Make Your Own Wine

I’ve a new hobby. It may come to occupy me as much as pie. Why pie? The infinite types and techniques of crust, the filling variations, the styles both savory and sweet—pie is a playground one can frolic on their entire life without having gone down every slide. Pie used to occupy me and my food blog-addled mind so much that I entered pie contests. And held pie parties. With friends I made at pie contests. That is not hyperbole. I’ve had a lot of pie parties. But there’s a new rabbit hole in town: home winemaking. I’ve only made two batches, and there is so much more I wish to play with, from the type of juice, to the additions I could make (I do wish I’d tossed a cinnamon stick into the cranberry juice rendition), to the sweetness level…my imagination runs wild. And let me be clear: I’m not trying to recreate prestige vin. I’m just playing with fruit juice and yeast. Home winemaking kits came to my attention after chatting with a fellow Los Angeles wine person who designs the various bacteria and yeast that some winemakers use to get fermentation and malolactic conversion going. He told me he’d helped with some of the components in Brewsy, and I immediately wanted in. Sourdough and kombucha are played out. Time for fine wine. Or at least as fine as I can ferment it. I confess I asked Brewsy if I could have a sample kit, and they were nice enough to give me one and to give me a discount for you. If you wanna play along use the code Ellen15 on and you get 15% off yayyyy. Get on the playground with me. We can play tag. Except you WANT to be it, “it” being a winemaker. Immediately the rebel in me wanted to make TRUE orange wine. As in from oranges, not from white grapes that have had some skin contact. However, after consulting with my bacteria-designing friend on this idea, he researched for me and said a lot of people reported that the chemical makeup of true orange (juice) wine led to getting notes of vomit, so I’ve tabled the idea. For now. I mean, I hear the vomit smell compound is also the major component of Parmesan, which is delicious—wait… CAN YOU MAKE CHEESE WINE? That would be some CRAZY fermentation on fermentation action. But no. No no no, no no. I’ll let that idea stay an idea. For now. Instead, I decided to start with cranberry juice, as that is one of my favorite juices, and I had weird visions of wine infused Cosmopolitans in my future. From my first batch of wine (made of cranberry juice) to my second (made of pomegranate juice), there was enough of an improvement to make me want to keep playing with amateur winemaking. Much as I’ve devised many pies over the years, so I want to do with wine. It’s all about the process. Brewsy is a simple enough premise: you pick your juice and your sweetness level, use their calculator to figure out what amount of sweetener to add, add it along with a packet containing a mix of yeast, bentonite, malolactic culture, nutrients, and potassium bicarbonate. Seal it up with airlocks, let the hungry yeast gobble up the sugars for a few days, then refrigerate until the deceased yeast cells (RIP) have settled. I felt I could do it. DAY ONE: SUNDAY 9:15PM-MONDAY 9:15 9:15 pm—I pour off the recommended amount of cranberry juice, add sugar and the bag of Brewsy, use the air lock, and wrap the bottle in a towel. 11:17am Monday—Time to take a peak and give it a swirl! I peel back the towel and lo! There is a brilliant pink froth with candy cane colored veins running through it. Per the Brewsy suggestion, I gently swirl as they suggest trying to do a few times a day. I swirled without peeking a couple of more times that day. DAY TWO: TUESDAY MORN-TUESDAY 10PM My first swirl this day I don’t look. I’m scared. What if I am creating a monster? It’s a good thing I’ve never attempted human children. If making a fruit juice wine gives me this much anxiety, I’d swirl a baby right out of my womb before it was fully fermented. Grown. Whatever babies do before being born. On second swirl, I took a deep breath and peeled back the towel. My baby was looking a very healthy shade of fuchsia. A promising ultrasound albeit no sign of gender, but then I remembered gender is a construct, and it is up to my wine to decide its pronouns. DAY THREE: WEDNESDAY Come evening, it was time to transfer my baby cranberry wine to the refrigerator to stop the yeast’s fermenting fun, a process Brewsy calls ‘cold crashing’ at which point I decide to stop thinking of my wine as a child because nobody puts Baby in the refrigerator. DAY FOUR: THURSDAY Left that wine alone! I put my swollen ankles up, ate a pickle with peanut butter, and tried to relax. Oops, guess I’m still thinking this wine is my baby. DAY FIVE: FRIDAY NIGHT, 10 PM I read that Brewsy recommends decanting the juice to get rid of sediment. I poured the juice out (insert water breaking metaphor here) into a bowl, rinsed the sediment out, and poured the juice back. They say it can be done every 48 hours, up to 3 times. That gets rid of your sediment and carbonation. What if in human birth you could take the baby out, clean things up and put it back in until it is what you wish it to be? That would complicate free will and humankind in general, but hey, wine is nearly as labor intensive as humans. Or in another vein—is winemaking next to godliness? I decided to take a tiny sip, and underneath the funk I smelled potential. I decided to rack again in a couple days. DAY SIX AND SEVEN: SATURDAY AND SUNDAY I just let settling wines lie. On their lees. Even wine deserves the weekend off. DAY EIGHT: MONDAY NIGHT, 10-ISH The wine still looked slightly cloudy. Brewsy advises you may need three decants, and I am patient. In the meantime, I find this is great as a boozy alternative to my favorite mocktail: cranberry juice, ginger ale, and lime. Or maybe next time I brew I’ll add lime and ginger? No matter how these turn out, they have my creative mind cooking. I figure if I practice enough I’ll eventually reach some favorite recipes. I feel so empowered. TAKE TWO: PERSEPHONE I decided to heed an exact recipe. I also surmised the yeasty flavor that haunted my cranberry wine might be from the fact that the yeast packet is for up to one and one half gallons, and I was making a mere half gallon. I went with pomegranate juice this time. If you don’t know why I named this baby Persephone, do a shallow dive into Greek mythology and Hades. I apologize if you think I just told you to go to hell. Also, I have now named my wine. So much for cellaring my wine-maternal instincts. I tried to leave Persephone alone. I agitated the vessel a few times a day. My goodness she looked active. I could almost feel her kicking. At the end of day three (about 11:44pm Saturday) I put her in the fridge. Wished her the best as I hoped the cold didn’t trigger PTSD of her time in the Hades realm. Monday at 11:16 pm (confirmed night owl) I decanted and took a taste. Already more promising than my small-batch cranberry had been! The next day I tried a wine-loving friend of mine on it, and he declared "it’s good, it tastes like pomegranate juice but a little effervescent". I’ll take it! THE NEXT WEEK I tasted nearly daily and suddenly BOOM about a week and a half after the cold crash commenced, Persephone hit her stride. Like this is YUM JUICE. It tastes like, well, pomegranates but also bread and…well it is mostly jam on bread, but jam and bread is one of my favorite food groups. Persephone, I cannot blame Hades for wanting to hold you even just a few months of the year. But as your parent, please stay with me at least until I finish drinking you. Oops, I suppose I should probably stop referring to you as my progeny. Wait! There is a trend of women consuming their placentas; what if drinking your homemade wine is the same? Oh my. I’ll leave this line of questioning. The question is, what to do with my last packet of yeast and such? And what will you make? This is fun. Keep in touch kids. Tell me what you create. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Winter Whites Wine For Kamala Women in Castles Down by the Loire River Whole Wine - Pairing Optional Goth Wines for the Perennially October Soul Back to School More Than Port It’s a Can-demic Ellen in Lalaland Pandemic-Style You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! 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