Leigh Erwin: Making Russo Fortissimo

Cellar Craft Showcase Wine Ingredient KitHi all!

I’m very excited today, as it’s the first time ever I’ve attempted to make two wine ingredient kits at the same time!

The other day, I tucked the Gewurztraminer in for it’s 12 days or so in secondary fermentation, and since I have the equipment, ingredients, and space, I figured why not start another wine!

For my second wine ingredient kit of 2015, I’m going to make the Cellar Craft Showcase Red Wine – Rosso Fortissimo. I had sterilized everything the night before, so I was pretty much all ready to go and get started today.

The one thing that I remembered being a pain in the butt last time was marking the 23L mark on the fermenter. I know I know, it’s not THAT big a deal, but when the biggest measuring device you have is only 2 cups (500mL), filling the fermenter up to 23L with water to mark it is kind of annoying.

After putting markings on my fermenter, I dumped out the water and then added back in 2L plus the bentonite package. I mixed that as well as I could, though there were a couple of small lumps remaining when I gave up on that part. I don’t think it’ll be a big deal. I’m sure they’ll all get mixed up well eventually!

Then came what I think is the hardest part of the whole process: adding the wine juice. I always feel so awkward during this stage, since the bag is so heavy and sloshes around like crazy. I wish they made something a little sturdier so I would feel a little more secure about pouring it in.

Spilt ConcentrateWell, of course while I was pouring the wine juice into the fermenter, my hands slipped and I spilled a bit on the floor. You can see from the picture that it’s really not that much, but at the time I was a little nervous that I was going to spill more. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Straining Bag Over BucketFor the grape skins that came with this particular kit, I decided this time I would use the mesh bag that was supplied, since last time I remembered it was really a pain to get all the bits out of the wine when it was time to move on to secondary fermentation. I feel like I needed a third hand to do this, but I figured out a way to sort of secure the mesh to the top of the fermenter — at least in the beginning — to try and make the process a little easier.

Once the bag got too heavy, I had to apply some pressure to the bag with my elbows to keep it from falling in before I was finished squeezing all the grapes out of the pouch. Surprisingly, this went off pretty smoothly. I mixed everything together and then put on the lid. The instructions that came with this wine ingredient kit said the best time for checking specific gravity is between 12 and 24 hours after beginning, so that’s what I’m going to do before I move on any further.

After cleaning up the grape skin massacre on the floor with a mop and cleaning the spatter off the cupboards and doors, I felt like a little bit like a criminal cleaning up the scene of a crime. Hopefully in this case, I’ve already done my time and the rest will be smooth sailing.

I’m really hopeful for this wine ingredient kit. Despite any trials and tribulations, the Rosso Fortissimo smell incredible and can’t wait to see how it turns out.

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leigh_erwin_bioMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I’ll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.

3 thoughts on “Leigh Erwin: Making Russo Fortissimo

  1. Leigh,

    I’ve made over 200 kits and I have never sterilized anything. As a matter of fact, I recall that Wine Expert Tim Vandergrift (sp?) also said that sterilization was not needed because there are good bacteria that can help the wine – or something like that. I spray my equipment with Easy Clean and rinse it off. It’s an oxidizer and will not harm any juice of wine. It is much easier than sterilizing.
    BTW, we have also made the Russo Fortissimo wine kit. It is outstanding Everyone loved it. I made 10 kits at one time (300 bottles!) in a single batch in my garage. I have a 700 liter fermenter and stainless steel floating lid tank.

    Since I make so much wine, I have found ways to make it with less work. I don’t buy the wine kits with the grapes anymore because it’s messy and a lot of work. Also, because I couldn’t taste the difference of grapes or no grapes.

    Some of WineExpert kits say to let the fermentation go for 7 days then rack it and leave it for 7 more days, then to add the chemicals. Other WE kits say to leave everything for 14 days then add the chemicals without racking. I emailed them about the difference and I got an answer suggesting they are reviewing those instructions. So, the 14 days are less work and I like that.
    Good luck with your wine making and the wonderful writing your doing about that endeavor.

    Sal Runfola
    Farmingdale, NJ

  2. Leigh, keep on with the journey. We all started at the same place as you have. Remember that your wine will be as you treat your equipment. My father was from Italy where they had vineyards and made wine and sold it. The belief was always in cleanliness. If you put your new wine in dirty bottles then your wine would be a surprise. I remember in Edmonton we would buy the Zinfandel grapes, crush them in the evening and start pressing in the morning…..he liked a light wine…but strong. Once there was no juice coming from the press, we would take it all apart and scatter everything on plastic in the garage. We would break apart the grape lump from the press and remove as many of the grape stems as possible and put the skins back into the press for a second pressing. We didn’t have a machine to separate the stems from the skins. Nothing exotic but lots of work. I’ve been making wine by myself using wine kits for the past twenty years and it is much easier and as Sal Runfola says, you’ll feel more comfortable as you go on your journey and you’ll double and triple your batches. You may even experem with your wines by adding the lees oh your Amarone withe a batch of newly made Merlot…add the lees after the Merlot has been fermenting for three days. Add it in at room temperature. The only advice that I can pass on is to ensure that your equipment is clean. You drink what you put into the wine…and that was my papas moto…..good luck.

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