Monday, June 20, 2005

Time for more book-smartz.

When you have a resource like UC Davis so close, you just have to take advantage of it. So much knowledge and experience available to the public. For Agriculture instruction and viticulture and enology in particular, Davis is second to none.

Last year, I took one of their weekend extension courses on vineyard management. What a treat that was. It was like summer camp for grown ups. The instructors, Donna Hirschfelt and Ed Weber, are both farm advisers from Davis who spend most of their time with their boots in the dirt, advising real growers with real problems. Their series of classes is called Small Vineyard Management and is made up of 4 classes, split up over the year dealing with topics applicable for that time of the year. I was hoping to take the next in their series which deals with Integrated Pest Management, Crop Cover and Erosion control. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts prevents me from taking that class.

Instead of the Small Vineyard Management class, I am going to be taking one of the Wine Making classes. The class will be taught by Ernie Farinias. He is a very experienced winemaker and the wine/cellar master at Davis with over 30 years experience in the wine industry. The class is a step by step course in winemaking. So, although I have experienced doing that with my own wines, now I can find out all the things I should have done. The class will focus on the first few days of the pick and crush. Three consecutive classes over two weekends. Day 1 - Crush red and white grapes. Day 2 - Rack and press and then the next weekend, rack again.

The course description describes using "traditional and non-traditional methods". I am not sure exactly what that means, but I have a feeling I should wash my feet real well the night before because I may be stomping.
I will keep you informed.

Unfortunately, the laws prevent students from ever taking their wine home. So we will have to find a similar vintage and pretend.



Wednesday, June 08, 2005

All Extract Beer. Kinda lazy ...

Kinda lazy, but so what. It is kind of a comfort zone.

It has been a long time since I brewed an all malt beer. I have been
thinking about it for a while. A full malt beer has such a rich flavor
and complexity, but lets face it: 6 hours to brew a beer, that is a big
chunk of time.

For the last few years, brewing an all malt has been been an exercize in
scheduling and negotiation. A full mash takes your full attention for a 6 hour
period. With kids, family, pet, household, job; 6 hours is hard to fit in. Brewing
after everyone goes to bed works but lets face it. It is a pain.

Roll back to my early brewing years. All malt, no mash, no sparge. Mix, boil,
cool and pitch. Well, not quite that simple, but you get the picture. I decided to
do a malt only brew, or close to it. So, with a bit of computer work to get the
proportions right, here is the recipe:

6 lbs American Gold DME
1 lbs 15L Crystal (in bag for boil)
2 oz Hallertau hops (2.2 Alpha - What's up with that? What ever happened to the 4 we used to have?)
2 oz Cascade hops (6% Alpha - these smell sooooooooo sweet)
Yeast - American Ale 1056 (a personal favorite: Med Flocculation. Good attenuation. Yummy grapefruit overtones)

The Boil:
Full boil DME in 6 Gal for 1 hour
Hallertau bittering hops added at 15 minutes
Crystal Malt in malt bag added at 30 minutes
1 oz Cascade hops added at 30 minutes (retain 1 oz for dry hopping)

Cool down
Rapid cooldown using heat exchanger to 77 Degrees F. (See note)

Transfer and Pitch:
Siphon to primary
Add 1 oz Cascade
Pitch with yeast

Starting Gravity: .045

Heat exchanger used 6 lbs of ice and primer of water to cool wort from 212 degrees
to 78 degrees in 14 minutes.

Rack at 6 days from primary (plastic) to secondary (glass)
Specific Gravity: 1.010

Rack at 10 days:
Much clearer, some yeast still in suspension
SG: 1.005

Check back for final transfer to Keg.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Race to the Trellis

Ok, so watching my 1 year old vines race feverishly towards the
first trellis wire is about as exciting to non-invested observers as
watching a nail rust. But, I can't keep from checking on their
progress. And to be fair, they are not moving at a glacial pace.
Some of these babies are shooting up at an inch per day some days.

As of last Saturday, 3 of the vines reached trellis height and got "The
pinch". Yesterday, another one hit the wire and got it's top pinched
off. I expect in 3 weeks, they all will be there and then I can have
them training out their cordons.

I know, I know; you are all thinking: "Tim, Get a Life!" But this
isn't that bad a thing to be excited about. I admit, it is a little bit
of an escape for me. People look at my 2 dozen vines and see a fun
little backyard garden project while I look at it as a training ground
for those 20 acres of vineyard in my future. The neighbors see me
in the garage at 2 AM racking 10 gallons of wine from the carboys. Or
see me pressing 100 lbs of grapes with a hand cranked basket press and
think: "What the heck is he doing?" But I am making mental notes on how
this will scale up to the 80 ton of fruit from my 6,000 case winery.

May never happen, but don't tell me that when I am out talking to
my vines. That is our time together.

Thanks for visiting.