Winemaking23 Sep 2016 05:35 pm

I started making red wine back in 2005, and I thought I would summarize my red wine vintages to date (all Regina California Juice purchased in 20-liter batches from Santa Fe Distributors at 35th and Racine in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago). I added whites at the end as I will try another white for 2016.

#1 Red -2005  “California Burgundy” (I have no idea what the actual grapes were – you are not supposed to use the French name – I mistakenly thought it was Pinot Noir)

#2 Red 2006 Pinot Noir

#3 Red 2007 Zinful Pinot Noir (a blend)

#4 Red 2008 Myratage (Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot)

#5 Red 2009 Southern Rhone style blend (Syrah & Granache)

#6 Red 2010 Zinfandel

#7 Red 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

#8 Red 2012 Syrah

#9 Red 2013 Tony’s Super Tuscan Blend (50% Merlot & 25% Sangiovese & 25% Syrah)

#10 Red 2014 Merlot

#11 Red 2014 Red Blend (75% Merlot & 25% Sangiovese)

#12 Red 2015 Dark Red Blend (Zinfandel & Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah)

#13 Red 2015 Pinot Noir

#14 Red 2016 Red Blend (67% Syrah and 33% Valdapenas – name given to Tempranillo in USA)

#4 White 2016  Sauvignon Blanc

#3 White 2008 Pinot Grigio

#2 White 2007 Sauvignon Blanc

#1 White 2006 Chardonnay




Enjoy wine and drink responsibly.

Winemaking21 Oct 2006 08:09 pm

Here we go again! George and I were off to 35th and Racine for our (now) annual trek to get our California wine juice. October 8, 2006 was a perfect day for the outing. This time 60 liters of Pinot Noir, and 20 liters of Chardonnay. We’ll see how my first white survives my methodology; let’s hope for the best.

Our outing included a stop at Freddy’s for the ultimate Italian sausage sandwich, and sharing a glass of George’s burgundy from last year’s vintage. I actually mis-labeled my first vintage in that the California juice used was actually a blend of Pinot and other varietals. Oh well, this time truth in labeling will be the case as the Pinot Noir was a little more expensive than last year’s blend. Supplies again from Paul on Taylor Street (the 5 gallon glass fermenting vessel and other odds and ends).

Nothing to do now for a couple of months but wait.

Winemaking21 May 2006 06:00 pm

It all began on Sunday, October 2, 2005 with a drive to the south side of Chicago to 35th and Racine. Truck semi-trailers loaded with many varieties of grapes, juices and wine-making supplies lined the perimeter of this usually vacant lot in an industrial area of the city. I have never seen so many guys wearing sleeveless Tee shirts and smoking cigars in my life. So George and I each bought 60 liters (just a little less than 16 gallons) of California Regina pinot noir grape juice, a demijohn (or corboy) glass fermenting vessel with brass discharge valve, and miscellaneous necessities for an initial $230.00 investment. Then the fun began (but first Italian sausage sandwiches and eggplant at Freddy’s — see my separate review).

Transfer of three 20 liter plastic pails of juice to the demijohn was fairly uneventful though messy. Placing the fermentation lock on the demijohn at the very beginning was a mistake, which was discovered after one day of very active fermentation with a resulting mess on the floor. We should’ve listened to the guy who said to cover the opening with towels during the first several days of fermentation. George confirmed that he had a colossal mess (mine was somewhat puny by comparison). Not all a bad thing though — the whole house smelled like fruit and agriculture. By the way, sanitary procedures were followed throughout the process — with an engineering degree I was ready for the challenge.

A few days later fermentation slowed to a more reasonable rate and the fermentation airlock was set in place with gases escaping frequently but non-violently. By October 20th one gas bubble per 40 to 45 seconds escaped, by November 11th one every 1 to 2 minutes, and by November 14th one bubble every 9 minutes. Fermentation was going well and an alcohol check with my new vinometer showed 13 degrees (% alcohol by volume) on December 15th. The wine tasted good (to my surprise). Patience, patience. Time for Santa and the New Year.

Sanitizing the pails in preparation for the first (and only) racking was simple — clean out the containers with sodium metabisufite in preparation for transferring the clear wine from the demijohn leaving the lees (cloudy, heavy sediment) behind. Starting the siphon flowing is fun — was almost high by the third pail — guess I’ll have to perfect my siphoning technique next time. Then cleaning out the demijohn and sanitizing it before re-introducing the racked wine. There wasn’t much product loss in the lees but added a small amount of CA pinot noir to top off the ferment vessel. Oxygen is our enemy. This advice was received from Kacz who owns an organic winery in Sonoma. He also gave me some corks during my visit to his vineyard in January 2006. What a brotherhood.

Before the trip to CA, I added oak chips in a cheesecloth pouch on January 2, 2006. These were in place until March 9th; therefore my label states “somewhat oaken” (you’ll have to judge for yourself).

Now just the waiting and occasional tasting.

Bottle preparation was easy — just drink over 6 cases of red wine before bottling. We had 6.5 months for the task at hand, and we did it! A procedure was developed to remove the old labels (soak in soapy water for a few days and scrape off and rinse – with the neat bottle water nozzle bought at Bev Art). All bottles were sanitized well before bottling day on April 21st. (Next year I think I’ll buy new bottles and spend time saved on making a second variety of wine — a white one.)

My first attempt to insert a cork into a bottle for George to take with him on his family trip to Ohio (it was his Italian family tradition to make wine which he so generously offered to teach me) was one of the biggest challenges in my short/long life. The hand corker should have been easy to figure out, but I was too compulsive, in too much of a hurry. I later discovered how to use the device so subsequent corking would have been easier. I indulged though in the Ferrari Tappatrice A Colonna stand corker — what a beautiful piece of equipment! Corking is no longer a challenge, just a pleasure.

Friday, April 21st was the big day. Excitement and fear filled the air. My helpers Christina, Caren and Thom were up to the task, switching jobs and maintaining a happy atmosphere though I have to admit the evening’s work was a challenge.

First, the filling of the bottle with the special filler device. It’s supposed to fill each bottle just to the right height — the only problem was we had different shaped bottles so one setting didn’t work for all. So we had to manually adjust the fill levels. So far, so good. Then the bottle was corked, and exterior wiped clean. Next application of the label, and finally the shrink-wrap seal with the heat gun. Sure glad I had the heat gun for paint stripping — no puny hair dryer for me. A long evening but a satisfying one. Thanks again to my fellow vintners.

I would also like to express thanks to George — I had so much fun with him throughout the whole experience. He has taught me a lot and I am looking forward to next year’s vintage, Tony’s Second (and Third with the addition of a white). Also thanks to Paul at Chiarugi Hardware on Taylor Street in the old Italian neighborhood — see you many times in the future to shoot the bull and buy more supplies. Bev Art in Beverly and Kacz in Sonoma were inspirations as well. And last but not least, thanks to Allistair in Canada (his calmness and matter-of-factness helped me throughout my winemaking); some day I hope to taste the Borolo he makes at home.

Tony’s First Vintage

  • 2005 California Pinot Noir
  • Regina Juice – all natural – Fargo Estate Fermented – somewhat oaken
  • 13 degrees alcohol (% by volume)
  • 67 bottles produced
  • unfiltered – contains sulfites