After measuring all the “vital data” for our newest batch of wine, we realized that our Total Acidity reading were a bit high, and decided to try for malolactic fermentation this time. Of course we should have anticipated this option much earlier and ordered or bought the necessary bacterial culture. Unfortunately, the local wine supply store did not have what we needed, and we only had a short window of time to add the bacteria (toward the end of the yeast fermentation). The closest store we could find that had it in stock was in Bethlehem, PA. While Tina made the trip to buy malolactic bacteria, Jeff and Lars went to a friend’s farm to pick pears:
It only took us one day to harvest our grapes, with some helpers, a perfect day and an early start! We alternated between picking and crushing, then cleaning up – and started over. In a way, this was a “test” year, since we don’t have that many vines bearing fruit yet.
We started with picking:
Brought everything to the “crush pad” by the barn:
This afternoon we finished final preparation for our grape harvest. We had already cleaned up the barn and the press, but we got all our food grade buckets and picking tubs ready and found all our clippers. We also brought our old platform scale down from the top of the barn, because are going to weigh what we pick this year!
And we finally took down all the pretty strung lights that have been hanging in the barn since Jens and Gracie’s wedding over a year ago.
The last thing we did, right before it got dark, was remove the bird netting on just one row to give us a head start for the morning. We used the same winding tool that we use for fence wire – it worked beautifully for the netting, which we may be able to re-use next season. (It also worked great for the strings of lights)
We did not intend for any fruit to set on our young pear trees this year, but we obviously missed some of the blossoms earlier in the spring. We actually “harvested” a few pears from different trees, including a few Asian pears this evening. Just enough to taste the varieties – don’t think it hurt the trees any either. They were definitely ripe enough to pick: still firm, but full of juice. Someday, these will make beautiful wine!
We had thought that we’d be picking our grapes on Labor Day weekend, but we ended up postponing it just a bit more. Our total Brix readings were just around 20, and the pH level was around 3.1. None of the grapes seem to be rotting, shriveling or dropping off, and the netting seems to be very protective. And there is no rain in the forecast to dilute the grape juice. So we continue to measure sample grapes for sweetness and acidity, as the sugar levels still go up.
So rather than picking grapes, we spent more time cleaning up the barn where we are planning to ferment the grapes. We scrubbed one of the stainless steel tanks, which we converted from its former use in a milking parlor to a wine fermenter. We had to lay it on its side, in order to crawl into it – first to remove a piece of metal that had been welded into the bottom of the tank (a “vortex diverter” for the automated washing system). This was done with a dremel cutting tool, which was incredibly effective. Duff took care of the cutting – Tina took are of the scrubbing.
While the tank was outside the barn, we completely emptied out that section and pressure washed it down. The press is sitting outside, where it still will need to be cleaned and sanitized as well. Now we have the tank moved back, and it is sitting upright. We still need to level it before we can use it, but everything is coming together!