Archive for the ‘Apple Wine’ Category

Cellar Dream-Come-True


I knew when I built my wine and root cellars, that they would bring me joy – but I had no idea it would happen so thoroughly, so quickly. Today I made a batch of very, very large saucisson sec. It was time to try again after my last slightly hurtful failure, and the humidity in my cellar has been above 60% since early spring, largely having been resolve by 1) building a door, imagine that and 2) having a passive humidifier setup which is a bucket with salt water + a rag wicking water on to a flat rock on the floor = ~20%+ bump up in RH.

As I tied the links up in the cellar, I paused at the sight of copious quantities of saucisson sec, hanging above aging wheels of local goat cheese, themselves above many carboys full of urban fruit wine - and was thoroughly pleased to the core. It’s a dream-come-true, really. The cheese setup, btw, is a genius one – Holly at Smoky Valley Goat Cheese hooked me up with this idea: food grade plastic bin with lid, salt water on bottom, add rack, cheese on top [not touching water] = 95+% humidity. The humidity can be tweaked by simply sliding the lid open or closed. I had no idea how to achieve the necessary humidity for cheese ripening without the typical old-fridge-setup folks use. Problem solved.

I find myself ducking down to the cellar daily now – checking dry cured meat or smelling the cheese and checking out for any microflora action, topping up wine carboys or checking their state of fermentation, grabbing a bottle of wine or a jar of pickles, jam, or fruit syrup, or rounding up some root veg for dinner. Cellars are underrated – mine’s changing my life, and I think I’m only just starting to get the hang of it.

FROM LOCAL FARMS – En Santé Organic Winery & Meadery


A simple hard truth about living in Alberta: vinifera grapes don’t grow here. [yet]. As a self-professed wine snob, that hurts the feelings a little. For a time I felt pretty good considering the Okanagan valley ‘local enough’ to get my wines, but a recent drive reminded me that 14+ hours isn’t really all that local anymore. Not even all that close really. I arrived home after a punishing drive with small children to my apple tree in full-on-huge-red-apple glory, and  laughed at myself. 5 cases of wine awaited me from my tree alone. No need to drive that far, or at all.

I admittedly have become lightly obsessed with urban orchard wines, given the propensity for city yard fruit trees to produce literally tonnes of wasted fruit that can be had by all for free. [I tackled over a tonne of fruit myself this year, literally] Which, of course, made En Santé Organic Winery and Meadery a clear choice for my From Local Farms project. They had to build an industry for themselves to exist, and offer products that speak to the terroir of our region – highbush cranberry, rhubarb, saskatoon, and mead included. Xina, their winemaker, dives into a discussion about our cultural shift away from and back to regional flavors, challenges the notion of ‘conventional’ agriculture, and chats a bit about their apple wines, mead, and other products.

Making Apple Wine


I’d promised a video peek at how I’ve been making lovely apple wine from urban yard waste. Fortunately, Kristeva and Jessica volunteered to give me a hand, and they quickly jumped in and took over, allowing me to shoot a good portion of the process. If you have any questions about the details, ask in the comments.  [And pardon the profanity, but I just couldn't resist using this song. ]

Apple Wine 2010 – Round One


So what could one possibly do with 300-400lbs of apples from your yard – or perhaps your neighbor’s yard?! How much apple sauce or apple pie does one need? I propose the following solution: wine. My current estimate is that it takes about an hour to convert 100 lbs of apples into a carboy of juice – or about 2 cases of finished wine. So Saturday: 4 hrs of crush and press, roughly 4 finished carboys of wine, which will end up yielding about 10 cases of wine, or 120 bottles. Time well spent.

To take it a step further into economics-land, which I always tend to do, it’s important to note that results so far have been as good or better than commercially available fruit wines. So say $20/bottle. We pay a lot of tax on wine in Alberta, so I’d have to pay  roughly $20 to meet or beat the quality I’m producing. Assuming I’m correct on that estimate, 120 bottles holds a value of roughly $2400. Since the fruit was free - not only free but somebody’s problem that they were raking and putting in the trash to get hauled off – the rate of return on input costs, even time included, is rather high, I’d say. [Add to that, the crusher/press  setup I use is no excuse for barrier to entry - it's a home-made deal that anybody with some initiative could slap together. I posted about it last year.]

I had some great help this year on crush day, and was able to take some good video as things played out. So rather than get into ‘how-to’, I’ll defer to the soon-to-be-posted video for you to have a look at how we do it. Perhaps you too could be making apple wine soon. No apples? No problem. Go pick with these folks to get hooked up with fruit that others need picked, and help out a charity while you’re at it. I love win-win-win-win-win stuff.

Apple Harvest 2010: Round One


Good things come to those who ask. This spring, I was picking up some kijiji-found-cinder-blocks, and the folks who had the blocks happened to have inherited a city lot with an INSANE amount of fruit trees on it. So I asked. And today I received. A few hundred pounds of apples, which dented about 3/4 of one of their trees – and they have 6+ in their backyard. And they have raspberries, nanking cherries, saskatoons, evans cherries, and other fruits in significant quantity. Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton will need to pay them a visit.

Yes, some will be applesauce, some will be fruit for desserts, and some out of hand. But the vast, vast majority are about to meet their fate in my crusher and press setup – soon to be fermenting away into what appears may be a lovely white wine. The aromatics on this varietal, whatever it is, is reminiscent of gewurztraminer, but lacks acidity. Fortunately, when one has that many trees, some with two apples per, thanks to grafting, finding an acidic apple to pick up the slack is facile.

I’ve been waiting for this time of year for a long time. Last year’s apple wine was a tremendous success, and I ran out of my 3 cases quickly. Only a half case remains stashed in an out-of-the-way bin in my wine cellar for future years to track its aging potential. But round one of 2010 has begun. And I’ve got 2 other locations to pick at yet – then my own. I only have 10 carboys, I may have to go buy more.

So let this be the first but not last time of the harvest that I say: Ask thy neighbor, and put all that fruit to some good use. Please.