HOW TO MAKE WINE
RYAN LEE SHARP, OWNER AND WINEMAKER AT PORTLAND, OREGON’S ENSO WINERY
HAVE A PLAN
Before starting, says the onetime garage winemaker, decide where you’ll acquire grapes (hint: Call vineyards or winemaking shops) and where you’ll store the juice. “If you’re making wine at home, I wouldn’t do anything less than a full barrel,” Sharp says. That’s about 300 bottles of wine, or roughly $2,500 worth of grapes.
To loose the juice, rent a destemmer and a press from a wine shop. “There’s no need to invest in something you’ll use only once or twice a year,” Sharp says. (Pro tip: Some vineyards will crush the grapes for you.) For a shortcut, buy concentrated grape juice. Welch’s doesn’t count.
CO2 YOU LATER
Pour the juice into your sanitized trash can, and toss in Campden tablets to kill bacteria and unwanted fungi. Wait 24 hours, then add nutrients and yeast. If the microbes are happy and hungry, they’ll make the juice foam like Cujo. This fermentation should last seven to 10 days. Stir the juice daily to rouse sluggish yeast. “Once the bubbles have stopped, you’ll have fermented wine,” Sharp says. Dump the contents into the press and apply pressure. Do not press too hard, or you’ll get harsh seed tannins. Taste as you press. When the wine starts to get astringent, stop.
Transfer wine to a glass carboy or an oak barrel. If you’re using a barrel, fill it with water for three days prior to usage; the wood will swell with water, not wine. “I didn’t do that for my first batch, and the wine level dropped around four inches,” Sharp laments. Let it ferment again. You may want to siphon off the pulpy yeast clumps every few months with a large, netted funnel. Your wine should smell fresh and fruity. Like a teenager, though, it’ll have growing pains. It may taste great one month and dreadful the next, says Sharp. But “most things that go wrong in the barrel are fixable by time.” In a few months, the wine should be ready for bottling.