Modern-Day Wine Production

Usually I am all smiles when writing this blog with my spouse, but I have a tinge of sadness today since our beloved Napa Valley in California has been besieged with flames of late. Many of our friends have suffered losses in their vineyards and the grapes are irreplaceable. It is a heartbreaking sight. We are all rallying behind these victims, helping to restore the vines for the next season. I wonder how the soil will react now that it is laden with ash. The fires last month were devastating, but it won’t stop us from touting the benefits of wine from a health and pleasure perspective. Life goes on. I will wait to take you on a mental tour of the local wineries and describe various types of wine tastings and the food that goes with them. There is a lot to say about wine appreciation and how to develop the right palate. You can learn a whole new vocabulary to express your opinion. All this will be a subject for another time. Today I want to talk about making your own wine when you don’t live in a glorious wine-growing region. Wine can be made in the traditional way in areas like Napa and Sonoma, but innovations have made the results much better in terms of flavor and texture. No, we don’t see people around here standing in barrels squashing grapes. Now we use air compressors from to perform the usual task of crushing and pressing the grapes. It is wonderful to have these shortcuts in modern times.

However, some of you might want to make wine at home, kind of like brewing bathtub gin. Ha! Seriously, you can buy starter kits with complete instructions. Once you have a few good recipes, you are ready to start. People who make their own beer often like to diversify and they attest to the efficacy of the process. Personally, I would rather grow the grapes. The result is much better. However, you need to buy oak barrels, sanitizing equipment, bottles, etc. It can be quite an investment. For a hundred dollars, you can buy a Master Vintner (I love the name) kit. I am all for it if it makes you enjoy wine more often. It goes with anything from pasta and pizza to lamb chops and fish.  You can get kits for different types of wine like chardonnay or cabernet. You get two 8-gallon fermenting buckets with drilled lids, a fermenter’s siphon and bottle filler with tubing. You also will find a triple scale hydrometer, corks and certain chemicals like sodium metabisulfite. If you use the recipe in the kit, you will already have everything you need.

Meanwhile now that the smoke has cleared and we have those glorious blue California skies back again, it is time to make the rounds and encourage the vintners here to carry on. Any words of support from you are most welcome.

Wine, Dine, and Swim

In our part of the world, people entertain. They want to share their vast wine collection. A swim party is not uncommon in the summer and early fall. People love to be outside near the vineyards. They make a glorious backdrop for socializing. Folks are friendly in our neck of the woods. It is not a greatly populated area and most locals know each other if they live in and around Napa. What a blessing to live in such a beautiful region, but of course the big attraction is the wine. Some vineyards have been here for decades or more. Others are new.

There was a time when everyone wanted to get into the wine business. It was surely for profit but also the cachet of being in an esoteric realm. Many people have become true experts and others aficionados. They are like groupies. Wine tastings are highly coveted and well attended. Tourists get the schedule and plan vacations around the best dates. You have to book early to get in. Meanwhile, a pool party now and then breaks the presumed monotony. For us, wine tastings are the heart of our business, but we also enjoy other activities as well.

We were planning one of these swim soirees so we checked out the pool to see if it was clean and the auto heating system operating in good order. We also checked the robot vacuum and it was just fine. Some people like to get in the pool early, even before dinner to help them relax. They don’t exactly swim laps but use it like a hot tub. It is an ideal setting for an outdoor event. Upon checking the pool, however, I noticed a tear in the lining of the above ground pool. These pools are not concrete and are fragile if over used. I don’t remember when this happened. It could have been months ago. You can still use a pool with a defective liner, but it didn’t look nice. So I hopped in the truck and drove the considerable distance to the nearest pool supply store.

Thankfully, they had above ground pool liners for my type in stock. I grabbed it and practically flew home. I didn’t have a lot of time and I would need to drain the pool in order to install the new liner. Then I would have to refill it and set the correct temperature. I had to give it time to reheat. I was so glad that I checked the pool at least a day before entertaining so I could accomplish the relining task. Sometimes I wish I had an in-ground pool, but honestly it wouldn’t have worked in the vineyard setting. The above ground style comes in various sizes and you can accommodate your property. I had many good places and finally chose one near a vine-covered pergola. Guests loved the hike they had to take to get there. It was truly so picturesque. We set up a grill so we could barbecue our dinners for these swim parties. Everyone always wants an invitation.