We are excited to announce that we will officially open Curds and Wine on Thursday, November 11, 2010! We are located at 7194 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard in San Diego, California. We have easy access from I-805, directions are given in the side bar at left. We will have an updated website up very soon, in the meantime you can find out more about us, winemaking, and cheesemaking on our Facebook site, and follow us on Twitter @curdsnwine. Please forward this newsletter on to any of your friends interested in making their own wine and cheese, or they can sign up for the newsletter at CurdsandWine.com.
Making Wine from Kits
When I first tell people that I make my own wine, their first question is: Where do you get your grapes? My answer is, from all over the world! With wine kits, you can make any varietal of wine from anywhere in the world, any time of year. Whatever style you like!
So, what is involved in making wine with a kit? Here's a break down:
First, you pick your kit. In the kit are all of the ingredients you will need to make 6 gallons of wine, including a bag of sterile grape juice, yeast, fining and stabilizing agents, and oak or other additives (such as elderflowers) if it is appropriate for that type of wine.
Then you'll need some hardware. To start out, you'll need a 6 to 6.5 gallon primary fermentation lidded bucket that is made out of food-safe plastic. You will also need a large plastic spoon, wine thief, hydrometer, and airlock. Later you will also need a 6 gallon carboy and siphon; you might also want a drill-driven degassing wand (more on this later). All of your equipment needs to be cleaned AND sanitized before and after you use them; we will have a more detailed article later describing cleaning and sanitation.
Getting going: The key to successful winemaking is to follow the instructions that come with each kit. The basic steps are similar, but be sure to check each step as you go. Each step takes less than an hour.
On day 1, you will pour the juice into your primary fermentation bucket and mix with bentonite. This additive helps clarify the wine later. The volume of the juice is brought up to 6 gallons, and the initial specific gravity (related to the sugar levels of the juice) reading is taken. This is important for monitoring the progress of your fermentation. If there is any oak or other additives, they might go in now, or might go in later, depending on the style of the kit. Finally, the yeast is sprinkled on top of the juice, and the lid and airlock are placed on top of the bucket. The yeast does not need to be stirred in; they will rehydrate on the surface and drop to the bottom when they come back to life.
Fermentation will start within 24 to 48 hours. You will notice vigorous bubbling in the airlock, and probably start to smell the wine. Some extremely vigorous fermentations might foam up, and so you should put your bucket somewhere that is easy to clean up – for example, I put mine in our guest shower. If you have your bucket in a carpeted area, you might want to put a pan under the bucket, just in case.
Fermentation will continue for a week or 2. After 2 weeks, you will check the specific gravity (SG) to make sure it is below 1. This shows that the yeast have eaten the majority of the sugar in the juice and converted it to alcohol, which is considered "fermenting to dryness". By subtracting the initial SG from the final reading, you can calculate the percentage of alcohol in your wine.
Once your SG is below 1, you will siphon (also called rack) your wine to a clean, sanitized carboy. As you get to the bottom of your primary fermentation bucket, you will notice a layer of sludgy goop at the bottom. The majority of this goop is left behind; it contains the majority of the dead yeast cells and proteins pulled out by the bentonite, as well as the oak that you might have added at the beginning. The carboy will not be full, but you will need some space at the top for the next step.
The racked wine will be quite cloudy. At this point you will add the stabilizing and fining agents as instructed in the directions and stir vigorously. The harder you can stir, the better; besides mixing in the stabilizing and fining agents, you are also trying to drive out trapped CO2 gas that was produced by the yeast during fermentation. You will benefit by using a drill-driven degassing whip (such as the Mix-Stir degasser) for this process. After stirring, water or wine is added to the carboy so that there is not much airspace at the top. An airlock is put on the carboy, and the wine will now sit for several weeks. Your wine is now bulk aging.
You can rack your wine into another clean, sanitized carboy at least once more while it's aging. This will help the fine sediment (also called lees) fall out of the wine to give you a clearer wine when you're ready to bottle.
So, in as little as 4 weeks you will have finished wine that you can bottle. However, giving your wine extra time bulk aging will benefit the wine a lot. After you bottle your wine, you should leave the wine in the bottle for at least 4 weeks before opening. This prevents "bottle shock", where the wine just won't taste right due to the bottling process. More on bottle shock and bottle aging later! We hope this will inspire you to come in and make your own wine with us. Remember, you can make your wine on site at Curds and Wine. We will be there to help you with each step of the process, and the best part is that we have all of the equipment available for your use AND we clean up everything for you when you're done! Your wine will be safe (and out of your way) at our shop, and when you're ready you can have a wine bottling party with your friends. You will also be able to design and print your own labels for your homemade wine! In addition, average bottle cost is less than $7/bottle, so you can make a high quality wine and save money compared to retail wines!
Limited Edition Wine Kits
We carry wine kits from Winexpert and Cellar Craft, and every year these companies release a special limited edition set of wine kits. These kits are made of specially selected grapes from distinct vineyards around the world. There are a limited number of kits available and they must be pre-ordered in December in order to get these kits. The kits are then released monthly January through April of the following year.
This year Winexpert has 5 Select Limited Edition kits available, three reds and two whites: Australian Shiraz/Viognier, Pacifica White Blend, Italian Primitivo, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, and Potruguese Douro Tinto. You can see a great video of Winexpert's Tim Vandergrift describing these kits here.
Cellar Craft has four special selections for their limited releases: Grenache Quartet, Chateau du Pays (red rhone blend), Marsanne-Viognier-Roussanne (white rhone blend), and Carmenere-Cabernet. The three red kits all include a 2.6 Litre Crushed Grape "SUPER PACK" (Made using over 17 lbs of whole grapes), which adds additional complexity and mouthfeel to the finished wine.
We will have more information about these special kits on our website soon. Pre-orders will be taken until Sunday, December 12th. You do not pay for your kit until you pick it up when it is released for sale. If you would like to sign up for any of these kits, please email me or call me at the store!
We have a great selection of accessories for enjoying your wine and cheese that make great hostess gifts for holiday gatherings, as well as gift bags and personalized labels for packaging your homemade wines and cheeses. In addition, we are offering special Gift Certificate packages for you to give to your friends to inspire them to make wine: a wine kit of their choice, 30 bottles, and either an equipment set or winemaking at Curds and Wine for a special price! Check at the shop or see our website for more details. There is also still time to start a nice white wine kit in time for upcoming holiday festivities, just ask us for help in selecting the best kit for immediate drinking!