Wine Log Series – Luva Bella Fall Juice

Every wine maker should take good notes when they make wine. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, taking good notes will help you improve your wine making skills. By being able to reference what worked well and what didn’t, you can improve the quality of your wine. The second reason is for the times when you surprise yourself and make something truly exceptional. In those instances, you will have a record of what you did and can repeat your work of art.

I am going to demonstrate what I am talking about. I am starting a new series of posts titled The Wine Log Series. I plan on documenting my wine logs on this blog. All the notes that I take about the wine, any readings I take, any impressions I get from the wine, will be documented here. I hope this will help you understand how to take good notes on wine making.

To start off the series, I ordered fresh wine juice from Luva Bella Winery. The juice came from California and is in 6 gallon buckets. The juices that I ordered were Burgundy, Shiraz, and Valpolicella, which are reds and Viognier which is a white. Below is a short description of each wine along with the readings I took on September 8, 2011 when I started the wine.

Burgundy – Ruby red in color that has a light aroma of cherry and earthliness. The hydrometer reading was 12.5% PA, or 1.096 SG. Tartaric Acid reading was .30%, which is a little low for a red. It should be around .60-.65% TA.

Shiraz – A blend of blackberry, spice and chocolate hints. The hydrometer reading was 12% PA, or 1.092 SG. Tartaric Acid reading was .30%, which is a little low.

Valpolicella – Deep ruby red color with apple and cherry aromas. The hydrometer reading was 11.5% PA, or 1.089 SG. Tartaric Acid reading was .35%, which is a little low.

Viognier – Light gold in color with the aroma of apricot, spice and honey. The hydrometer reading was 12%, or 1.094 SG. Tartaric Acid reading was .40%, which is a little low for a white. It should be around .65-.75% TA.

Since these juices are from California, I am not surprised the TA reading are a little low. Californian grapes are known to be low in acid. When I rack the juice to carboys, I will take another reading and adjust the acid at that time.

The instructions to start these wines were easy. Just bring the wine home, let it warm up and stir the must with a sanitized spoon. I also took the PA and TA readings listed above at that time. I will give them about a week to ferment, then I will check the PA reading to see if they are ready to rack into the carboy. I will update the wine log at that time. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.


Basic Wine Making: Sanitization in Winemaking

It has been awhile since my last post, so I decided to do a series on Basic Wine Making.  I teach a wine making class here in Portersville, but for those of you who could not make it, I am going to go over what I teach in class. This is going to be a multi-part series starting with sanitization.

I have been making my own wine for over 12 years now. I started my journey making wine completely by happen-stance. One year, my father decided he wanted to make some pear wine because he had lots of pears from his fruit trees. One of his buddies decided to help him with this project. Now, my dad likes to jump right into new projects and since he had so many pears, he decided to make 55 gallons of pear wine! He got an old plastic 55 gallon barrel, put in the pears, some water, 25 pounds of sugar and a brick of bread yeast.

He stirred and stirred, it bubbled and fermented, this went on for a few weeks. After a couple months, we had this barrel full of nasty, vinegary, pear flavored concoction. It certainly was not wine. We had to dump this stuff down the drain.

After this first failure, I figured I would try to make a batch of wine. One of the first batches of wine I tried to make was a Strawberry wine. I did a little research on the Internet, borrowed an old crock pot, bought some wine yeast and tried to make strawberry wine. I boiled some water, added some sugar, added the strawberries, fermented it in a old crock pot, and it failed spectacularly. It was the most terrible thing I ever tasted!

For the record, don’t try to make wine in a crock pot that has been used to make sauerkraut… EVER!

Other than the fact that I should not have used a crock pot that had been used for sauerkraut, the other big mistake I made was not to sanitize my equipment. Which leads me to the point I am trying to make here.


I can’t stress this enough. Proper sanitation will solve 90% of your problems before you have them. Wine spoilage is almost always the result of not properly sanitizing something along the way. Make sure your equipment, buckets, carboys, siphon hose, and anything else that touches the wine are all properly sanitized. Sanitizing involves more than just washing your equipment with dish soap, so I will explain how to do it properly. In fact, you don’t want to use dish soap to clean your equipment, you want to use a clenser like B-brite.

There are 2 types of sanitizers that I have used in wine making. The sanitizers are Sulfite solution and Star San. Star San and Sulfite solution are no-rinse sanitizers. What that means is that you can use them with out rinsing the solution off the equipment with water. Star San is an acid based sanitizer and will not harm your wine. Sulfite is found naturally in wine and also will not harm your wine.

I mostly use Star San for sanitization now. I mix my Star San at 1/4 ounce per gallon, the directions say use 1oz for 5 gallons. Leave your equipment stand for a few minutes to give the sanitizer time to work. You do not have to rinse your equipment after using Star San. Another no rinse solution you can use is sulfite solution. You can make this by mixing 2 ounces of Potassium Metabisulfite into 1 gallon of water. You can then spray your equipment and give it a few minuets to work.

I clean my equipment with B-Brite after each use and then let air dry. B-Brite is an oxygen based cleanser. When I am ready to start another batch of wine, I’ll sanitize the bucket, spoons and any other equipment by spraying everything down with Star San. Then I will make my wine. After a week or two, I rack the wine out of the bucket. I will then rinse the dirty bucket with cold water. This will remove any sediment, fruit, and wine still in the bucket. Once the bucket has been rinsed, I will use B-Brite to wash out the bucket. I make sure to get B-Brite on every surface of the bucket, inside and out. I use it like dish soap and clean the whole bucket. To make a B-Brite solution, mix one table spoon into 1 gallon of water.

I used to use a sulfite solution to clean my bottles prior to bottling. I would fill the bottles with the sulfite solution, give them a couple minuets to soak then pour the solution from one bottle into the next. I would leave the bottles wet to add a little sulfite to the wine to keep the wine from spoiling. The one downside is that sulfite solution has a bad sulfur smell. I have switched to Star San to sanitize my bottles. Now I check the sulfite levels of my wine while it is bulk aging. I will go over this in more detail in a later post.

This concludes the first post in the series Basic Wine Making. I hope you understand how important proper sanitization is to Wine Making. It will solve 90% of your problems before you have them. In the next post, I will go over the equipment used in Wine Making and each items purpose.


Dandelion Wine

Spring is here and that means that Dandelions are starting to bloom. Most people don’t like Dandelions growing in their yard, but I look forward to them. It means I can make Dandelion Wine! This is a recipe I make every year and I usually make 2 batches. The best way I can describe how Dandelion Wine tastes is that it tastes like a Chianti Wine. A few things to keep in mind when you make this wine. Make sure you pick your Dandelions from a yard that has not been sprayed with any kind of chemical, you don’t want that in your wine. Pick medium to large dandelions in the late morning after the flowers have fully opened. You only want the head of the flower so you need to remove the stem and any leaves. The inner pedal leaves are fine, but you must remove all of the stem, this is important. I just pinch off the stem when I am cleaning the flowers, some people use scissors. Sometimes Dandelion Wine is hard to get started fermenting. If it has not started fermenting 3-4 days after pitching the yeast you may need to vigorously rack it into another bucket. By “vigorously rack” I just mean shaking the end of the hose the wine is coming out of a little bit to introduce air into the must. Sometimes the yeast just needs a little shot of oxygen to get started. My Dandelion Wine takes a while before it is ready to bottle. I usually start it in April\May and bottle in December\January, so be patient. If you are ready to get started making Dandelion Wine, use the recipe below. It is for a 5 gallon batch of wine.

  • 1000 Dandelion (about 2 Walmart bags full of dandelions)
  • 5 gallons of water
  • 8 lbs sugar
  • 10 tsp. Acid blend
  • 5 tsp. Yeast Nutrients
  • 1 1/4 tsp. Tannnin
  • 5 Campden tablets, crushed
  • 1pkt. Champaign yeast (Lalvin 1118)

Bring 2 gallons of water and your dandelion petals to a boil, remove from heat and steep for 2 hours.  Strain water through a colander to remove petals and pour it into your primary fermentor.  Add your remaining water, sugar, Acid Blend,Tannin, and Yeast Nutrient. Take an acid reading, your acid should be between .55% to .65% TA.  Take the PA reading, it should be between 10 and 12%.  Add Campden Tablets after the must has cooled to room temp. 12 to 24 hours after the Campden Tablets,  pitch the Yeast. Ferment and rack as normal for wine. Enjoy!

Selecting Yeast

Selecting the proper wine yeast for your wine is as important as deciding what kind of wine you want to make. Different yeasts will add different characteristics to wine and some have different uses. I’m going to explain what I look for in a wine yeast and some of the ones I use for my fruit wines.

First, I use dry wine yeast for my wines. There are liquid yeasts available, but I have not used them. Lalvin yeast is the brand I use the most. Red Star is another company that makes wine yeast. For this article, I’m going to review some of the Lalvin wine yeast that I use.

Lalvin EC1118 – A quick fermenting high alcohol tolerant yeast that has neutral effect on flavor and aroma. It can ferment up to 18% alcohol wines. This is my general purpose yeast. I use it in my dandelion wine and recommend it to beginning wine makers when they are first starting to make fruit wines. You can’t go wrong with this yeast.

Lalvin D47 – A moderate fermenting yeast that is good for bringing out the flavor and characteristics of the fruit. It also is good for wines where you want malo-lactic fermentation. Lalvin recommends this yeast for white and blush wines. I use it in my Elderberry wine to bring out the fruit flavor and encourage malo-lactic fermentation.

Lalvin 71B – A moderate fermenting yeast that is good for bringing out the aroma or esters of the wine. Lavin recommends this yeast for young reds and this is my second choice for my Elderberry wine.

Lalvin K1V-1116 – A moderate fermenting yeast good for fruit wines. This is the yeast for problem wines. It can tolerate low nutrition musts, like fruit musts. It can tolerate high SO2 levels, like in blueberry musts, and it can restart stuck fermentations. If you are having a problem with your wine fermenting, this is the yeast to use.

There are many more types of yeast that I did not cover. I use these four varieties on a regular basis because they have worked well for me. All of these strains will tolerate low nutrient levels which is common in fruit wines. I use each of them for different situations based on my experience. If you are just starting out with wine making and are not sure what yeast to use, pick Lalvin 1118. If you are having problems getting your wine to ferment, choose Lalvin 1116. The rest are for when you are ready to take you wine making to the next level.


Wine Tasting

Last week we took a trip to Erie to do some wine tasting. We stopped at 3 of the winery’s this time. They were South Shore Winery, Heritage Winery, and Mazza Winery. As a wine maker, I am always trying to learn more about the art of wine making. One way to do that is to sample other wines. There is no better place to sample wines than at a winery.

At most winery’s you pay a small fee for a number of tastings. In Erie, it was $2 for 6 tastings. We split the tasting between us, so we each tried 3 wines. I usually try wines I am familiar with, but I also ask if there is one wine I should try while I am here, which one would that be? I get some strange looks with that question and then they usually ask me what kinds of wine I like. After that I get to try something unique to that winery. And it is something I probably would not have picked myself.

One winery did not charge a tasting fee and that was Heritage. They also had the largest selection of wines for sampling. Heritage has an “open” tasting bar and you have to pour the samples yourself, but if you want to try a large variety of wines, this is the one winery to visit.

South Shore Winery was by far the most unique. It has a beautiful stone cellar that is over 150 year old. You have to see this winery in order to appreciate the stone cellar. It is unlike any other winery I have seen. It is like you are walking into a cavern to taste wine. They are also part of the Mazza Winery.

Wineries offer the wine maker an opportunity to sample different styles and types of wine. Most of these wineries also offer different kinds of fruit wine. If you are trying to learn to be a better wine maker, sampling other wines will help you learn more about the art of wine making. By tasting other artist’s work, you can learn what is different from your wine and what is the same. Maybe they will give you new ideas for you wine. Maybe you can offer them some ideas. And as always,


Californian Wine Grape Juice

I received an email from Luva Bella Winery recently, they are now taking orders for Californian and Italian Wine Grape Juice. If you are looking for a source of Californian grape juice, check out their web site. They have a nice selection of varieties this year, so you should be able to find something you like. I’ve bought juice from them in the past and have been happy with their service. If you have time, try some of their wood oven baked Pizza and sample some of their wine.


Chilean Wine Grape Juice

When you think wine grapes, most people think of California, France, or Erie here in Pennsylvania, but there is another region that produces fine wine grapes. That region is the South American Country of Chile.

This past spring, I ordered some wine grape juice from Chile. Luva Bella Winery buys wine grape juice from Chile each spring. They sell it in 6 gallon buckets for $43 – $48 depending on the variety. The wine juice has already been adjusted, the only thing the wine maker needs to do is let the bucket warm to room temperature and stir the must. (They keep the wine juice in coolers to keep it from starting on its own.)

I bought 4 different varieties this year, Pinot Grigio, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and White Zinfandel. They are in various stages of completion and should be ready to bottle by fall when Luva Bella orders juice from California.

Chile may not come to mind as a source for good wine grapes, but I have been impressed with the quality I have purchased this year. If you want to make wine from fresh grapes in the spring, Chilian wine grapes are the solution.


Peach Berry Wine Recipe

I recently made a batch of Peach Berry wine. I had some frozen peaches left over from a prior batch of wine. I bought some berries to add to it. Here is the recipe for a 5 gallon batch.

9 lbs of frozen peaches
2 lbs of blue berries
1.5 lbs of blackberries
1.5 lbs of strawberries
8lbs of sugar boiled in 2 gal of water
14 tsp of acid blend
5 tsp of yeast nutrient
1 1/4 tsp of tannin
5 campden tablets

PA was 13 %
TA was .60%

I boiled the water and sugar and poured it over the fruit, added 8 tsp of acid blend and tested acid. It was low so I added 6 more tsp of acid blend for a total of 14 tsp to get acid to .60% TA. Next I added the yeast nutrient, tannin. When the must was cool, I added the campden tablets. 24 hrs later I added pectin enzyme, 24 hrs after that I added Lavin D47 yeast.