October 3, 2010
The next morning I woke up seriously early (especially for a Sunday)--7:30 am (and I don't want any crap from people with kids; I realize you get up at 5:00 am every day, and I pity you). All I could think about was my must, just sitting in the bathroom, potentially being acted on by malicious bacteria. I managed to hold off until 8:00, but then I had to get up and check on the Brix and pH. The verdict: Brix at 25, pH at 3.66. Both of them still too high. So after muttering some curse words and pushing some very needy (and nosy) cats out of the way, I decided to add another 7 tsps of tartaric in another gallon of distilled water. I then tried to go back to sleep, but how could I with this on my mind:
Oh yeah, look at that sweet, sweet must. And I mean that literally--this stuff was super sweet!!
I somehow managed to forget about the must for a couple of hours, with the help of some yummy waffles made by my loving husband, but then 11:00 rolled around and I decided it was time to measure again.
Brix 23, pH 3.30
Hallelujah!! The pH was a bit low, but I decided (with the help of the not-very-helpful wine book) that too low now would actually work out better for me in the future, so I decided 3.30 was good enough for me.
Now it was finally time to start the yeast culture--a task at which I have some practice, having done a 6 week lab rotation in a yeast lab in grad school (before the prostate caught my fancy; and really, can you blame me?). As far as strain goes, Chris informed me that Oakstone uses the Lavlin ICV-D254, which according to the yeast website to which he linked me, gives Mediterranean-style red wines a good mouthfeel. Uh, OK? Let me just say right here that, even though I am going through all this hassle to make my own wine, I do not buy into all of the "wino" talk. I very rarely can tell the difference between "smoky" and "earthy" on my own without having been prepped, or had someone tell me afterwards. I can usually tell if the wine is fruit-forward (basically it tastes like grape juice when you first taste it) or if it has a lot of tannins (those give you that dry-mouth feel after you swallow--the more tannins, the more you feel like drinking a ton of water afterwards), but beyond that, you'll never hear me describe in loving detail how the nose is full-bodied and the bouquet is of grapes and pencil lead. I think those people are absolutely insane. I know what I like, that's what I drink. Who the heck cares if it's full-bodied or has a good mouthfeel?
So basically, this is my long-winded way of saying that when Chris said Oakstone uses D254, that was extent of the work I did in picking a yeast. Hey, they grew the grapes--they should know what will eat them, right? Fortunately for me, the Brewmeister in Folsom sells D254, and Chris was able to pick some up for me when he got his (he used the BM45 if you care). Unfortunately, I forgot to grab it from him when he was driving me home with my must, so it necessitated another trip to Folsom (the second that day; generally not a big deal, but Brian works in Folsom, and kind of resented driving there twice on his day off--did I mention how wonderful he is?). So anyway, at 11:00 am, I made the starter culture for the yeast. I began by rehydrating in warm water for about 20 minutes, then adding a couple of cups of the must and GO-FERM (yeast food) and letting it sit on the hot water heater for an hour. After that hour, the yeast was bubbling and frothing like mad, and ready to be added to the must. So at noon, I dumped it on top of the must (after giving it a hearty pep-talk) and mixing with the potato masher (seen in the orange bucket below):
This picture also shows the door that became extremely splattered with juice, the toilet that became extremely spattered with juice, the cabinets...I think you get the idea.
So I'm sure you're wondering, how does one determine if the yeast have survived their little trip down re-hydration lane and actually appreciate their new home full of sugar? Well, they form what's known as a cap. The cap is the skins and stems that have been pushed to the surface of the must by the carbon dioxide formed as one of the by-products of yeast digestion (the other, of course, being alcohol). Well, by 5:00 I peeked at the must and saw the most glorious site:That, my friends, is a cap. And as you can see, there is plenty of carbon dioxide (the bubbles towards the middle). The yeast is on its way!!
Next up: taking out my frustrations, the wine makers way!