After our first success with wine making, we were ready for another batch. We had a red, so now it was time for a white. We decided that this time we wanted to start with fresh juice. We agreed on Niagara and then Bushmaster got busy researching our options.
Klingshirn Winery in Avon Lake, Ohio came through for us. On September 25, 2015 we loaded our buckets into the trunk and were on our way to pick up the juice. They had fresh Niagara as well as Fredonia and Concord.
We had never heard of Fredonia and were unable to find a whole lot of information on it.
Concord didn’t seem to appealing as most we had tasted was too much like Welch’s Grape Juice.
Although our mission was the juice, we also planned to visit some wineries along the way. These were our first tasting experiences in North East Ohio. It can be amazing how differently things are done and how differently wine made in other regions can taste. It was during these tastings that we discovered that Concord could be done dry and would make for a completely different wine. We found the Niagara/Concord blends we tried to be intriguing as well.
By the time we arrived to pick up our juice, we decided to throw caution to the wind and opt not only for the Concord but for the Fredonia as well. We had a bunch of new ideas and we were excited about experimenting.
On September 28, 2015, we had over 13 gallons of Niagara, Concord, Fredonia, and Peach in fermentation. The Peach was our biggest challenge, but more about that later. We had plans for the following:
- Niagara/Peach Blend
- Niagara/Concord Blend
- Dry Concord
- Bourbon Concord
- Dry Fredonia
By October 5, 2015, we had all the must in secondary fermentation. Except for the Peach. It just didn’t seem like it was going to take off.
We had been told by the winery that clarifying agents weren’t necessary. Simply degas properly and the wine would clarify on its own. And so it seemed to go with the Fredonia. On November 8, 2015, it appeared to be ready to bottle, which we did.
By this time, we discovered the Peach had been fermenting just fine. Even though there had been no visual evidence, the specific gravity readings proved it to be true. We did not realize this until after we had added additional yeast and yeast energizer.
Also by this time, the Peach, Niagara, and Concord were still a long way from clarifying on their own. Even after considerable degassing, the Niagara was especially cloudy and we weren’t sure if we were ever going to achieve a desirable level of clarity.
On November 12, 2015 we set aside a gallon of the Concord to age with charred oak spirals soaked in Bourbon. We then clarified with Kieselol and Chitosan. We could see almost instant improvement on the Concord. It was amazing how quickly the suspended particles started settling out.
Within 48 hours, the improvement was phenomenal. Was this the same Niagara? We racked again and stabilized the wines. The dry varieties were ready for bottling the next day.
The next challenge we faced was back sweetening the sweeter varieties. We had allowed all the must to ferment completely dry. We started out making simple syrup using corn sugar. It seemed to us that the more we added, the more we compromised the flavor of the fruit. Through more research, we learned about using juice concentrates. That made a huge difference in helping us to get where we wanted to be.
We bottled throughout the next week or so with the last batch being completed on November 23, 2015. Only the Bourbon Concord remained in process for aging.
Unfortunately, because of the mistakes we made with the Peach, some of it ended up too yeasty to stand alone. There was still enough to create our Niagara/Peach blend.
The Fredonia continued to settle out after it was bottled. While it didn’t taste bad, the “sludge” in the bottles made it visually unappealing. We set it aside for additional processing.
It was a lot of fun tasting along the way as we experimented to get the right blends We were pleased with our results. These really were OUR wines! The true test would be when we presented our wines to family and friends at our uncorking party in December.
Wine making is a process. There is always more to learn. We kept a diary on each wine we processed so that we can add to our experiences and learn from our mistakes.
So What Did We Learn?
Take acid readings and make adjustments if necessary.
Always remember to take starting specific gravity readings.
Do not assume the must is not fermenting — measure the specific gravity before adding more yeast. (Peach)
Experiment with stopping fermentation on sweet wines rather than fermenting them completely dry and then back sweetening.
Be patient with degassing and use proper technique.
There is no shame in using clarifying agents. (Fredonia)