Wine Making at Home

Aglianico wine and glasses

One day, the plan is to open our own winery!

Someday.

But, not today!

For now  we are content to make wine with our own grapes at home  - hobby wine makers, that’s us!

Making wine was the planned activity for Monday – to glean the Roussanne grapes which were left after harvest and begin the wine making process. The first and last plants of each row are always left without being harvested because they are so close to the end post. The Pellenc grape harvester is turned on and off over these plants which means even after harvest, we still have some grapes to eat or to make wine with!

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Roussanne Harvest Continues

Roussanne grape racus

The decision has been made and is unanimous – we love harvesting in the daylight!

Yes, nighttime harvests are beautiful with stars twinkling overhead and the invigorating cool night air. Last year, our first Roussanne harvest of the year was a nighttime harvest and it was beautiful!

But, less stress comes with the daytime grape harvests! You can see what you are harvesting, how clean the fruit is and how thoroughly you are cleaning the vines. While the Pellenc grape harvester does have lights, flashlights must be used behind the harvester to see how clean the vines are being picked – it is just more difficult!

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Roussanne Harvest 2014

Roussanne grapes

After working all year, it seems unbelievable that in a few short weeks the grapes will be gone for another year!

Exciting? Yes.

A bit sad? Yes – we have to wait a whole year to have acres of grapes to eat!

But, the thrill of harvest – and money in the bank – outweigh the sadness!

Our earliest ripening variety is Roussanne. To see how we determine ripeness see pH and Brix Testing. Roussanne is a French white grape variety. We have 7.2 acres of Roussanne which is contracted to 7 different wineries. Each winery has a specific acre of grapes which is 3 rows that are 1/3 mile each. And, yes, that is a looong row when you are out there working!

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pH and Brix Testing

Roussanne Grapes

How do you tell if a grape is ripe?

If you answered, “by the taste”, you are right!

But, there are also other measures of ripeness. For starters, there are the characteristics of the seeds. When grapes are unripe, the seeds are green and as they ripen they become tan and finally turn brown. Also, before ripening, the seeds are chewy and the pulp clings to the seeds but when ripe, the seeds become crunchy and the pulp no longer clings but separates easily.

If you are a winemaker, there are also other factors – chemistry stuff like pH and Brix.

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Veraison – the Grapes are Ripening!

montepulciano grapes showing veraison

Veraison has occurred – What an exciting time of year!

From now through harvest (and especially harvest itself) we really see and enjoy the fruits of our labor   ;)

You may have never heard of veraison and to put it simply, the grapes begin to change color which shows they are beginning to ripen.

According to  Wikipedia, veraison is:

 a viticulture (grape-growing) term meaning “the onset of ripening”. It is originally French, but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of veraison is “change of color of the grape berries.” Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occur at veraison.

For us, it means we can eat ripe grapes again – no more green sour berries for us!  Since everyone else is also scouring the vines for the ripening grapes and quickly gobbling them down, the challenge at this point is to find the berries going through veraison before anyone else does!

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Pellenc Wire Raiser

Pellenc wire raiserIf you remember, a couple of years ago we bought a Pellenc 4560 multi-function vineyard machine (i.e. grape harvester) which you can see in action here in this harvest video. Not only can the Pellenc harvest grapes, but with other vineyard attachments, it can be used as a pre-pruner and now, a VSP wire raiser.

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Oswald Vineyard May/June 2014

Oswald Vineyard June 2014

When I last posted in March, Change is Good, I had no intention of continuing Cultured Palate. What you might ask, has changed?

Well, I am still very much enjoying being more concentrated on and more  accessible for my family. But, I have been touched by the emails, comments and questions about what is going on with us now. So, I thought I would revisit those of you who have taken the time to get to know our family with periodic updates.

A lot has happened in these few months – we have a new milk cow, took a 5000+ mile trip to Maine (in our 15 passenger van) and have a new vineyard toy imported from France – but, I will tell you more about all that later!

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Drilling a New Well

drilling rig set up and drilling

The time has come to drill a new well. In the almost 6 years that we have lived here in west Texas, our water levels in each of the wells have dropped. Unfortunately, it is not just us, it is everyone in this area. When we bought the land in 2007, there were already 3 wells on the property. At that time, after test pumping to see how much water they could produce, we put submersible pumps down 2 of them.

In 2008, we began the vineyard and could continuously irrigate 10 acres at a time, pumping more than 120 gal. per min. Now, the wells refill rate allows us to irrigate only five acres semi-continuously, pumping ~50 gal. per min.

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Vineyard Work Post Harvest

vineyard Oct 16, 2013

Now you can see the vineyard after harvest. If you look carefully,  you can see in the upper left, a drilling rig – to the left of the barn. No, we are not drilling for oil! We are drilling a well to a deeper aquafer for water- but, more about that later!

You might think that since our last grape harvest of 2013 is finished, we would be kicking back and relaxing.

That is what our children thought!

Wrong.

Quite the opposite is true.

We have finally finished hoeing the vineyard (all 27 acres of it!) for the last time of the year.

Yes, it was a wonderful workout, great exercise and time to work together as a family. But, ask any of us and you will get the same answer – we are glad to be done! In fact, “glad” doesn’t accurately describe the feelings experienced upon completion.

We had to hoe for 3 reasons. The main one was to remove all the organic material from under the vines – this was a safe haven for wintering over bugs. Secondly, we wanted to get rid of the weeds before they went to seed (especially the tumbleweeds) and since we were so close to harvest, we were limited as to what could be sprayed. And thirdly, a dirt mound had built up under the vines as a result of tilling (discing) the rows – next year we will be going “no-till” so this will not be a problem.

To keep the weeds under control we can spray Roundup. But, since this can also kill vines, we like to minimize our use of it. So, that brings us to our latest activity…

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Last Grape Harvest of 2013

Montepulciano grape clusters

It is hard to believe, but another year of grapes is over!

We harvested all the Montepulciano and Aglianico last Saturday. Just like that, in one fell swoop – they were gone!

Now, we must wait another year for the delicious taste of grapes.

Well, maybe I AM being a bit dramatic because, there are still a few grape clusters that did not come off in the harvest and, they are ripe for the picking.

But, it is not the same.

You have to hunt for the grapes now!

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