Winemaker's Journal
Bucket is inserted slowly
into must, extracting free
run. Simple bucket
functions as effectively
as $500 ratchet press for
small fermentations.
Free run from the press.
Visions of Hitchcock film.
First fruits dumped into
virgin press.
A piece of screen
used to filter seeds &
skins from the wine.
Drunken dog sleeps it off,
giving new meaning to "hair of
the dog."
Pouring "free run" into a
storage container.
Fermentation, indicated
by rising purple bubbles,
continues.  This stage of
fermentation could last
1 - 3 weeks.
Fermentation continues
in the 32 gallon
fermenter, which will be
covered air-tight to
prevent oxidation and
September 10, 2005 Pressing The Merlot Wine

The first juice was extracted at 1:40 p.m. and the
concrete floor of the garage wiped down at 10:40 p.m.  
Nine hours to extract 70+ gallons of juice, a leisurely
pace, with several tastings along the way. The good
news is the same job took two days last year.  The
surprise is that our improvised method of pressing
using our small blue bucket (which we developed last
year) is very effective; the $500 ratchet press we
invested in really wasn't necessary, at least not today.

We began by tossing some of the "dried" fruit from the
cap into the basket of the press.  After a few moments
a trickle of red fluid started dripping into the catch
basket and oozing outwards, reminiscent of a scene
from an Alfred Hitchcock murder. My plan is to dip the
blue bucket into the fermenter to extract the "free run"
-- then press the remaining skins, separating the free
run from the pressings.

Our method of inserting the bucket into the fermenter
is very effective at extracting juice in a gentle way.
And, when we deposit this juice into the storage
container for its secondary fermentation, we can do so
gently without much splashing and oxidization of the
wine. I realized that as I apply pressure to the skins
with the bucket, this is a form of "pressing" the grapes,
and what I am gathering is not exactly free run, but is
definitely high quality juice. I am able to obtain 11
gallons of juice by dipping the bucket into the first
fermenter. As my little wine well becomes depleted, I
dump the remaining skins into the press. Without
applying any pressure, another 1.5 gallons flows into
the container. We have 12.5 gallons of quality wine
from the first (and smallest fermenter).  Applying some
pressure on the press, I obtain another half-gallon,
which I set aside as "pressings."

We have trouble using the mechanical press initially,
because first of all we're dumb and we can't figure out
how to use it, and secondly we don't load enough fruit
in. So, with the next round (determined to get my
money's worth from this press), I empty two containers
of "leftovers" filling the basket.  This time, we are able
to use the press correctly, applying pressure to the
wooden blocks we load on top of the wooden plates
that cover the top of the fruit.  We press gently,
because we are saving some of the leftover pomace --
which still contains wine and yeast -- for an experiment.

Some of the wine poured into the 5 gallon water
container spills, and Bluey laps it up before I can stop
him. A few minutes later, the hyperactive Australian
Shepherd is napping under the press. We have a
drunken cellar master, and new definition of "the hair
of the dog." He wakes with a slight hangover, but is on
the prowl for more spillings and spiked grapes to
nibble. This dog is getting out of control and we take
measures to cut him off (banishing him to the house to
sober up).

The Princess announces that she's going to a party.
Upon cross-examination, she admits that there will be
no parents in attendance; there will likely be drinking;
etc. She is reminded that if she drinks or uses drugs,
she will be kicked off the X-country team and expelled
from school (which might not look very good on her
college applications). She says that her role attending
this party is to help kids who get into trouble -- she can
be the designated driver.  She will be on her own a
year from now without supervision ... we talk with some
other parents to get a reality check. We remind her to
be careful, remind her of our love. We have to trust
her to make the right decisions.  And that's what she
asks us to do. We let her go.

At 10:30 p.m. we taste the new Merlot and the one-year
old Syrah. The Princess calls to say that she and her
friend have left the party, and they're coming home.  
Thank you, Lord.  We end up with: 2 @ 32 gallon
containers filled to within 3 inches from the top; 3 @ 5
gallon water containers; 1 @ 3 gallon of pressings; 3
bottles of pressings inside used wine bottles.  Already,
we notice the purple froth indicating the wine is well,
and fermentation is continuing.  We are exhausted;
muscles are sore; too tired to cook. At this hour, only
one restaurant is open.  I order a huge prime rib
(enough to feed me for a week) and a glass of BV
Coastal Cabernet. There is something familiar about
the taste of this wine, especially when some 70 gallons
of it has just passed through your fingers.  I hand over
the keys of the car to The Queen who drives us safely
Cellar Master supervises