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Gator Red
by Monte Peterson

Thank you wine sippers dot com for allowing me to share my lack of knowledge of wine, & how it is made. 

Jackie, my wonderful wife, (dinner= $125, roses= $85, sucking up on the net = priceless) & I were relaxing on our patio, soaking up the warmth from the fire pit with Stan & Lois (creators of this site) sipping wine. Jackie was sharing our trip to a friend's vineyard earlier that day where we picked, & crushed grapes currently in the first stage of wine. Our conversation centered around the new web site, wine tasting, & the eight different wines I had in various stages. This led to the invitation to write this article.

Jackie accessed the site and noted we were #36 to check it out. Writing for 30= on lookers wouldn't be bad. First select a title. My profession is investigator, my CB handle is Gator, & Red is our favorite wines so thus "Gator Red". 

A dab of history first! My wine sipping evolved as most others Red Mountain to Boones Farm, Annie Green Springs & so on. I'd visited wine tasting rooms on a few occasions before I met Jackie, but couldn't see spending $7-$12 for something that I could buy at 7-11 for $3. 60-90 wineries to date, & I'm no expert but I've come a distance from Spinada.

Last summer Jackie created a beautiful back yard with a pick & shovel in a hot Oroville summer. Moistening my lips with a cool chardonnay in the heat of the day started it all, Thinking out loud I mentioned how nice it would be to relax on a swing under the coolness of a grape arbor. Every man knows females were born with K-9 sense of hearing. It's always something you don't want heard, that will cost you extra work, & money. Not ten seconds later she asked me if where she was standing was a good spot? I should know better than to play dumb!! A good spot for what? Followed by. The grape arbor you are going to build for me. You know the one with a swing so you can relax. Female trick number two, it's for me.

A visit with friends at Paso Robles enriched our possessions by two cases of wine from our tasting ventures, & three grape plants. One of them a Merlot vine. Our neighbor saw the grapes vines in the planter I built, & asked if we were going to make our own wine. Those ears perked, & Jackie said we should make some wine. There is that wonderful word again. We is translated to you. Just ask any man. After a few cyber hours I searched the local phone book. There it was in Chico the "Home Brew Shop". 

I'll never forget my first visit to the brew shop. Bottles, buckets, kegs, & an array of countless items for home brewing. Dawn is the owner, & soon became a friend I counted on. Our own wine for less than a $70 intrigued me. I left the shop armed with a book "Home Wine Making A Beginner's Book". Two weeks later I exited the shop with every thing I needed except the strawberry for under seventy dollars. I chose to make strawberry wine because they were in season. I'll discuss that one and the others at a later date if sippers will let me, & I promise to be brief.

Jackie, & I Tom Sawyered another couple to join us on our venture to harvest wine grapes. We were to late for Merlot, & chose to harvest Barbera, and Carnellian. Cutting the grapes from the vines is a real treat. We had one hundred pounds of Barbara, & another hundred of Carnellian. After dumping some of the grapes into the hopper we had to hand crank the crusher. It is exciting to see the stems come out of one end and the grapes & juice fall into the barrel on the other end. The Barbara had a reading of 23 brix, & the Carnellian was 22. Every one tasted the juice which was exceptionally sweet.

I preformed an acid test on each container. The Barbara was a little high so I added a little water to lower it. The correct procedure is to add grapes with lower acid, or juice, I had neither. I kicked myself for not picking up a couple of cans of juice from Dawn when we were at the brew shop. I stirred in a heaping table spoon of "meta", to each batch. The next day I started the yeast starter as the book instructs. We are sailing now. The following two days Jackie busted the cap on the wines. Busting the cap is pushing the grapes down under the juice to release the flavor from the grape peals. I noticed the Barbara wasn't foaming up much at all. One of the problems mentioned in the book is stuck fermentation. This may be caused by low temperatures or drafts. Ya know I knew better. Well I moved the wine into the dinning room for a more constant temperature. Jackie didn't complain because she is involved as much or more than I am with these two. Following most of the instructions I stirred it several times, and took its temperature. In the mean time the Carnellian is rising nicely. Well I called on the wizard, Dawn has never complained about my two hundred plus calls, for a simple solution I should have thought of. Add a pint of your active yeast from the other batch, was the solution.

Next time it is on to pressing. I'm confident things will go well, & if not I have the book, & most of all my guru Dawn. 

sources: 
Home Brew Shop, Dawn 530-342-3768 
Listings of u-pick grapes 
Books: Home Wine Making, Home wine making step by step 


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