The David J. Schryver
of making our own wine has intrigued me for many years. As a
math teacher with a science minor in college that I never did
anything with, I saw it as a practical application of
science. At least, that's how I rationalized it. You
also had the benefits of enjoying the "fruits" of your
labor. After retiring in 2006, I had some time to look into
this and started the hobby with the 2007 grape crop.
|I had a close friend, who also happens to be our family
dentist, who has made wine for over 20 years. He became my
"wine coach" and we still consult often. I made
the decision early on to use 3-gallon carboys. Not only are
these easier to handle than 5 or 6 gallon jugs, it also gives the
flexibility of making a moderate amount of more varieties.
If I want to make 6 gallons of something, I just make 2 batches!
The first year, I made 4 batches. The weather in 2007 was
considered pretty much ideal for the New York State Finger Lakes
grape crop. The TA and pH of the grapes I used were all
within desired ranges so the only treatment I needed to apply was
to add sugar. In fact, the Foch that year had a starting
Brix of 20.5o, so I didn't even have to add sugar to
Over the years, the conditions haven't always been as
favorable. You often have to add sugar to the
must. It isn't much of a
challenge to calculate the amount of sugar to add, even if you're
not mathematically inclined. Dealing with the acid
level is another story. If you need to lower the TA,
you can use Calcium Carbonate. However, using this also raises the
pH and in some cases the pH might be so high that lowering the TA
will raise the pH to
an unacceptable level. Adding sugar water to the must is another option.
Most grapes will tolerate a 15% addition of water but
some, like Catawba and Concord can accept up to a 50%
increase. This is also an easier process than the
Calcium Carbonate route.
Treating with Calcium Carbonate and sugar water leads to quite
a bit of mathematical computation. I found myself doing a
lot of searching to find out what to do and in some cases, I found
the answers, but they were Metric. A number of times, I
found myself wondering what people without the math background
would do. Unfortunately, in 2008, I didn't really make
myself adequate notes. In 2009, I found myself retracing my
steps. At that point, I decided to make some on-line notes
for my own future use and perhaps to help those who are in the
same boat and are looking for help with these calculations.
I have created what I will call a primer page of computations
for 1) adding sugar, 2) treating with Calcium Carbonate, 3)
adding sugar water and 4) adding acid blend.
We now make quite a bit of wine each year, most of it from
grapes and juices from New York's Finger Lakes. We do,
however, also make Apple Wine from the Burrville
Cider Mill, a landmark Watertown area business. We have
also purchased kits to make such things as Zinfandels that aren't
available in the Finger Lakes and concentrates to make various
fruit wines. We are having a lot of fun with it. We
have been very happy with most of the product we have made.
For several years, I said we haven't made anything yet that couldn't be consumed by
someone. That changed in 2013 when I made three gallons of
vinegar. Something went wrong with a batch of red. It
became salad dressing!
|Winemaking has become such an integral part of our life that we
even planned a facility into the design of our new home. We
have a room off the workshop that is dedicated to the winemaking
process and storing of our equipment. The only thing we
didn't consider is a place for cold stabilization. One of
the last steps before filtering and bottling involves putting the
carboys in a 20-30 degree environment for two to four weeks.
At the old house, the garage worked great for this. The garage at the new house is heated,
but our next-door neighbor
winters in Florida so his garage is available. I have even
set up a sort of tent over the carboys with a light to keep it
warmer if the temps dip too low.