Leigh Erwin: A Beginner's Wine Making Journey: Part 17

Winemaking KitHey all!  Beginner winemaking blogger, Leigh, here!
I am so excited to report that I received my next shipment from Homebrewing.org the other day!  As you may recall, my first wine was a California Connoisseur Pinot Grigio that is now hanging out in wine bottles (bottled a few days before Christmas), and my second wine was a SunCal Chardonnay that is currently spending some time kicking back in a carboy for a couple of months while everything settles out.  In fact, we’re about 2 weeks into that 2 month waiting game at the moment.  It’s looking good so far—no red flags at the moment, and it’s definitely starting to clear up little by little.  It’s since turned from a murky cloudy wine to a translucent wine that I can’t quite see through yet, but it’s definitely less cloudy than it was after I racked it two weeks ago.
Anyway, since I want this to be a continuous beginner wine making journey, and not wanting to wait 2 months before I did anything home winemaking related, I decided to go ahead and buy another wine making kit and a few more pieces of wine making equipment and get my third batch of wine started while the second one was spending some quality time with the carboy.
Since I’ve made two whites in a row, one of which is turning out quite nicely (in my beginner’s opinion) and the other looking nice but is not far along enough to cast judgment, I wanted to shift gears and try my hand at making a red wine.  I almost went with a Chardonnay using oak chips/oak cubes, but I ultimately decided to just launch right in and try a red.
I ended up purchasing the CellarCraft Showcase Red Wine kit: Carmenere, as Carmenere is one of my favorite red wines, and, well, it has a nice ring to it!  When the package arrived, I was surprised at how heavy it was—-51 pounds!  For a moment I felt really bad for the delivery person that had to carry that up a couple flights of stairs!
Opening up the package, right off the bat I knew this was a big step up from making the white.  What I mean is that there are many more ingredients needed for this particular wine, and many more steps along the way.
The difference between how I feel now and how I felt when I looked at the instruction sheet the very first time I made wine a few months ago, is that instead of feeling anxious, scared, or worried that I might screw up, now I feel a sense of excitement for the new challenge that sits before me. The beginner wine making fear is starting to subside.
So, things I’m most excited about for this 3rd batch of wine:

  1. Fermenting the wine with the skins!  I obviously didn’t pay close enough attention to the product description, as it had slipped my mind that this wine kit was coming complete with the grape skins for maceration!  Thinking back now, it makes sense to me, as this is how red wines are made, but for some reason at the time, it didn’t click.  Anyhow, these skins definitely helped contribute to the 51 pound weight of the entire package.
  2. Using oak chips and oak cubes.  This wine kit comes with both—both Hungarian oak as well—and I’m really looking forward to trying my hand at using them.  The kit also came with a little cloth pouch for the chips, which reminds me a lot of a tea bag (side note:  I love tea and drink a lot of it).
  3. Doing punch downs.  OK, well, it’ll be more like a stirring process than a real “punch down” as they say in the commercial industry since the scale is so small, but hey, that is what I will be doing, right?
  4. Following countless instructions.  I know that sounds odd, but I love following recipes, lists, and any other organized schedule of sorts.  These instructions come complete with 46 different tasks, so I shall prepare myself with a pen full of ink to check-check-check as I go!

So there you have it, my beginner wine making notes. Have any of you newbies ventured into red winemaking yet?  For the more experienced of the bunch, any tips or hints for someone who is making a red wine for the first time?

Leigh ErwinMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I’ll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.