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How to make wine at Home

How to make wine at home

A Guest Post by Kayla Stevens

As someone who loves to grow her own herbs and vegetables and make her own clothes whenever possible, it came as no surprise to the people who know me when I began to experiment with making my own wine at home. I think the only surprise came later on, when I started making some wines that were more than just drinkable.

cleaning bottles

cleaning bottles

There are lots of reasons to try making your own wine at home; from learning to better understand the other wines you drink to saving money on a habit that can be expensive, but for me the best part is the social aspects of it. When we make wine, we have a small group of friends over to drink our last batch while we get the next rolling. A few months later when it comes time to pop the cork, we have those friends back for dinner again and get another batch in motion.

Not only do we pretty much always have some wine fermenting in our house, but we have a fantastic incentive to keep up with close friends who lead busy lives. Who could resist an invitation to come have dinner and taste the wine they helped create?

All of the equipment required for making wine can make your home look like the lair of a mad scientist, but don’t be intimidated. The process is complicated, but it is also thousands of years old and fairly simple once you understand what is happening.

Plastic Fermenter

Plastic Fermenter

You’ll start out with a plastic fermenter, which is really just a slightly modified plastic bucket. It should have a lid and a rubber gasket to make sealing it easier. This is where your wine will do most of its fermenting, and it is where you will mix all of the initial wine ingredients, which is everything except for the yeast.

The reason to avoid putting the yeast in right away is because you’ll need to put some sodium bisulfate or Campden tablets in first to kill any wild yeast or other bacteria that exist in the equipment. It will also help to eliminate chlorine from the water you use for your wine. This takes 24 hours to dissipate, and if the yeast is added during that time it will be killed along with any other bacteria in the bucket.

When your yeast has been added and your wine has had an opportunity to ferment for about a week, the time will come to syphon your wine from the fermenter (or bucket) to the carboy.

Carboy with siphon

Carboy with siphon

The carboy is a large glass jug, and you’ll need a siphon hose to accomplish this. For this portion of the process you’ll also need an airlock, which will prevent oxygen from entering the carboy while allowing the carbon dioxide created by the fermentation to escape.

A hydrometer will allow you to measure the specific gravity of your wine, which will give you a much more accurate idea of when it is finished and ready to drink. After that the only equipment you need to worry about is bottles, corks, and a corker to pop them in there, as well as some potassium sorbate, which will stabilize the wine and prevent it from continuing to ferment in the bottles.

Ready to bottle!

Ready to bottle!

Learn from my Mistakes

There are a couple of pointers that I can offer to first time wine makers that may save you some of the waste and disappointments that I experienced. For one thing, you cannot take sanitation too seriously. Most suppliers of wine making equipment will offer a cleaner of some variety, and it is the best way to go. You can’t rely on just dish soap or even just bleach to take care of all of the bacteria that may mess with your wine along the way. A professional cleaner designed for this purpose is the only way to go.

Another mistake that I made was trying to get into whole grapes before I was ready. Of course, we would all love to be making every aspect of our wine, starting with growing and crushing the grapes, but I don’t have that kind of space, and when I bought and crushed my grapes I wound up with bitter wine from abusing the skins too much. Most places sell kits or concentrates that will give you a place to start. Think of them as training wheels, and don’t try to take them off too soon or you may regret it.

Author Info:

Kayla Stevens is a freelance writer who is rarely without a glass of wine, homemade or otherwise. She loves the way that wine brings people together, and she hopes that her wine making misadventures can at least spare some other souls from the same tragedies.

The necessary wine making supplies can be found at midwest supplies where Kayla Stevens works.

Restaurant review | Cork! Chandler, Arizona

Restaurant review | Cork! Chandler, Arizona

About 25 miles south-east of downtown Phoenix, lies a hidden gem in the Sun Lakes area of Chandler.
The glass walled wine cellar

The glass walled wine cellar

At first I was a little skeptical of the location, being that it’s not in the CenPho corridor or Old Town.   But I decided to give it a whirl and I’m glad I did.

Immediately upon entering I knew that this was not just a wine place in a strip mall.  The large glass wall featuring a fully functional wine cellar was one clue.  Another was the wine glasses.  I totally judge a restaurant by its wine glasses.  The bigger the better.

Also, the wine list is all on an iPad.  This is quite interesting.  A few years back I would have preferred a book, but now that better interfaces have improved functionality dramatically I quite like the interactive approach.  It probably makes updating the list a lot more efficient than reprinting the wine book.Cork! Chandler

Cork!’s cuisine is can be described as European.  What this means to hungry Americans is that you should order a starter as well as a main dish, because the portions are reasonable, not super sized.

What you will also find is some more unusual but non the less tasty offerings such as Wild Boar, and braised rabbit, and venison.

Wild Boar

Wild Boar

As far as the wine list goes, I found the list to be pleasantly extensive, but not so big that it was hard to decide what to get.  One wine really popped out at an exceptional value:  Beaulieu Vineyards 2004 Georges DeLatour.  This is a $100-$120 bottle in the grocery store.

Flourless chocolate cake

Flourless chocolate cake

I was just in Las Vegas last week and this wine was $350 a bottle at the steak house I was eating at.  At Cork! it is priced at $160.  If you were celebrating a special occasion that would be a deal that’s hard to pass up.

One last interesting thing to note, and this was passed on to me by the waitress is that the sous chef is gluten intolerant (celiac) — allergic to wheat.  So there are quite a few options on the menu sans gluten.  Including a flourless chocolate cake for dessert which was really and I mean really yummy

Tarbell’s wine experience

Most fine dining establishments will have someone on staff to answer specific wine questions.  Some places will even have a Society of Wine Educators (CWE) “Certified Specialist of Wine” or a Court of Master Sommeliers “Level 1” on hand to help customers with their wine choices.  On a recent Wine about Town trip I learned of a Phoenix based restaurant that is sending ALL of its wait staff to the CWE “Certified Specialist of Wine” training.  A couple of years ago I was invited to the CWE exams held  in Phoenix and I got a first hand look at how difficult the certification process is.  Lets just say that if you pass, you’ll know more than enough to get you through dinner rush at most fine dining establishments.

wine decanter photo

Proper decanting is essential to the enjoyment of wine

The restaurant I am talking about is non other than Phoenix acclaimed Tarbell’s.  Located at 32 street and Camelback in the heart of the Biltmore district, Tarbell’s has been serving customers for over 18 years.  Which is quite an achievement in and of itself.
Owner and chef, Mark Tarbell joined us at the dinner table and we seized the opportunity to pick his brain a little.  One of the foundational elements of his restaurant concept is to provide an opportunity to explore wine and food, together.  Tarbell’s wine list is not the biggest in town, its not large magical leather bound book.  Rather, it is an opportunity to excite the palate, without overwhelming the decision making process.
Chef Tarbell pointed out that if you look at the wine list you will see that there are several different styles of the same wine.  There will be a couple of names you recognise and then there are wines that you don’t -but should!  His carefully selected wine list allows you to experience everything that each varietal has to offer.

Tarbell's phoenix

Angus aged 35 days NY Strip with Pommes Frites

To start I decided to try something completely different.  If you’ve read my blog or this column you’ve probably noticed a tendency toward California cabernets (and a soft spot for ARIZONA wines)  So I went with an inexpensive white wine 2008 Picpoul de Pinet Coteaux Du Languedoc.  I have enjoyed reds from Languedoc in the past and thought I’d try a white. It was a nice, light and refreshing wine that went well the starter salad.  And at $7 a glass it was an exceptional value
For the dinner wine, I decided to enlist the help of General Manager, Matt Lockwood.  I explained what I’d been drinking lately, and wanted to try something a little outside the box, yet still have something that was going to pair well with the red meat we were going to order.
After several suggestions that I had already tried, he suddenly remembered something.  “You have to try this, you’ll LOVE it”

arizona wine blog

2009 Arietta “Quartet”

He suggested the 2009 Arietta “Quartet”.  This was a fantastic suggestion. The wine was different enough to be interesting, and yet still within the bounds of what I thought would be palatable with steak.  The wine is a Bordeaux style blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 17% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot.  Only 1,100 cases of this wine were produced, so it was a real treat to get a chance to try it.
For dessert I had Tarbell’s “Beloved Chocolate Mouse” paired with a Taylor Fladgate port.  This was another amazing pairing, that is impossible to describe in words–you’ll just have to try it for yourself!

A quick tour of North Carolina’s Vineyards

A Tour of North Carolina’s Vineyards
North Carolina isn’t the first place you think of when you think of great wine. However, the state has a long history of making great wines — going all the way back to the 1800s. The state was the leading producer of wine before Prohibition.
That tradition continues to be strong today. There are over 100 wineries in the state. There are even three American Viticulture Areas: the Yadkin Valley, Swan Creek and Haw River Valley.
Here’s more information about some of North Carolina’s top vineyards:

Childress Vineyards
This vineyard owned by Nascar driver Richard Childress has been named best of show in the Mid-Atlantic Wine Competition and won numerous other awards. The vineyard boasts over 100 acres of 12 different types of grapes that produce a variety of house wines and special signature wines.
Shelton Vineyards (http://www.sheltonvineyards.com/)
Located in the Yadkin Valley American Viticulture Area, this vineyard is one of the largest on the East coast. Several varieties of grape are grown at the vineyard, producing 10 different types of wines. ” Shelton Vineyards’ belief is that fine wine begins in the vineyard. The location, in the heart of North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley, provides the ideal climate and soil conditions. Shelton Vineyards’ commitment to sustainable farming practices and hands-on attention enables the vineyard to produce the highest possible quality of grapes.”
Duplin Winery (http://www.duplinwinery.com/)
Duplin Winery, specializing in Muscadine wines, claims to have jumpstarted the wine industry in North Carolina. The winery has 1,800 acres across four states and makes several specialty wines. It also partners with nearby vineyards, such as the Cape Fear Vineyards, to create special signature wines.
Chatham Hill Winery (http://www.chathamhillwine.com/)
North Carolina’s first urban winery is located in the bustling Triangle in Cary.” Its mission is to produce distinctive, handcrafted wines of high quality and purity from grapes grown in North Carolina.” The winery takes a minimalist approach to producing wines, and traditional methods are used.
Biltmore Estate Winery (http://www.biltmore.com/our_wine/)
This gorgeous estate also produces several award-winning wines. The winery opened in the 1970s as an extension of the estate’s mission to become self-sustaining. The winery claims to be the most visited winery in the country, with approximately 1 million visitors per year. ” North Carolina is gaining a reputation for producing quality wines and we hope to continue to lead the charge in educating wine enthusiasts and novices alike about what our state has to offer.”
North Carolina is growing as an authority in producing quality wines. While it’s no California, it has won many awards for its wines and is gaining respect in the field. These vineyards are helping to create a reputation for North Carolina as a place that produces quality wines.
Have you tried any wines created in North Carolina? What are your thoughts? Share your opinions in the comments!
Heather Green is a Christian mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice about nursing online resources and associates degree in nursing.

Del Frisco’s Grille built around a great wine list

wine bar phoenix

The glass private dining room with the wine storage behind the glass

When I heard there was a new wine centric restaurant in the Biltmore district, I must admit I was skeptical.  I thought, really?  Another place to buy overpriced Silver Oak and eat steak?  My skepticism vanished quite quickly upon entering Del Frisco’s Grille.  The first thing I noticed was the interesting interior design.  The restaurant’s central design are huge floor to ceiling glass walls that have wine bottles behind them.  When I win the lottery, that is exactly how I am going to design my mansion!  I explored a little deeper into the restaurant and found the private, all glass dining room.  I inspected the bottles behind the walls a little closer and found a Methuselah (fancy word for 6 liter) bottle of Caymus Special Selection.  A little farther along the wall I saw something that caught my attention big time.  I tall stack of bottles: 2007 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa.  I have been on a huge Howell Mountain kick ever since visiting Robert Craig’s vineyard “above the fog” back in 2011.  I put the Dunn in my memory bank for later use.

wine bar phoenix az

The bar area

I continued on my tour led by general manager Tony Brunetti and he opened up the storage area for me.  The majority of Del Frisco’s 500+ selections of wines are actually stored behind the glass walls in a temperature and humidity controlled and quite narrow cellar!  Great design and function, definitely on the lottery list! Also on the lottery list were many of the labels I found back there:  Dalla Valle, Hundred Acre, and Mouton Rothschild.

On a follow up visit for this article I met with Sarah Falconer, the wine sommelier.  Sarah has worked for the Del Frisco’s organization for quite some time and actually got her sommelier training while working there. Sarah gave me the background scoop on Del Frisco’s Grille.  The original restaurant, Del Frisco’s double eagle, started in Dallas over 20 years ago.  It is a fine dining restaurant serving only prime steak and fine wine.  The Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group also owns over 20 Sullivans Steak Houses across the country.

Wine bar phoenix

A nice view from the upstairs patio

The Del Frisco’s Grille concept is rather new and the Arizona location is only the 3rd location.  The concept is an extension of the prime steak theme, mixed with a more contemporary feel and lighter food fare.   Sarah manages the wine inventory for this location, which means she is constantly stacking and counting wine bottles.  Contrary to popular opinion, sommeliers don’t recline on plush leather couches sniffing and swirling wine in dimly lit rooms all the time.  There is an amazing amount of work that goes into a properly managed inventory of wine. Imagine keeping track of 500 different brands of wine, with multiple bottles of each brand! Talking with Sarah I could easily tell she enjoys it, she is passionate about wine and even more passionate about people.  She really knows her stuff too.

wine bar phoenix

The wine storage area behind the glass walls

It eventually came time to be seated for dinner and I, along with Josh and Rhonni were in for a treat.  Not only was the food great, but we enjoyed a bottle of that Dunn Howell Mountain. Not that wine should be reduced to a number rating by a fancy wine reviewer, but if a wine is rated 97 points, its probably worth a try right?   The wine was still very young, quite tannic, but still really delicious, and even Rhonni who is not much of a big bold cab drinker, really liked it.  Given 5 more years of aging this wine will really be absolutely amazing.  More about the wine and its presentation:  The wine was brought out cool but not cold,and our server brought a decanter and appropriate stemware. I am a real stickler for 3 things when paying top dollar for wine:  #1 Correct temperature i.e. NOT room temperature. #2 decanter, and #3 appropriate stemware.  Small sports bar glasses are no way to enjoy a $125 bottle of wine.

Dunn Howell mountain wine bottle

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet

Apart from the main dining area, the private dining area would be a great place to host a small event.  On my second visit I noticed a private wine tasting being set up.  There is also a large bar area, and also a long communal table where meeting new people is inevitable.  In fact on this visit I ran into some people that I knew, and they happened to be sitting right next to Josh and Rhonni and chatting up a storm.

weekly wine journal wine blog

An amazing wine

The main idea I took away from Del Frisco’s Grille is that it is really a wine bar with an excellent menu.  A lot of restaurants have wine as an afterthought, whereas I get the distinct impression that Del Frisco’s really paid attention to what kind of food would go with some of the greatest wines in the world and built their menu around a massively impressive wine list.

One last thing to note:  Del Frisco’s has an upstairs patio featuring a view of Camelback mountain.  Its a very relaxed casual place to hang out on large comfy couches and relax over drinks.

Wine Review | Robert Mondavi 2010 Pinot Noir | Carneros

Wine Review | Robert Mondavi, 2010 Pinot Noir, Carneros

2010 carneros

2010 Pinot Noir, Carneros

According to the literature supplied with this review sample, 2010 was “an exceptionally chilly, wet spring followed by a cool summer of no summer”.  The season was characterized by below average temperatures, a small heat wave in August and heavy rains in October.  Again, according to the literature, the yields were “significantly lower than average.”

One of the things I noticed on a trip to Howell mountain in June of 2011 was how far behind the mountain fruit was compared to the fruit of the valley floor.  I would imagine the same effect with the 2010 Carneros vintage.  The result would be low yield, high intensity berries.

This 100% Pinot Noir has a restrained nose of blackberry and spice.  The palate is  rich with raspberry and an almost pine like forestyness to it.  There is enough acidity and backbone to make this a solid wine, a wine that a Cabernet drinker might get into.  There is a hint of toasty oak owing to 7 months aging in 34% new French oak. Alcohol weighs in at 14.5% which was a little surprising, not too much heat on the palate although the nose was hot yet vibrant.  For those wine drinkers who have not yet experienced “heat”  try adding vodka to Capri Sun in quantities that it begins to sterilize your nostrils and mouth.  Thats heat.  This wine doesnt have that, don’t worry

The suggested retail price on this wine is $27, although most retailers will probably have it at around $20.  As far as California Pinot Noir goes, this is a decent value, and if you can pick it up for $15 or less it would be a good deal.  I’m not a huge fan of the varietal in general, although some of the best wines I have ever tasted have been Pinots.  This wine is a decent effort.  If you’re looking for something better than average, without breaking the bank this is it.

Weekly Wine Journal Rating: 88 points

Bright new packaging for Girasole Vineyards

california organic wineGirasole Vineyards unveiled new packaging for their 2010 vintage on May 1st.  Girasole, along with Barra of Mendocino are owned by Barra Family Wines. The Barra family has been growing grapes in the area since 1955.

“My family has been farming without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides since the 1950’s” says Shelley Maly, VP of Sales & Marketing and daughter of founders Charlie and Martha Barra.  The family owns and farms more than 200 acres of CCOF certified organically grown grapes. All grapes are Estate Grown and hand picked.

The latest vintage (2010) includes a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay.

The 2010 Pinot Noir has a nice ruby hue, reminiscent of cranberry juice.  The nose has hints of strawberry and spice. The palate is solid, while not terribly complex it is solid, strawberry bright red cherry and a little earthiness and the finish.  Alcohol weighs in at 13.5%, suggested retail price is $16

Weekly Wine Journal rating: 87 points

california organic wineThe 2010 Chardonnay is a light straw color.  The nose is a little difficult to detect at first, but after the wine opens up and warms up a little there are hints of tropical fruit and lemon.  The palate is light and creamy and fruit driven.  There is a bit of toasty oak on the back end.  There is a decent amount of acidity which really helps lift this wine, I think this could end up being a great value summer sipper this year.  Alcohol is 13.5% and suggested retail is $13

Weekly Wine Journal rating 87 points.

Girasolevineyards.com

Restaurant Review | An Evening at Scottsdale’s Cask 63

Fine wine and dining experiences come in many forms, from cozy home-like settings to fresh and fancy urban settings.  Cask 63, located in Scottsdale’s Gainey Ranch district, is the later.  The owners of Cask 63 American Eatery and Wine Bar purchased an existing restaurant from Fox Restaurants Concepts in late 2011, quickly reworked the menu and restaurant and had it up and running by January 2012.
The mood of the restaurant is modern and hip, and minimalist, which helps keep your attention on the amazing food created by Brian Feirstein, co owner and executive chef.  During my dining experience I was visited by General Manager and Owner Jerry Tingle and we chatted for a while about how Cask 63 came to be and about what they are attempting to achieve.  One of the interesting things to note, is that although the restaurant has it’s own vision and concept of what it wants to be, Jerry and Brian are very much in tune with what their customers want.  Jerry can be found mingling with customers most nights, searching for suggestions on ways to improve the experience.  I find it a nice touch when the owner visits your table and asks for your opinion on things.

For an appetizer I had oysters of the day  paired with Perrier Jouet Champagne.  For a main course I had Australian lamb chops.  These were double bone-in, which gives you a much bigger juicier portion than single bone.  As a fan of lamb, and all grilled meats, I have to say this was one of the best incarnations of this dish I have ever had.  Although I do like ‘gamey” tasting lamb dishes, this dish was not gamey and I could have easily mistook it for beef.  It was delicious.  I paired this with a rather unusual wine…Vall Llach Embruix – Priorat from Spain.  This was a very interesting wine.  It was described to me as the perfect wine for people who like Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot.  Full bodied, smooth, with dark ripe fruit and hints of spice.

As far as the wine goes at Cask 63, you will find many of the standard high end favorites that seem to be prerequisites at wine bars seeking to endear themselves to wine aficionados.  You will find all the well known Napa greats like Silver Oak, Caymus, Far Niente, and Joseph Phelps Insignia. I was happy to see some of my favorite and less well known wines including Ladera Howell Mountain and Justin Isosceles.  Including bubbles the wine list boasts almost 100 names varying in price from $7.50 a glass all the way up to Hundred Acre’s Kayle Morgan Vineyard for $490 a bottle.

Weekly Wine Journal Restaurant Rating: 90 points

Cask63.com

Scotch Review | Laphroaig 10 year single malt whisky

Wine drinker’s Scotch Review | Laphroaig 10 year

10 year maltI know this is a wine website, but I decided to switch things up with a Scotch review.  Why Scotch? Why this Scotch?

Over the last year I was introduced to the world of Scotch and of all the ones I’ve tried, it is Laphroaig that I enjoy the most.  I was first introduced to Laphroaig on a Friday afternoon at a friends office.   I know it sounds so cliche, sitting in a plush leather chair in the C.E.O’s office, 3pm on a Friday, sipping Scotch!  It is a cliche, an Awesome one!

This particular Scotch appeals to me because it is incredibly rich.  I find most Scotch’s to have a sort of medicinal flavor to them.

I don’t know if you ever remember walking on train tracks as a kid, but if you have you will remember the aroma of the rail way ties.  Creosote. and Peat.  If you haven’t experience walking on train tracks, maybe you are familiar with the aromas of campfire, extinguished campfire, or the smell of your clothes the next morning.

All of these aromas might sound off putting, but I assure you they are not.  If you are a wine nerd like me, you will find Laphroaig one of the most fascinating beverages you’ll ever try.

If you like wines with a nice long finish, you’ll love this.  The finish goes on for 5 to 10 minutes!

Important!  How to drink this drink (and Scotch in general)   Mix the Scotch 50/50 with cold water.  Ice cubes can be added, but they tend to dull and mute the flavors in much the same way that red wine can be when it is served too cold.  I use a couple of ice cubes because I live in Phoenix, Arizona and it is really never below 80F or 27C and so a little ice can make the drink more refreshing. Do not use tap water, use purified or spring water. The water helps elevate the aromas, and softens the heat.  Drinking 80 proof straight up, especially one as rich as this one, will probably be too much.

As a wine drinker, have you enjoyed Scotch?  Other drinks?  Feel free to comment!

Weekly Wine Journal | Best of 2011

2011 was a great wine year for me.  I traveled to British Columbia, Napa Valley and South Africa.  I drank amazing wine and met amazing people.  The following list represents the best wines I actually experienced.  I believe that to actually experience a wine, one must drink more than just a small sample.  The entire bottle must be sampled, although not all at one sitting!

2004 Beaulieu Vineyard George de Latour

Best drink now wine: Beaulieu Vineyard 2004 Georges de Latour, Cabernet.

Best buy and hold: Ridge Vineyards 2007 Monte Bello

Best Red (not already on the list) Robert Craig Winery 2008 Spring Mountain Cabernet

Best White: Page Springs Cellars 2010 Mourvedre, Colibri Vineyards

Best Wine under $20: Cameron Hughes Lot 287, Napa valley Cabernet

Honorable Mentions:  Cameron Hughes Lot 300 2009 Napa Cabernet, Cameron Hughes Lot 303 2009 Stag’s Leap Cabernet, Robert Craig 2008 Howell Mountain cabernet, Caduceus Cellars Anubis 2009 Cabernet, Clos L’Eglise 2006 Reserve Pomerol, Ladera Vineyards 2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet

Napa valley wine bar

Zu Zu Tapas, Napa.

Best Wine Bar: Zu Zu Tapas, Napa Valley