Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hi, my name is Jacques Oiseau and I'm a video editor from Massachusetts. I am the lead editor on Jonathan Bird's Blue World which airs on American public television. I'm also a bit of a wine nut. My friend Pierre Séguin (a world-renown wine expert based in Montreal) got me interested in wine a few years ago. As my interests in wine have become more focused, I started thinking that a fun way to learn more about wine would be to try making it myself.

Of course, you can make wine from a kit, but that's just lame. I mean, it's like making Kraft Macaroni & Cheese--you follow the directions and you get basic food. I don't want fermented grape concentrate from a kit. I want to make real wine myself! So the most obvious problem is that I need some grapes. Unfortunately for me as a potential winemaker, I live in Massachusetts. Yes, grapes grow here. (Hell, they call one of our islands Martha's Vineyard for a reason you know!) True, we can't grow many of the classic wine grapes, such as my favorite, Pinot noir. But there are plenty of vinifera (wine-making) grapes that will grow here. They need to be cold-hardy enough to withstand our winters and able to ripen the fruit in our relatively short growing season.

So, after doing some research, I decided to plant Marquette, a variety of cold-resistant grape that is derived partially from Pinot noir. I bought six (yep, count 'em!) vines from New England Vine Supply and planted them in my yard in the spring of 2009, with supporting trellis system. So my vineyard has been started, and I will need to learn a lot more about maintaining grape vines. I have plenty of time to read up though, since I can't harvest fruit until at least the 3rd season (fall of 2011). Bummer!

I also plan to start a second set of Marquette or perhaps Frontenac next spring in another area of the yard that I have cleared. I'll keep you posted on that. Those would not be ready to bear fruit until 2012. So what to do in the meantime?

I have decided to try buying some grapes from the west coast and have them flown over. Sounds crazy, yes, but by doing this I can try making wine from my favorite grape that doesn't grow in Massachusetts: Pinot Noir! (Of course, I have to start with one of the world's most difficult grapes.) I have ordered two 6 gallon buckets of crushed pinot noir (must) from Brehm Vineyards. These guys have specialized in grapes for home winemakers for 30 years and they now have 11 vineyards. My grapes are from the 2009 harvest at the White Salmon Vineyard in Washington. This September harvest was excellent--good ripe fruit with good pH and acid. The fruit have Brix of ~25, pH of ~3.6 and TA of ~.5 (full stats on this harvest here). The total cost with shipping for two buckets of frozen must came to about $384.00. This should give me about 6 gallons of wine--about 30 bottles. As you can see, this is not the cheapest way to make wine when the grapes alone cost me ~$13/bottle. Ah, but this is not about saving money. I want to learn to make wine. So, how does it work?

When they harvest the grapes, they get de-stemmed and crushed, poured into 6 gallon buckets and flash frozen. When a customer orders a bucket of must, they run it to the airport and ship it as freight on a flight to the customer's home city. When it arrives, the customer drives to the airport and picks it up, still frozen and only hours after it left the freezer.

So as my blog continues, I will document the vinification of my first set of grapes, my attempt at wine-making and my adventures trying to grow grapes. Keep an eye peeled here!


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