2008 Vintage – Let the Adventure Begin!

The cellar is alive again!  27 gallons of California juice is now starting its magical journey toward becoming the “2008 vintage.”  It joins last year’s wine that is awaiting bottling as it ages with French oak (using these really cool infusion spirals made by a wine barrel maker).

27 gallons will make about 10 cases (120 bottles) of finished wine.  Vintage 2007 started with 22 gallons and, after multiple “rackings” is down to about 19 gallons of finished wine.  I decided to increase the cellar’s output this year because, well, the 2007 tastes pretty good!  Since I learned a lot along the way, I’m hopeful that 2008 will be even better.

While I have no illusions of creating world-class wine to compete with the Pegau Chateneuf du Pape or Saxum Broken Stones and James Berry laying in the cellar racks, I expect that it will be pretty good “table wine.”  I’ll probably be able to convince friends to give it a taste, too!

Currently undergoing primary fermentation are:

  • 8 gallons Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 7 gallons Merlot
  • 6 gallons Cabernet Franc
  • 6 gallons Pinot Noir

The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc will eventually become both single varietal wines AND be blended into my own custom “Bordeaux style” wine.  That will be a fun experiment!  I’m hoping that by following the blending traditions of Old World winemakers I will create a finished wine that is better than its individual components.  An “artist’s palate” approach.

The Pinot Noir will fly solo in the end.

So here we go again!  The cellar (and whole basement) is starting to smell a bit like a winery.  I prefer “yeasty” to describe the aroma rather than “stinky.”  My spouse my disagree.  But it does take me back to the fermentation tanks and barrel rooms of Zaca Mesa and Firestone Vineyards that I first visited as a teenager.  My love of wine that started so many years ago is tied to these smells.  It’s a fun adventure to recreate some of that in my own home!

Wish me luck and make your plans now to come to the 2008 release party in about two years!


  1. Good question, Scary! Because we don’t really have access to Cabernet, Pinot, etc. FRUIT here in NE Ohio, I opt for fresh juice that is delivered from California. If I had done grape crushing, the primary fermentation would be done in open containers. But since the process for me begins with juice, the primary fermentation actually happens in the carboys. If they were topped you can imagine what my cellar would look like — grape juice everywhere!

    The process for this kind of fermentation is to take off about a gallon from each 6 gallon carboy to leave space for the fermentation to occur. There is then plenty of oxygen for the yeast and space for the bubbling. The fermentation containers are airlocked, so the CO2 can escape with no additional oxygen entering the carboy. Once fermentation is stopped, the removed juice (which has also been fermented) is returned to the carboy to top it off to reduce oxygen contact.

    It’s certainly a compromise to do winemaking this way — from juice (rather than fruit) to aging in glass (rather than oak barrels). There are great ways to improve the odds and outcomes even with these compromises, though. French oak “infusion spirals” are one of the solutions that gives the wine excellent contact with toasted French oak while being made in glass.

    Do you make wine, too? What are you making?


  2. Ah, ok — didn’t realize they were still fermenting — should have been obvious.

    I’ve made some wine from wine kits, which come with concentrated juice. I have made some Syrah, some wine that’s a blend similar to what they make in the Languedoc region. I’ve got a Red Zinfandel about ready to bottle, and a Cabernet that just finished fermenting which I’m going to bulk age for awhile before bottling.

    I’m still a rank beginner, really. It’s somewhat interesting as a hobby, and somewhat satisfying to have made your own wine. One thing I’ve noticed with the kit wines I’ve done is they often have a “chemical smell” to them. I have smelled the same thing — but more faintly — in commercial wines. Wondering if you’ve found the same thing with your wines? And I wonder what is it, from a chemistry perspective, that has the smell, what causes it, by what process does it arise, and what, if anything can be done to mitigate it, or if, with time, it will dissipate.

    I was told by one of the guys that works for WinExpert (a wine kit company) that the commercial wineries add various “chemicals” to their young wines to mitigate this, but he didn’t say what chemicals, nor say what it was that caused the smell in the first place. He did say it will dissipate with time — time will tell, I suppose. It seems (from my limited experience) to be more prominent with red wines than white.


  3. I’ve heard about kits having the chemical smell. It’s not there with the fresh juice that I’ve used, so I wonder if it’s something in the concentration process or even in the canning of the concentrated juice. I would think that the kit manufacturers would be working on something to help fix that… The kit wines I have tasted have ranged from rot-gut stuff to truly excellent wines. How have yours turned out?

    I’m under no illusion that I’m making world-class wine. For me it’s a fun adventure and the wine is very enjoyable. I’m a pretty serious wine collector, so will always love my great wines, but truly enjoy this little hobby, too…


    1. Christer, the winemaking has taken off… from the 2007 and 2008 vintages using fresh juice, to now making significantly higher volumes with fresh grapes shipped from California!


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