Tsuki's Private Reserve

1995 Honey Chablis
1995 Strawberry

Esmerelda's Garden

1996 Valentine Rose
1996 Strawberry
1996 Plum Wine
1997 Plum Wine
1997 Premiere Cuvee
1997 Strazzberry

1995 Honey Chablis

My first successful batch. I had decided that I should try starting with concentrate rather than start from fresh fruit on my first attempt. There was a minor disaster with the first attempt (check for preservatives if you're going to use bottled water. Oops). This one had me worried for a long time, but in the end, patience paid off. 4/23/95 Fermentation was a little slow to start, I probably didn't let the starter sit long enough. Initial balling 22, acidity 0.75%
5/5/95 Transferred from bucket to carboy and put on the air lock to start secondary fermentation. Balling 8. Very tart, yeast taste lessening.
5/23/95 Balling -0.5. Temperature 66F (19C). The downstairs bathroom has a very stable temperature, even on warm days. The wine has a strong alcohol taste, but no longer tastes tart. Still a little yeasty. Added some oak chips to the carboy because I don't have a barrel, and really don't want one.
8/27/95 Balling -2. Added clarifier a week ago. Looks pretty good. Pale straw color, but still harsh and alcoholic. Added 2 bottles Silver Mountain (our neighbors up the road) 1990 Chardonay and 1 bottle water to top up carboy.
10/8/95 Added 1 tsp. ascorbic acid. Thought about bottling but our friend Steve dropped by and we spent the afternoon trying to convince him that he wanted to leave Illinois and move to California. Steve's best quote of the day was "I knew I was lost when I passed the llamas. Jeff would have mentioned llamas."
10/14/95 Thought about bottling again, but still tastes too harsh. Added a handful of oak chips to the carboy...the oak helped lots last time.
10/30/95 John and Angela were over and tasted the wine. John detected lemon, which was pretty amazing since I had used a few drops of lemon juice when I had run out of acid blend.
12/2/95 Bottled 25 bottles. Used some campden tablets as the book directed, but the tablets didn't dissolve completely and left some particulates in the wine.
4/22/96 The wine is a little too acid to drink at room temperature, chilling helps lots.
6/97 Age helps it more.

1995 Strawberry

The first try with fresh fruit. The initial motivation for learning to make wine was to use up plums, but this year we had a bumper crop of strawberries. The wine turned out great, but it pays to be patient with strawberry wine. I find that with the high alcohol content in mine, they are best during their second a and third years in the bottle. Wine label 6/24/95 Started initial fermentation. My strawberry bed was producing about 5 pounds of strawberries a week. Since I didn't have enough berries in any one week to make wine, we had been cleaning, sugaring, and freezing most of the fruit. The night before starting primary fermentation, I took the fruit out of the freezer and let it thaw. Pureed it in a food processor to make the must. Initial balling 23.3, acid 0.6%
7/15/95 Balling is down to 4, so it's time to start the secondary fermentation. We used cheesecloth to get as much of the pulp out as possible. What a pain. The cheesecloth filter is probably unnecessary, but I don't have a wide selection of carboy sizes, so it makes it a little easier to get a full carboy. The carboy needs to be full, to keep as much oxygen out as possible.
10/8/95 Balling -2. Added clarifier a week ago. It's much too dry, doesn't taste like strawberries without the sugar. Added 1 tsp. ascorbic acid, 1.5T sorbistat-K (to prevent further fermentation), 2.5c sugar syrup. Final balling = 1.
10/14/95 Bottled 25 bottles. Color is a nice orange-pink. Still a little cloudy. Maybe still a bit on the dry side, but I like it.
8/97 Very smooth, great glycerin content, silky with a big berry flavor. Dropped a bit of sediment, but not too bad.

1996 Valentine Rose

What a disaster. I sweated over this wine and in the end a bad batch of corks caused the loss of almost all of it. The vinegar is quite nice, but I don't cook with that much vinegar. Sigh. 2/18/96 Ready to try a red. I've been told these are more difficult than whites. I've also been told they're easier. Aiming for a red table wine, nothing special. The two can recipe won't give a really solid wine. Initial balling 23, acid .75
2/23/96 Today the balling 12.3. According to the book, the balling should be under 10 before you put it in the carboy. But I won't have time again until next weekend, which will be too late. So I put it in the carboy with lock anyway. Sometimes you have to find out the hard way that the book was seriousabout being less than 10. What a mess! There was red foam every where. Fortunately I noticed what was going on before it overflowed the counter and hit the white carpeting. I used a magnum to hold some of the wine for a couple of days until the foaming subsided. Now I know how much the air introduced during the racking causes additional foaming if the sugar is too high when you try it.
3/18/96 Mostly alcohol, no flavor. Put in oak chips, since those helped so much with the Chablis.
4/21/96 Flavor improving, but this isn't going to be the red table wine I was trying for. Looks like it will turn out more as a rose. I thought about racking it, but decided to wait another month.
5/24/96 Lost some volume in the racking so topped off with a couple of bottles that I grabbed off the wine rack. One was a magnum of Casarsa '93 Merlot. The other was a bottle of Thomas Kruse Zinfandel, which is a better wine than what I wanted, but I grabbed the wrong bottle off the rack and had it open before I realized what it was. Tom Kruse is an interesting guy. He makes good wines and doesn't charge an arm and a leg for them. If you're in Gilroy, CA, stop by the winery and visit him on Hecker Pass Road.
8/23/96 It's getting better, at best it will be drinkable. Added more oak chips.
12/27/96 O.K., but too acidic. Maybe finishing with some sugar would counteract the light body.
3/1/97 Bottled 26 bottles as Esmerelda's Valentine Rose. At this point seems like it will be an average table wine. Components are still not well blended. A bunch of the corks leaked and it was two days before I could get more and re-cork. Doesn't seem like it's caused a big problem, but very concerned that I'll lose some of it.
4/20/97 Had a top-it-yourself pizza party here and served several bottles. With pizza, it was pretty good. Of course, almost anything is pretty good with pizza.
7/15/97 It's clear that most of the bottles have oxidized. Gave several bottles to John to make into vinegar.
12/10/97 Relabeled several bottles as vinegar for Christmas gifts. The lesson learned is don't skimp on buying good quality corks, and try to make sure that the corks you buy don't dry out too much in storage. Wine label

1996 Strawberry

This was my second attempt at strawberry wine. In this one I used more sugar, trying to get the wine to finish sweet. It didn't, so as a result the wine is very strong and was undrinkable for about a year. In late 1998 it's quite nice, very smooth with lots of fruit. Some time after I had started this wine, Tom Kruse told me not to even try to make a wine finish sweet, but instead to choose the alcohol content you want, let the wine finish dry, then sweeten it when you bottle. The books say that fruit wines don't last and should be consumed within a year of bottling. If I had taken the books' advice I probably would have stopped making strawberry wine. This batch was still a bit harsh after a year in the bottle. In its third year in the bottle, it's excellent. Oh yeah, that's me on the label, circa 1969. Wine label 6/23/96 Same drill as the first batch of strawberry. Used the food processor to puree the thawed berries. Initial balling 27, acid 0.6%. After one week, sugar dropped to 16.
7/5/96 After two weeks sugar was at 7 and the wine could be put into the carboys.
8/23/96 Wine still bubbling in the carboy and the balling was at -3. Remember, water is defined to be zero and alcohol is lighter than water. This is going to be strong, and here I'd hoped for a sweet finish.
12/27/96 Added sugar and potassium sorbate to bring the balling up to zero (about 2 cups sugar in 5 gallons of wine). The color is a slightly orange pink. Can really taste the strawberries, but also a lot of alcohol taste. Yield: 26 bottles.
2/20/99 This has been almost undrinkable since it was bottled, but is now starting to approach the '95 strawberry in smoothness. I love the mouth feel of strawberry wine, very rich.

1996 Plum Wine

We were going to start this wine a week earlier, but there was a power outage. Our house is on well water, so when the power goes out, so does the water. Making wine is messy, so we delayed the crush by a week. Instead we had people over at the house playing games to pass the time. This was a big power outage, the entire western US and parts of Canada were down. About sunset, we had just taken some sandwiches out onto the deck for dinner, when we heard a whoosh and looked east over the trees to see a fireball. We live in a wooded area, and our first thought was "canopy fire". It's amazing how much adrenaline gets dumped into your system by fire. We had the dog in the truck, all the cars turned around and our friends helped us ransack our house for valuables, all in about fifteen minutes. At that point we had time to stand and look at the fire for a while. It was dusk, so we really had no way to judge how far away the fire was. All we could tell was that the smoke wasn't coming our direction. After a while, the radio said it was a structure fire. We found out later that our neighbors about half a mile away had been running a generator in their garage. The fireball was their Mercedes exploding.

That's the long way around to why I started making wine in the first place -- to use the plums. I finished my plum wine as a semisweet, about 1.5 degrees of sugar. The wine on its own finished dry, but lost the flavor of the fruit. Mine is not nearly as sweet as commercial plum wines like Kinsen. Instead it's a very clean lightly sweet wine. Still goes great with Chinese food, as well as being a great sipping wine. Was ready to drink as soon as it was bottled. Still holding nicely in 1998 and 1999.

8/10/96 Plums were fresh off the trees. Ripe but not over-ripe. John and Angela came over to help with the wine, which was fun since winemaking was John's idea in the first place. There was some mis-communication and John didn't bring his grandfather's crusher. Instead we crushed the plums one at a time using the heel of our hands. Angela and I picked the pits out, again by hand. John came up with the idea of using a piece of lumber (4x4) wrapped in plastic to further crush the fruit in the bucket. Initial balling was 30, acid was 0.6% tartaric.
8/18/96 Borrowed John's press, removed the pulp and skins.
8/24/96 Started the closed fermentation with two 5 gallon carboys. 10/13/96 Smells good, but will finish too dry. Will need to add sugar to bring out the fruit flavor. Down to 7.8 gallons due to sediment. 3/2/97 Bottled 39 bottles. As part of the bottling process added 1.5 degrees of sugar which was needed to bring out the taste of the plums. Used potassium sorbate to prevent renewed fermentation.

1997 Plum Wine

This year it stopped raining in February, so all the trees were running several weeks early. We had a whole bunch of people come over to help pick plums and do the crush. Only one problem. No plums on any of my trees. We were only a week later than last year, and last year the plums were barely ripe. On a whim we decided to wander down the road a bit to a vacant lot which has several plum trees that haven't been pruned in years. The plums were dead ripe and many were picked by shaking branches. I thought about labeling this one Purloined Plum, but it didn't look right on the labels. Wine Label
Because of the slight late harvest quality, I added no sugar to the finished wine. It tastes just like the plums that we made it from, but in 1998, it's not as good as the '96 plum yet. 8/17/97 Used the crusher set on the widest setting to split the plums open, then the women sat around the buckets pulling out pits. We were gooey up to the elbows and our hands and nails were stained orange for days. Got 10 gallons of must at 24 Balling. The initial acid of the plums was .45, so had to use the acid blend to bring it up to .60.
8/21/97 The cap is almost gone. Still foaming, but not nearly so much.
8/23/97 Pressed and put it into carboys. Balling is 10.5 at 72 Fahrenheit. Wine got a little warm doing the press out on the driveway. Should be fine when we get it back into the downstairs bathroom that I use as a winery. The temperature is very stable at 65 F down there.
8/31/97 Lots of sediment still. Decided to run the wine through a kitchen strainer to try to get some more of the pulp out. Balling at -1. Added more water to keep the total volume at 10 gallons.
10/26/97 Racked again, still lots of sediment. Lost about 8 liters to sediment, so added that much water back in. Still cloudy. Good fruit flavor. As I had hoped, there is a certain late harvest quality to it, a little bit of a smoky flavor.
3/25/98 Filtered and bottled 49. The specific gravity is right at zero. Didn't add any sugar. I think it will be fine without it, although it may take a few more months before it's really good that way.

1997 Premiere Cuvee

This was an experiment caused by an abundant grape harvest. The grapes I grow are table grapes, and all the books talk about wine from table grapes tasting "foxy", whatever that means. I bought my vines from Raintree Nursery in Oregon. The two varieties used were Venus, a large sweet purple grape, and Canadice, a small spicy red grape. The mix was about 1/3 Venus, 2/3 Canadice. Later at Guglielmo's winery I saw a poster with the different kinds of wine grapes. Canadice resembles a Gewurtztaminer grape. Tastes like one too in the end product. After one year it started to develop slightly off flavors. John blames the Venus grapes for this. Wine label 8/23/97 Another winemaking party. Last week we started plum wine and sent everybody home with several pounds of grapes. This week we sent a couple people out to pick grapes while others worked to press the plum from last time. They filled two of the buckets that I use for fermentation with grapes. Using our old postal package scale, we measured it as 60 pounds total. Crushed and then debated about whether to treat it as a red or white. Looking at the pale green juice, we decided to leave the skins on for a week and see what happened. Starting Balling was 16. Added sugar to bring it up to 20. Acidity is .85%, too high, but not much we can do. Must volume about 7 gallons.
8/30/97 Balling has already dropped to -1! Pressed and got a little over 6 gallons. Decided to try to reduce the acid by increasing the volume. Did some spooky calculations and decided to add 11oz sugar syrup per gallon of wine to bring the acid down to .78%, in theory. Supposedly after fermentation starts, you can't get a valid acidity reading with the equipment I'm using. My algebra went something like: I wanted .78% per gallon, which is 128 ounces. I had .85% acid which is 1.088 times as much as I wanted. Therefore 1 is to 128 as 1.088 is to X. X=139, so all I had to do was add 11 oz. of sugar syrup per gallon of wine. According to my notes, what I did was add 68 oz. (1/2 gallon) of water with 2 cups of sugar. Bottom line: I have no idea what the alcohol content or acidity of this wine is.
10/26/97 Racked down to 6 gallons. Crystal clear, nice blush color. Still very acidic, but nice citrus background. Grapefruit. Added a few oak chips, but not very many.
3/28/98 My notes on the bottling are sketchy, but I'm sure I didn't filter or add any sugar. Got about 30 bottles. Since then has dropped a little bit of crystalline sediment, but quite drinkable. Nice on a hot day.

1997 Strazzberry

We made strawberry/raspberry wine because we had a bad strawberry year and didn't have enough to make strawberry wine. Where do you get seventeen pounds of raspberries when the markets are selling them at $9 a pound? I grow mine. If you can stand the thorns, I think raspberries are one of the best uses of garden space, right up there with tomatoes. I started with 10 plants spaced 5 feet (arms width) apart. The canes spread by root runner, so my ten plants have become over a hundred. This was the first big year for them and I could literally stand in one place and pick a quart of berries. Still, I was happy just eating the berries, and wasn't planning on making them into wine. The only commercial raspberry wine that I've found is very sweet, almost syrupy, so I wasn't really enthusiastic when Jeff wanted to make raspberry wine. O.K., he was right. Wine label
After a few months in the bottle, a few people noticed a slight bitter, which is probably from the seeds. 9/10/97 Raspberries had been previously frozen. Strawberries had been previously sliced, lightly sugared and frozen. Thawed all berries the night before. Crushed with a potato masher. The aroma of that much crushed raspberry pulp is amazing. Dissolved sugar in warm water. Measured specific gravity several times while adding sugar, since I was working without a recipe. Ended up with a little over 10 gallons of must. The raspberries provided sufficient acid themselves and no other acid was added. Final Balling = 24.5. Acid .65%.
9/21/97 Balling 2.5. Used cheesecloth to filter out most of the pulp and seeds. Quite tedious, much like making jelly. Beautiful color from the raspberry juice.
10/26/97 It's clear that this will need some sugar when it's done in order to taste the fruit. Lots of sediment, added 9 liters of water.
3/14/98 Balling is -3. Filtered then added 1 cup sugar and 2.5 t potassium sorbate to prevent renewed fermentation. That brought the Balling to -2. Jeff wanted more sugar, he likes the syrupy raspberry wine though.
3/15/98 49 bottles at 750ml each. Ready to drink now, slightly chilled. Very lightly sweet.