Monday, July 27, 2009

Cleaning Bottles & Racking The Apple Wine

Earlier this month I was learning about winemaking and preparing myself for the first batch. One of my big concerns was getting enough bottles. Since a typical batch of wine is 5+ gallons, and you'll get about 5 bottles per gallon, I would need plenty of bottles soon. This is when I turned to Craigslist, and posted a wanted ad for free wine bottles. I didn't really know what to expect, but I don't think I expected the amount of response I got. As they say, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. I got about a half-dozen responses, and decided to pick up bottles from three different people. All total I ended up with over 150 bottles. About 115 of those were green, most of the rest were brown or amber, a few clear bottles, and some other miscellaneous styles.

Over the last couple weeks I've been soaking bottles in large rubbermaid tubs with soapy water, scrubbing them out with a brush, and removing labels with a window scraper (razor blade). Having audiobooks and podcasts to listen to, and nice weather to enjoy makes the tedious work much better.

Here you'll see what the bottom of the carboy looks like a week after racking it into the carboy. The dark layer at the bottom is yeast and other suspended particles from the wine that have settled out. It's not finished by any means, but I decided to "rack" it again last night to remove the wine before the sediment begins to affect the flavor. I set up my equipment, and started a siphon to move it into my fermenter bucket, washed out my carboy, and transferred it back into the carboy to age & clear up some more.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Nursery Takes Shape

With the help of our mothers, the nursery was painted back on July 7th, and we've been working on filling it with furniture & supplies for Nathan's arrival in November.

Assembling the furniture was time consuming, but went rather well. I had to drill or re-drill some bad or missing holes, and cut one piece smaller so it would fit. Although I've come to expect some of that with any ready to assemble furniture, having tools at the ready certainly helps. A cordless drill is a huge time (and hand) saver for putting in most of the fasteners. Overall we're happy with the look of the furniture, and most importantly we're looking forward to the day we can put our son in his new crib.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Starting my First Batch - Apple Wine

After standing by watching my family do this for years, I've decided to jump in and try my hand at making homemade wine. Dad helped me get started with some basic books to learn about making wine, and I picked up a starter equipment kit from Midwest Supplies.

I've been reading through The Joy of Home Winemaking and learning a lot about making wine from fruit. As a beginner, the book explains the process well, and gave me a good enough understanding to get started. I can tell though that there will always be lots to learn, which should make this a fun hobby. I get to learn stuff, make some good, unique wines, and share them with friends & family. Not a bad deal.

For my first batch, I followed the advice of the book, and started with apple juice from frozen concentrate. Cub had frozen apple juice concentrate (100% juice) on sale, so I picked up enough juice, sugar, and water for a 6 gallon batch. On another trip to Midwest I got some good tips and advice from one of their experts, and a small shopping bag of more ingredients... tannin, pectic enzyme, yeast, yeast nutrient, and some other necessities. Overall, it was a pretty easy process... clean and sanitize the fermentation bucket and equipment, and dump everything in. The most effort was spent heating up water so I could dissolve in the sugar.

After letting the mixture (aka the "must") cool down to room temperature for a day, I added the yeast last night. I stirred it this morning, and with any luck, I should see some fermentation soon as it begins to bubble.

Now I just have to be patient, and find something else to fill my time while the wine does it's job.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kid-Friendly Coffee Table Conversion

Preparation for the new baby has created more opportunities for projects, and I enjoy an interesting project. We recently moved around some of our furniture, and moved the TV into the living room since we expect we'll want to spend more time there with the baby. Our coffee table has been a bit of a concern since it had a glass top. However, since it matches our other furniture, we didn't want to get rid of it either. So we got creative...

With Vinney's help, I picked up a 4'x8' sheet of 1/8" thick wood, and cut it down a little bit smaller than the original piece of glass tabletop. Beth found a nice looking (and cheap) piece of vinyl remnant from the fabric store. After a few days of careful gluing with spray adhesive, cutting & folding of the vinyl, and lots of clamping, we have a new tabletop! I think it turned out rather well, and since it matches the black legs of the table, it looks like it was meant to be that way. Now we don't have to worry about our son (or my feet) breaking the glass.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fourth of July weekend 2009

We kicked off our Fourth of July weekend on the Phrolic, my parents' boat. This was our first overnight trip, which we've been meaning to do for a long time. We arrived Friday morning in Red Wing, and traveled up the river and anchored, where we enjoyed relaxing and eating a great lunch with cheeseburgers on the grill.

Friday night Mom & Dad hosted a wine tasting dock party for their boating friends. Dad put out several varieties of his homemade wine and small tasting cups, and everyone brought good food to share. The wines and the party were a hit. There were enough people on the floating dock that it nearly sank under the water at the height of the party. I'm a fan of Dad's rhubarb wine and the mead (honey wine). We stayed up late, sat out on the dock, and chatted with their friends. We settled into our cozy cabin in the front of the boat for the night and slept well. It was a fun evening and a great way to spend my day off work. Thanks to Mom & Dad for being such good boat-hosts.

Saturday morning we filled up on eggs, sausage & toast, and hit the road for home. That afternoon & evening was spent at our friends Kevin & Ellie's house in Shakopee playing Wii, cards, and having burgers & brats on the grill for Kevin's birthday. From their house we were able to see the fireworks nearby, and watched more fireworks during the drive home. Thanks for the fun evening!