Environmentally Friendly Ways to Make Wine

Making your own wine is a great way to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. There is no better way to ensure that the wine you drink is healthy for both you and the environment, than making it yourself. Making homemade wine give’s you control of the process, from picking ingredients to corking each bottle. You can ensure the ingredients and supplies you are using are eco-friendly and do not contain any unknown chemicals or preservatives.  Continue reading

You Should Be Making Your Own Wine

Recently, many studies have indicated wine drinkers experience health benefits such as, lower mortality rate, reduced risk of heart attack, reduced risk of chronic disease such as Type 2 Diabetes, and slower brain decline. But, did you know making wine has benefits as well? Let’s explore some ways that making wine is beneficial to your overall wellbeing: Continue reading

Our Top 5 Favorite Wine Labels

Whether it is your first time making wine or you are an experienced wine maker, personalized wine labels are a great addition to any bottle of wine. Wine labels can be used to create your own unique brand or you can create custom gift labels for a variety of occasions. We put together a collection of our top 5 favorite DIY label ideas from around the Internet to give you some inspiration for your next batch of homemade wine.

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Best Environments for Making Wine in Your Home

It is essential to understand where you should and shouldn’t be making wine in your home. The difference between a good and bad batch of wine is dependent on the environment that it ferments in. Wine can be made in any home, but you must be able to find the best possible environment to achieve winemaking success. Continue reading

Ready to Make Your Own Wine? Make Sure You Do These 3 Things Before You Start

Making wine for the first time can often make you feel like a mad scientist. Even when following a recipe step-by-step, uncertainty about the finished product remains. Will it taste good? Did I add enough yeast? How long is too long for fermentation? These are all questions you may ask yourself the first time you make wine.

Perfecting the art of making wine takes practice and several batches. However, there are a few things you can do to make sure your first batch doesn’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Continue reading

What Vineyard? You Can Make Wine at Home

In a world where you can DIY just about anything, why not try wine? There’s a good chance you already have some of the household items tucked away in your pantry. With the right tools, ingredients, and environment, you can bottle up a hefty batch of your favorite vino. Here’s how to get started:

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Leigh Erwin: Making A California Chardonnay Wine Kit

California Chardonnay made from wine kitHi everyone!

I’m excited to finally be making a new batch of wine after a couple of weeks hiatus. I’m partially nervous, though, because I’m making the Cellar Craft Sterling California Chardonnay wine kit again, and if you recall last time I tried to do that, I messed up big time in regards to the fermentation temperature.

This time, however, I am prepared! I have the heating pad all set up and am not going to touch it at all until fermentation is complete.

To start the Chardonnay wine kit off, I ended up using tap water as if you recall from an earlier post I wrote, the tap water here where I live doesn’t give off any sort of chlorine smell and I’m pretty positive it’s winemaking worthy. I remember making a red wine in the past with straight tap water and it came out just fine, so hopefully the same will be true for this white.

Primary fermentation for this Chardonnay wine kit went very smoothly. I followed all instructions that came with the wine kit to the letter and made sure the temperature of the wine was never too low.

Secondary fermentation came right on schedule for this Chardonnay (day 7), though I did notice it still smelled a bit yeasty. Cue flashbacks from the screwed up batch….

Anyway, since there is still yeast doing their thing in there, I was not at all concerned about the yeasty smell and crossed my fingers that it could complete secondary instead of getting stuck like it did last time. Actually, I don’t think it even made it out of primary fermentation last time, but I digress…

The end of secondary fermentation, however, did not come exactly on time as the instructions suggested it probably would. Instead of finishing up on Day 20 as the instructions indicated, I didn’t move on to the degassing stage until Day 24. I actually think I may have made a slight mistake at this point though, as I think I stopped secondary 0.002 specific gravity points too soon, according to my wine hydrometer.Shop Wine Kits

See, the instructions said: “Targets: Sterling Reds, Showcase Reds & Whites: <0.998 or Sterling Whites: <0.996.” The specific gravity I noted on Day 24 was 0.998, so quickly looking at the Target values, I thought I had been working with the Showcase White and that 0.998 was correct. Well, turns out I read it a little too quickly and had forgotten that I was actually working with the Sterling White, so I shouldn’t have moved onto the next step until the specific gravity was 0.996. Oopsie. I hope that doesn’t come back to bite me.

The wine didn’t smell nearly as yeasty any more, though I thought I might still be able to smell a little bit. I should note: my sense of smell might be a little heightened right now since I am pregnant (surprise!), so I’m hoping it’s still going to be OK and whatever yeasts might still be in there will fall out during the clearing stage.
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.

Leigh Erwin: My Stuck Fermentation

Woman with a stuck fermentationHello fellow home winemakers!

In case you haven’t been following my posts, my latest issue in my home winemaking adventures is a seemingly slow or stuck fermentation with my Cellar Craft Sterling Chardonnay. I had set up the primary fermentation according to the letter, but six days later, the specific gravity had gone from a 1.100 to a pathetic 1.080. Just as the name sounds a stuck fermentation is a fermentation that is not doing anything when it should.

I had mentioned to you that I’d been using the air conditioning a bit more during this time and had not closed the vent to the winery room, making the room a lot colder than it had been previously.

In a panic, I tossed in some yeast nutrient and yeast energizer, stirred it up, and then got out my heating pad. I plugged that in and set it under the fermenter, then crossed my fingers and went straight to my computer to ask the pros at E. C. Kraus to see if they could tell my why I had a stuck fermentation.

Here was their response:

“When I see this happening in this way with a wine ingredient kit, it normally points to one of two things:

1) Either the room temperature is too cold — which I’m sure you know, already;

2) Or, some of the yeast cells were killed through the rehydration process. See this article:

“Pros And Cons Of Yeast Rehydration”

It doesn’t hurt to add more nutrients, but I doubt if this will help. Wine ingredient kits, in general, are packed with a lot of nutrients, already. I would go ahead and add another pack of yeast to the wine must. Be sure to just sprinkle the granules directly on top. They will soak in and dissolve on their own.”

So, it sounds like I may have wasted some yeast nutrient and energizer in my little panic, since wine kits usually contain plenty of nutrients themselves, but that’s OK. I suppose it shouldn’t hurt the wine.Shop Yeast Nutrients

I did add some new yeast to the mix, though I decided to try and rehydrate them first instead of just sprinkling them on top. I don’t really know why I did this – in retrospect, this was probably another bad decision on my part, but I was in a slight panic and wasn’t thinking totally straight.

After a bit of waiting, I FINALLY hit 1.000 on the wine hydrometer 19 days after starting fermentation. I have no idea how having a stuck fermentation affects the quality of the finished wine, but so far the wine looks OK and smells OK. I’m not going to keep my hopes up with this wine, but I think it might still be salvageable.

A couple things I learned this time around: 1) check on the wine every day or two instead of waiting so long (I waited 6 days instead of peaking my head in to see if things were moving) and 2) always monitor the temperature of the wine with a thermometer, particularly when the weather outside is in flux and the heat or air conditioning is being used differently than it had been previously. Doing these two things would have helped to keep my wine from being prey of a stuck fermentation.
Leigh Erwin bio pictureMy 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.

Other Ways To Seal Wine Bottles

Closures that provide other ways to seal wine bottles.Many beginning winemakers will be happy to know that you do not have to buy a corker to seal your wine bottles. We have other ways to seal wine bottles during the wine making process. Consider the alternatives listed below for your next batch!

When you go to buy wine corks for your wine bottles you will find that most of them require a corker to press the cork into the wine bottle. This is because a new cork starts out much fatter than what you are used to seeing coming out of the wine bottle when decanting.

These are the type of wine corks we recommend using, particularly if you know you’re going to continue to make more wine into the future. But, if you are not sure if you’ll be making more wine, or you just don’t feel like buying a corker, just yet, there are other ways to seal your wine bottles.

Mushroom corks are an easy way to seal your wine bottles without using a corker. They are basically a cork with a plastic grip top. They come both in natural cork and synthetic cork. With some force they can be pushed in by hand to create a tight seal. While they do not seal quite as tight as traditional corks being pressed in, they are more than sufficient for any wine that will be consumed within 12 months.

Another way to seal your wine bottles that does not require a corker is our reusable wine bottle stoppers. Just like the mushroom corks, these stoppers can be put in by hand as well. Their unique design of ridges creates a series of chambers to produce a seal. While these stoppers are not all that attractive for passing out as wine making gifts, they can be covered up with decorative heat shrink capsules to give them a professional look.Shop Heat Shrink Capsules

And yes, you can always use screw cap wine bottles. By using screw caps you will be sealing the wine bottle air-tight, however you must have the right screw cap on the right bottle. Not any wine bottle can take a screw cap; it must specifically be a screw cap wine bottle. And, the screw caps you are using must be the correct size with matching threads. Not all threads are the same.

In summary, you do not have to buy a corker. There are other ways to seal a wine bottle. But, if you plan to continue making wine corks and a corker are your best long-term option.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus

Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Wine Ideas: Strawberry-Rhubarb Wine Recipe

Strawberries And Rhubarb ChoppedStrawberry and rhubarb is a traditional, country combination that has worked deliciously for pies for who knows how long. With that country combo in mind, here’s a wine recipe that takes both great flavors from the pie pan to the wine bottle.

This is a strawberry-rhubarb wine recipe that has been made by several of our customer with great success. Its flavors are rich and layered with a bit of tang that sets if off. It has a glassy, garnet color that is almost irresistible when set on the table in front of family and friends.

While this particular version I experienced was made dry, I’m sure it would do quite well if it were made off-dry or even sweet. Making a sweet wine can easily be done by adding sugar and potassium sorbate (wine stabilizer) before bottling.

Since there has been such success with this particular wine recipe, I thought I’d share it here as well…
Strawberry-Rhubarb Wine Recipe
(Makes 5 Gallons)

2 Cans County Fair Strawberry
5 pounds Rhubarb (cubed, meaty stalk only)
8 pounds Sugar
5 Teaspoons Yeast Nutrient
5 Teaspoons Acid Blend
1 Teaspoons Pectic Enzyme
5 Campden Tablets (24 hrs. before fermentation)Shop Fruit Wine Bases
Water (To total batch to 5 gallons)
1 Pkg. Wine Yeast (Lalvin K1V-1116, recommended)
5 Campden Tablets (Before Bottling)
Use The 7 Easy Steps To Making Wine for the directions.  These directions will lead you through the process. If you need the equipment. The “Your Fruit!” Wine Making Kit will work perfect for this wine recipe.

Have you every made a strawberry-rhubarb wine recipe? If so, why don’t you share your recipe below?…

Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.