cv. 'Summit' with the infamous P9-15 (see genealogy in first link
following this entry). Because of its P9-15 heritage, it contains a few genes from Vitis
vinifera cv. 'Black Morocco', so it is not a pure muscadine. 'Southern Home' possesses a
uniquely beautiful leaf geometry and was patented "...as an ornamental, dooryard grape that could
be grown on arbors around patios and as borders on fences." Its fruit were considered fit for
the table or for jelly or juice, but due to color instability it was deemed "...undesirable for
wine." Mortensen was quite wrong.
Luke Clark (Leesville, LA) presented me with two bottles of 2004 'Southern Home' wine the
following April. Luke, myself and our better halves chilled and consumed one bottle on the spot.
It was very good. I squirreled away the remaining bottle and after a while lost memory of it
until I stumbled upon it a few nights ago.
Upon discovering the lost bottle I sadly thought I had missed out on a wonderful wine due to
age. I carefully uncorked it and sniffed the mouth of the bottle, fully expecting evidence of
oxidation or worse. I was surprised when greeted with a light, perfumed bouquet and fruity aroma.
Standing on no ceremony, I lifted the bottle and took a hopeful sip. It was wonderful. I capped
it with a T-cork and stood it in the refrigerator.
Two hours later I took down my finest Riedel and poured generously. I then laid a napkin over
the glass to imprison the bouquet and let the glass sit about 20 minutes to allow the wine to warm
to around 55 degrees F. By then I was salivating in anticipation, but dug out Maurice Jarre's
Lawrence of Arabia soundtrack and waited for the 'Overture' to open before taking that first
sip. Sometimes you just have to do it right!
In 2004 I obtained a gallon of raspberry honey with which to make some mead. To the uninitiated,
raspberry honey is honey made from the pollen of raspberry blossoms. My plan was to make a
varietal mead, but several days later at the supermarket I noticed and purchased a 20-ounce bag
(1.25 pounds) of frozen red raspberries. I thus changed my plans and decided to make three gallons
of raspberry varietal mead, a gallon of raspberry melomel (fruit-flavored mead) and a gallon of
pyment (grape-flavored mead) using wild Mustang grapes. I made all three and assumed long ago
that I had consumed them all. A few nights ago I happened upon a bottle of the red raspberry
Mead has legendary aging abilities, so I would have been surprised if it had peaked in only
five years. I chilled the bottle for only about a half-hour and then carefully removed the cork.
Still, gently pulling it from the bottle sucked the perfume bouquet out with the unmistakable
aroma of raspberry, which quickly spread throughout the kitchen. The taste was every bit as good
as the smell and I am enjoying it immensely. Digging through my wine logs, here is how I made it.
Red Raspberry Melomel
2 lb 10 oz raspberry (or any other) honey
1 lb 4 oz red raspberries
Water to 1 gallon (about 3 liters)
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1/4 tsp yeast energizer
1 Campden tablet
1/2 tsp potassium sorbate
Bring one quart water to boil and slowly stir in honey. Add lemon juice and slowly stir
periodically until water returns to boil. Adjust to low boil and hold about 40 minutes, stirring
periodically and skimming off scum as it rises. Meanwhile, place defrosted raspberries in nylon
bag, tie closed and mash with flat-bottomed wine bottle in bottom of primary. Separately, begin
a yeast starter solution with mead or Champagne yeast. Pour honey water onto berries. Wait 15
minutes and add remaining water and yeast nutrient. Cover primary and wait until must is room
temperature. Stir in yeast energizer and activated yeast starter solution. Stir twice daily for
4 days, remove nylon bag and discard pulp. Ferment two more days and transfer to secondary.
Attach airlock and ferment to dryness. Rack into sanitized secondary in which a finely crushed
Campden tablet and potassium sorbate have been dumped. Top up and reattach airlock. Set aside
two months and rack again. Stir in 1/3 cup of honey until absolutely dissolved and bottle. Age
at least one year. [Author's own recipe]
Lon DePoppe is a Minnesota winemaker who frequents the WinePress.us forums and dispenses good
advice and great recipes. One of his more infamous recipes is for a hard lemonade -- a wine
really -- he calls "Sketter Pee." There's a colorful story that goes with the name, but let's
just say that "skeeter" is short for "mosquito" and let it go at that. But that's really outside
the point that this stuff is fantastic.
Here are some things to know about this stuff. First, it is 10% alcohol by design, which means
don't tweak the recipe to make it stronger or you'll throw it out of balance. Second, serve it
chilled; like lemonade, it's a hot weather drink and needs to be chilled. Third, you can bottle
this stuff in beer bottles and cap 'em so they can go along on outings in the mini cooler.
Fourth, this stuff goes down so smoothly that it is very easy to drink too much of it. Pace
yourself, keep track of what you drink and be responsible.
What follows is Lon's recipe in his own words.
Skeeter Pee (makes 5 gallons)
3 bottles of 32 oz 100% lemon juice (e.g. ReaLemon in the green plastic bottles or equivalent)
7 lbs sugar (or 16 cups)
3/4 tsp tannin
6 tsp yeast nutrient
2 tsp yeast energizer
Approx 4 3/4 gallons water
*Yeast slurry is the yeast lees from a previous batch of wine or mead from the first racking,
without any pulp or seeds
Many people have difficulty getting lemonade to ferment. This is due, I believe, to several
factors. The high acidity, the lack of natural nutrients, and preservatives that are often
included in the lemon juice. Therefore, I do whatever I can to assist the process.
I use reverse osmosis water (this is by choice and tap water should work fine since much of the
chlorine should evaporate out during the initial steps). Make invert sugar by adding your 16 cups
sugar to a large stainless cooking pot along with 8 cups water and 14 teaspoons lemon juice. Stir
sugar to dissolve and heat to just below boiling while stirring. Hold at this temperature for
about 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and pour it into your primary along with 2 of the bottles
of the lemon juice (reserve the last bottle until later), and enough additional water to make 5
1/2 gallons. Add the tannin, 3 tsp of the yeast nutrient and 1 tsp of the yeast energizer.
Measure SG with hydrometer and record it. I shoot for an SG of around 1.070 which yields a
beverage of around 10% alcohol if it ferments dry. Vigorously beat the mixture with a wire whip
for a couple of minutes to introduce oxygen and purge it of artificial preservatives. I then cover
the bucket with a dish towel and let the sit for 24 to 48 hours.
After 24-48 hours, give it another quick whip and then pour in yeast slurry from the first rack
of another batch of wine. It sometimes takes a while, but you should have active fermentation
within a couple of days. It helps to keep this must warm (75-80 degrees). You may need to
occasionally whip in some additional oxygen with the whip if fermentation seems to be progressing
Periodically check the gravity. When it gets down to around 1.050, add the other 3 tsp of
nutrient, the second tsp of energizer, and the last bottle of lemon juice; vigorously mix it in.
Don't be afraid to introduce some oxygen to the mix at the same time. This late addition of yeast
food and oxygen helps reduce the likelihood of your batch developing a sulfur-dioxide problem.
(Because of the high acidity and low nutrition, lemon has a higher propensity to developing the
sulfur-dioxide rotten egg smell.) After a couple of days, you can rack into a clean, sanitized
Allow to clear. This may take a month or two. Rack into a clean, sanitized carboy. Give the
batch a quick degas (use agitation and vacuum if you have the equipment). Add 1/4 tsp potassium
metabisulfite, 2 1/2 tsp sorbate, and Sparkolliod. After two weeks, the Skeeter Pee should be
crystal clear. Rack into a clean, sanitized carboy, add 5 cups sugar, and stir to dissolve. Wait
two weeks to be sure no new fermentation begins and bottle.
Notes: I don't call this "hard lemonade" because too many people have tried the commercial
versions and they tend to make a mental impression of what it's going to taste like before trying
it. When it doesn't taste just like the commercial versions (which are usually flavored malt
beverages with 5% alcohol) they conclude that it's a poor reproduction. This stuff isn't a
reproduction; it's the original home-style without the big marketing budget and price tag. Please
be advised that you need to keep an eye on those you serve this to. Because it drinks easily on a
hot day and the alcohol is about double that of commercial hard lemonades and beer, it is easy to
accidentally over consume; it sneaks up on you real fast.
Additional notes: The finished beverage will often take on highlights of the wine which
provided the yeast slurry. I've made this with the slurry of raspberry, crabapple, and peach
wines. All seem to have kept a bit of the originating flavor elements into the finished beverage.
I guess what I'm saying, keep this in mind when you decide which batch should donate it's yeast
starter. In other words, I'm not sure if a batch of candy cane wine would be the best choice.
[Lon DePoppe's recipe]
I had finished a blog and was proofing it when the phone rang. While on the phone the lights
went out for perhaps half a second. No, I had not saved it yet. That cost me about 3 hours of
work. Really, really dumb.
Speaking of dumb, I made a big batch of sausage and green peppers last night, with onions,
portabella slices, sun-dried tomatoes and smoked jalapeno (chipotle) in a roux. This is an old
Cajun dish traditionally served on a sliced half (or quarter) of French bread, but last night I
decided to serve it over rice. It was delicious and I had enough for another 4-6 servings, but I
left it on the stove to cool down before putting away in the refrigerator and - you guessed it -
it was still there this morning. It's the pork sausage I worry about. No matter what might be
growing in it now, I know I can re-cook it and render it safe, but it will never taste the same.
I called a friend who is a chef and he said he would dump it, so I did. He did manage to talk me
out of my recipe, which of course was made up as I went. Somehow, he understood a "loose handful"
(of sun-dried tomatoes) as a unit of measure.
Units of measure come into play in this entry's recipe. I will report it as I wrote it, but
you're going to have to render your own interpretation of "large" or "small" flower heads.
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), is a perennial herb native throughout most of Europe
and western Asia that has naturalized in North America and other places once introduced. Also
known as Queen of the Meadow, Pride of the Meadow, Meadow-Wort, Meadow Queen, Lady of the Meadow,
Dollof, Meadsweet and Bridewort, it grows in damp meadows and gardens and has long been prized in
folk medicine for stomach, headache and general pain relief. Indeed, salicylic acid extracted from
Meadowsweet flowers led to the development of aspirin by Bayer AG in 1897. It is also used in
cooking and canning and to flavor beer, mead and wine. Our interest here is wine.
The whole herb possesses a pleasant taste, and the flowers and green parts have aromatic
qualities highly prized in pot pourri. Young leaves, flowers and roots are brewed into a
pleasant tasting homeopathic tea especially useful against gastro-intestinal ailments. The dried
leaves are used as a flavorful, sweetening herb and condiment. Internal consumption should be
avoided by people hypersensitive to aspirin or asthmatic. Otherwise, it would make a fine and
useful herb in any garden that can be sufficiently watered to support it. It grows 1-2 meters
high and blooms from June to early September with delicate, graceful cymes of creamy-white, but
also lightly pinkish flowers; cultivars have been developed with reddish to purple blooms; all
possess a strong, sweet smell.
Mitch Earl, from Ireland, asked in my Home Page's Guest Book for a wine recipe. I have made
both mead and wine with meadowsweet, although I have made neither since I contracted adult onset
asthma. The wine requires another base to give the product body. I chose Niagara Grape because
it is readily available in any supermarket as frozen concentrate and its flavor does not overwhelm
the herb, but I do believe the mead allows the flavor of the herb to shine better. Mitch probably
cannot get Welch's frozen concentrates in Ireland, but he can substitute another grape - look for
a more neutral flavor and aroma.
Either remove individual flowers from the cluster and tie in nylon straining bag in primary or
break flower clusters into several pieces and drop in (or bag in) primary. Meanwhile, bring 1
quart water to boil and dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add frozen
concentrate. Add additional water to make one gallon and pour over flowers in primary. Dissolve
remaining ingredients except yeast in cup od water and add to primary. Cover primary and set
aside 12 hours. Make a starter solution now and husband during the 12-hour wait. After 12 hours,
add starter solution and recover primary. When active fermentation slows down (5-7 days,
depending on yeast), transfer to secondary and fit airlock. When clear, rack, top up and refit
airlock. After additional 30 days, stabilize, sweeten if desired and set aside another 30 days.
Carefully rack into bottles. [Author's own recipe]
I'm having fun on Twitter. It can easily turn into a time sink - you log on and read a few
tweets and before you know it you've wasted a lot of time you didn't intend to. It took a couple
of weeks before I was able to enter a routine. A good number of you are visiting me there with
direct messages. Good to see you, but forgive me if I do not read or answer your tweets right
away. As with email, I only have so much time. Also, if you ask me a question, you're going to
get an answer not longer than 140 characters.
The serviceberries are ripening. In the past three weeks I've received four requests for
"serviceberry", "shadbush" or "juneberry" wine recipes. Since I already have recipes
posted for Allegheny Shadbush Wine, Downy Serviceberry Wines and Saskatoon Serviceberry Wines, and
no one asked for a specific kind, I decided to go ahead and post a recipe I made a long time ago
from canned Canadian Serviceberries. I converted it to a fresh berry recipe and posted it on my
"Making Wines from Wild Plants" page (see links following this entry). However, while writing the
page on Canadian Serviceberry Wine I had some thoughts I felt were inappropriate to post there but
wanted to say somewhere, so this is where I will say them.
I am, of course, aware that these berries have many common names and that there are 20-22
species or varieties native to North America and each of those has a botanical (scientific) name
rendering it unique from all others. And I am not even referring to named cultivars - another
whole subject. But I am surprised to see how wrong the literature on the internet can be about
these fine plants. There seems to be a lack of pride in being accurate. This not only pollutes
the internet with lots of false information, but colors the reputations of the persons posting it.
I am not speaking from a high horse. I have posted my share of incorrect information and I am
sure I have not discovered and corrected all of it. But I try. But I simply no longer accept
what I read on the internet unless I have vetted it to my satisfaction. I suggest you do the same.
I can live with the wrong species being commonly called "Downy Serviceberry" or "Saskatoon
Berry." People move about and tend to apply a name they know to a plant that looks similar but is
actually different. We are not all students of botany. But getting the common names wrong is one
thing; getting the scientific name wrong is quite another.
There is a great deal of misinformation concerning the names of the species and varieties in
the Amelanchier genus. One site claimed there are 118 representatives of this genus and
listed their names. Well, this is absurd. There are at most a quarter that number. I know you
can find respectable books and articles with long lists of names, but you have to look at the
dates and the references to judge how relevant their information is today. There is a convention
taxonomists must follow called the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) that
dictates what can and cannot be accepted and how to determine which names will be used and which
will not. Botanists love to find new species and name them, but very often they see something
they were unaware of and name it even though it already has an accepted (or pending) name.
Because of these problems, one must careful.
When I was building my pages on Native North American Grapes and Wines, I was totally
confused for months. I found hundreds of binomials for grapes and spent years studying the
literature and sorting it all out. To offer you some idea of what I had to sort though, I posted
a page containing hundreds of names that have been offered over the years for Vitis species;
the page is called "List of Offered Names for Vitis Species" and is linked to below.
I cannot be sure that my discussions of Serviceberries is 100% accurate, but I take great pains
to try to make it so. I do not think that 80-90% of those posting on the same subject can make
I know of no serviceberries that can harm you unless you simply gorge yourself on unripe or
infected fruit, but there are a lot of "berries" out there in the wild and some can make you regret
eating or making wine from them. Be careful. Use a good plant guide, like one of those listed at
the linked page below this entry.
Tomorrow is Father's Day. I hope you will remember you dad and honor him appropriately. If
your father has passed on, remember him and honor his memory. If he is still with you, count him
among your blessings and spend some time with him, even if on the phone. Remember, when you were
born you did not come with a set of instructions, so if you feel he did some things wrong or
unfairly then you are probably right, but I doubt you are perfect either. Tell Dad hi. Take him
to dinner or cook one for him and enjoy a bottle of wine together. Life is uncertain and short,
and we don't know how many more days we will be able to share. Make the most of those you have.