Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 Stephan Way Chardonnay

If you have been following my blog you know that last year our neighbor Marilyn's grape vines produced such a profusion of grapes that I was persuaded to try making wine from them. You can read about last year's wine making adventures here and here. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned but the project was enough of a success that I was more than happy to give it another go this year if the grapes cooperated. Well, they did. It was another abundant year for the chardonnay grapes. See photos.

This year there was competition for the grapes from a neighborhood bear. Marilyn called with the news that it was now or never. The bear was visiting nightly and soon all the grapes would be eaten and the vines destroyed if we didn't pick now. I came the next day with my black bucket and we spent 2 hours doing our best to empty the vines of grapes before the bear could. 

It was a month earlier than we harvested them last year. At first I was worried that we were hurried into a premature harvest but I don't think that was the case. This year's weather was much different than last year's with an early warm spring rather than the extended winter of 2011. In fact, later, when I checked the specific gravity (SG) of the juice it was slightly higher than last year's, indicating a higher sugar content.

We ended up with 84 pounds of grapes from the four old vines. This yielded over 6 gallons of juice. Last year I stomped them to free their juices from the skins. This year I borrowed a small fruit press. After one awkward attempt with a few pounds of grapes in the press, I returned to the tried and true stomping method. It is actually quite sensual and enjoyable as well as being efficient. I chatted with my mother on the phone as the grapes relinquished their nectar underfoot.

Five and a half gallons of juice was set to fermenting and today was racked to a secondary carboy where it will remain for the next six weeks until it will be racked again. Racking is simply siphoning the wine off of the lees (sediments) into a clean container.

Marilyn, who turns 80 this year, is delighted with the process and with the prospect of sipping 2012 Stephan Way (our cul-de-sac's name) Chardonnay in the spring sunshine of 2013, as am I!

Cheers and enjoy!


  1. Dad made unfermented concord grape juice today. Fresh, pure, unheated in canning process it is to die for! He stomped with his hands, not his feet. Good luck with the Chardonnay. We look forward to a tasting. The good bottles last year were fantastic!

    Passed your blog link on to cousin Dave last night.

  2. I agree. I am not a huge fan of grape juice in general but the fresh-pressed stuff is different than pasteurized and a definite treat!