2015 Vintage – Fall Schedule

For all the returning wine club members, I hope that you enjoyed the last year in our inaugural Zinfandel Vintage.  I also hope that you are patiently waiting for your bottles to age though I’m sure you’ve had one or two by now.  But that is the past, and our attention shifts to the future, and the next vintage, Cabernet Sauvignon.

I have arranged the purchase of another 1,000 pounds to play with this year.  Since we just had a really big bottling party a few weeks ago, Leah and I are not going to have an official welcome party.  Instead, we’re going to request that some of you come over for some of the work days, which is more fun anyway. Feel free to bring a +1.  There’s a lot of work to do, and Leah and I can’t do it by ourselves.  I understand that some of you live farther away, so these are optional.  Please only come if you want to.  Here is the schedule for the coming weeks. Keep in mind the dates are subject to change based but should be accurate within a day or so.

9/17 (estimate) – Merlot Crushing and Destemming
Since we have a few new members, I’m trying to get some more grapes.  I’m dealing with the farmer directly, which is difficult, so this part may not happen.  I’ve found that Merlot is a very common blending partner of Cab, so I’m going to get about 300lbs of Merlot grapes to blend with later.  For the Cab, I’m paying a small fee to get them crushed and destemmed. But the Merlot vineyard I found is not providing that service.  Soooooo, I need to (a) crush the grapes and then (b) destem them.  I’ve never done this, so this is going to be a new adventure. We’re going to do the classic Foot Stomping method, hopefully better than her.  I’m looking forward to this one!  If you come to this one, please cut your toenails prior, and prepare to scrub your feet.  SWMBO is going to have very strict cleanliness requirements before your feet go in the grapes.

9/18 (final) – Cabernet Sauvignon Delivery
The grapes are scheduled to arrive on the 18th.  Last year I did this by myself, and it really really sucked.  My order had way too much weight in too few containers (300lbs in each fermentor).  So I have a few more smaller containers this year, and hope to move them back to our apartment a little easier.  Leah and I are going to rent a Zipvan and pick them up at after 6pm or so.  This is by far the least fun job, and I might enlist Ben’s help here, if he’s willing.

9/29 (estimate) – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Pressing
This is an estimate, the primary fermentation took ~10 days last year, and we’ll see how long it takes this year.  It might move up or down a day or two.  At this point, all the juice will have turned to wine, and we need to press the wine out of the grape skins. This job is probably the most laborious, and fortunately the most fun.  I really need volunteers for this one.  I had a lot of help last year, and everybody had a great time.  I’m going to rent the press for the evening, and we’ll press it all until it’s done.


That’s it, that is the schedule of events for the Fall.  Again, the dates are variable, and I’ll update this as they become more defined.  Everything will start roughly after work, around 7pm or so and will go until the work gets done.  We’re looking forward to seeing you many of you at these events.  I need the most help on the final pressing.

Keep in mind these are optional; come to work, come to hang out, and only come if you want 🙂

Invitation to 2015 Vintage

Exalted and Distinguished Wine Club Members,

If you are reading this, congratulations, you are part of a very exclusive group invited to be members in the LS Wine Club for the 2015 vintage. The selection process was rigorous, with many people not making the cut. You really should be proud of yourself.

The initial plan is to do the same thing as last year. We have all the equipment from last year, so we really just need to get more grapes. We plan on getting another 1,000 pounds of crushed grapes (perhaps more if SWMBO will allow it) in late September. We will ferment them in vats, have a pressing party a week or so later, and have a similar bottling party a year later. All of this can be yours for the low cost of $100.

Please don’t take this decision lightly. Please only accept this invitation if the following apply to you:
– You plan on staying in the greater bay area for the next 12-15 months
– You have continued faith that Landon and Leah are good stewards of your wine
– You actually like the wine that has been made from the last vintage
– You enjoy attending the parties and gatherings throughout the year
– Your need interesting hobbies for your online dating profile

The pertinent question currently is what varietal to buy. To please most people, I’m limiting the option to red wine, and it has to be different from what we did in 2014 (Zinfandel). Beyond that, you get a vote. You can find the full list of available varietals from our wine source here:

Likely options include:
Syrah – Amador – $1.00/lbs
Cabernet Sauvignon – El Dorado – $0.95/lbs
Petite Sirah – Lodi – $0.95/lbs
Cabernet Franc – Lodi – $0.95/lbs
Malbec – Lodi – $0.95/lbs

Note that price went up about 5% from last year; we paid $0.90/lbs for the 2014 Zinfandel.  What do you want? What do you hate? Please make your vote known to Leah and I and we’ll pick the winner. Also, If you’re interested in doing more, and want to partner with me for a small batch of something different, I’d be very open to that. Do you have a grape source?

Please formally let Leah or I know if you would like to accept your invitation to the LS Wine Club for the 2015 vintage.

Looking forward to another successful year …..

Bottling Party 2015

Summertime is upon us, and fall approaches fast. As such, your wine club membership and patience are about to pay off in a big way. Leah and I will be hosting a bottling party at some point in the late summer or early fall. Your attendance is required, so we are giving ample notice, and considerable options. We are considering the following days:

August 8th – Saturday
August 9th – Sunday
August 15th – Saturday
August 16th – Sunday
August 22nd – Saturday
August 23rd – Sunday
August 29th – Saturday
August 30th – Sunday
September 12th – Saturday
September 13th – Sunday

Can you kindly let me know your date restrictions and preferences, and Leah and I will figure out the day that works best for all/most people. It would be great to let us know *all* the dates that work for you, so we can pick a date that works for everybody. A comment below, or emailing us directly would be great.

The party will likely be midday, starting perhaps at noon(?). You will be required to bring 24 empty bottles and something to transport them in. Two wine cases is a good idea. There will be four stations set up that you will move through: (a) rinse, (b) sanitize, (c) fill, (d) and cork. You should give your bottles a light rinse after you use them so that the sediment doesn’t dry on the bottom. We will be providing the corks. If you are a bart person, and carrying two full cases of wine on bart would be tough, you are welcome to leave it at our place and we will deliver them to you later (…mostly full). Let us know.

Again, it’s important that you attend. If everybody is there, and does their share of the work, I imagine this will all be very easy and smooth. There will be well over 300 bottles total to fill. If you have any questions or issues, please don’t hesitate to contact Leah or I.

Spring Update 2015

Spring Party
Thanks to everybody who attended the Spring Wine Club Party. I have posted some pics below from Brittany. Here are the results of the blind taste test:

American Oak Single – 2
American Oak Double – 3.8
French Oak Single – 4.2
French Oak Double – 5
No Oaking – 3
Charles Shaw – 3.8

Heavier French Oak seems to be the favorite, and, apparently 2 Buck Chuck is better than our currently un-oaked wine :-/

Based on your expensive taste for Double French Oak above, Leah and I picked up some French Oak and added it to all the kegs accordingly. We didn’t opt for a double batch; we’ll leave it like this and reevaluate in a couple months or so.

Leah and I recently racked all of the wine around with the hopes of removing fine lees at the bottom of the vessels. There was surprisingly little lees at the bottom of the kegs to remove. There was, however, a caked on film at the bottom which was removed with boiling water.

We also subsequently did a sulfite test to see how much SO2 had been consumed since the last measurement 3 months ago. The answer, not a lot! Here are the currently SO2 levels:

Keg 2 (old Keg 1) 32 ppm – added 10 ppm
Keg 4 (old Keg 3) 32 ppm – added 10 ppm
Keg 6 (old Keg 4) 28 ppm – added 10 ppm
Keg 1 (old Keg 5) 120 ppm – added nothing, too high already
carboy – 42ppm

Learnings / Personal Notes / Future Work
The minimal loss of SO2 over ~3 months is surprising. I thought that there would be substantially lower SO2 levels, and accordingly more SO2 to add. The kegs are very air tight, and the amount of head space per 15 gallon keg is probably a few fluid ounces. It is really a good setup for safety.

This does pose a problem with Keg 1 and it’s 120 ppm. I was hoping that that number would go down to ~40 by the time of bottling. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m going to have to blend that keg with others to get all of them to around 50-60ppm and then let them dissipate in the coming months before bottling. We hope to do that in a month or two.

I feel that the racking we did Sunday was a big failure. We had to lift the kegs up in order to siphon the wine around. In lifting them, we really disturbed the lees at the bottom so that when we got to the bottom, there was almost nothing visible there. It’s a lot of work to fully rack all of the wine, and we didn’t get much of a benefit. So, all future rackings will incorporate the following:
(1) The kegs will be lifted and left for over a day to let the lees settle. Siphoning off that keg will be done without moving the keg at all. This will hopefully help keep the good wine around, and get rid of the lees and sediment.
(2) Previously, the “bottoms” of the kegs (residual liquid at the bottom after the racking), were poured down the drain. From now on, we will keep the “bottoms” and put all of them into a carboy. That carboy will then contain all lees removed from that racking. After a day, the lees should settle and I can rack off the top of that again. This will decrease the amount of good wine lost.

Your Future Work – Bottle Collection
Leah and I are tentatively planning a bottling day in August or September on a weekend. This is the most important day of the year and we really need your attendance. There will be about 340 total bottles of wine to bottle, which we really can’t do for you. We will give ample time, and have individual talks with the group to best fit the group.

You will be responsible for bringing 24 empty bottles of wine. You *can* buy new ones; they aren’t expensive, but Leah and I will secretly judge you. As you save them, you should rinse them to prevent sediment from drying onto the bottom. You should also get something to carry them in; two cardboard wine cases would be perfect. My recommendation, buy a case of wine and use that, all the bottles will be a perfect height and fit nicely.

That’s all for now, stay tuned for info on being a part of the 2015 vintage of the LS Wine Club …..

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Winter Update

After the pressing in October, there really isn’t much to do except wait. We filled the various kegs and other vessels, and are just waiting for them to get more awesome. Leah has worked fervently preventing me from “sampling” the wine too much; what can I say, it’s really good! One thing that we did recently was to rack the gross lees. Basically, we siphoned all but the bottom inch or so of everything into another container. That left the “lees” (sediment and dead yeast) at the bottom which we just poured out. We lost about 5 gallons of liquid from this, wow! You can check out the dumping of the lees here.  We are now down to four 15.5 gallon kegs, one 5 gallon carboy, one half gallon beer growler, and four 1 liter bottles …. about 68 gallons left.

Another thing we’ve been doing is monitoring SO2 levels. We had some issues with this, having trouble using our ridiculously expensive machine. We got poor readings back in December, and, unfortunately, I put in waaaaaay too much sulfite into one of the kegs. I did another reading recently, which gave more reasonable results. I then topped off the sulfite levels accordingly to get to a target of 45ppm. Here are the readings:

Keg 1 22ppm – added 23ppm – did measurement afterwards to validate addition/measurement
Keg 3 20ppm – added ~20ppm
Keg 4 24ppm – added ~20ppm
Keg 5 120ppm – this was the one with really high levels, no sulfite was added, obviously, time should lower it, blending might be needed if it doesn’t come down enough
Carboy 20ppm – added ~20ppm

Additionally, we just bought some oak cubes (American and French, both Medium+ toast). We are going to do small sample tests for a month and see which one is better to apply to the entire batch.

Looking to the future, we’re tentatively planning another wine party mid to late March. We have some out of town folks, so I’m going to try to cater the date to their schedule. If Leah will allow it, we’ll be doing a tasting of the wine, so you know for yourself how it is turning out. Look for an email from us about that when the time gets closer.

Beyond that, we have bottling. When, exactly, is very unknown, it will be anywhere between May and September. Remember, you need to bring your own bottles, about 24 of them. So, depending on how long it takes for you to get 24 bottles, you might want to start collecting. I know some of you will get 24 bottles quicker than others 😉 You should rinse the bottles after you use them so they don’t get crusty inside, and I recommend taking the labels off.

Dumping of lees after racking – movie

Wine Tower

Oscar guards the Wine Tower 24 hours a day; she’s not a fan of having her picture taken either ….


Wine Pressing Success

It’s been a while since our last update, Leah and I have been very busy lately.  After 12 days of fermentation, it was time to press the wine on September 24th.  I gave very short notice to the group to come over to help, and was able to get a few over.  This was GREATLY appreciated.  Leah and I really couldn’t have done it without you.  I left work a tad early to go to the wine shop to pick up the press, and somehow managed to get it home in my car.  I whipped up a quick dinner and people started showing up.  For none of us having any experience, or knowing what to do, we quickly settled into a groove.  Colin helped siphon the free standing liquid into the kegs to give us less volume to press.  He simply separated the liquid from solids with a plastic colander (that eventually broke; next time we should use metal). We did not fill a single keg with all free run. We dispersed it throughout however maybe next year we should record this as it will change the taste from keg to keg. Under the keen supervision of Dasha, Ben did a great job of loading and operating the press while Dasha monitored the runoff and poured it into the kegs using a pitcher.  We ratchet down as far as we could. Each batch took about 30 minutes from load to unload. Leah and I bounced around and helped out where needed.  And Shae did an awesome job of watching the Giants game and napping afterwards (see below).  As any good winemaker would, we all tasted the fruits of our labor (pun intended). The wine tasted young, sweet, fruity, not very alcoholic, and grainy. Its pretty bright red as opposed to deep purple. We did about 6 loads in the press, and everybody left afterwards.  Leah and I stayed up quite a bit cleaning the press and other equipment until 1am, and I returned it the following morning.  We had a full trash can of discarded grape skins which were quite dry (1/3 the starting volume). That was a lot of work, we were sore for a couple days, and really appreciate the help.

The end result is that we have four 15.5 gallon kegs, two 5 gallon carboys, and a couple other smaller glass bottles … about 72 gallons!  I pitched a malolactic culture the subsequent day, and that’s about where we are today.  Since there was a variety of sizes the amount per was a little rough. I have made one error thus far, apparently I’ve put in too much SO2 into keg #4.  It’s a little chemically tasting now, but that will dissipate in the coming months.  I have a very nice machine to help me with doing SO2 titrations, but I just can’t get it give me the reading I want.  The next thing to do is to rack the gross lees off in a month, which basically means to siphon off all but the bottom inch or two of liquid and sediment, and discard that.  Most of the work is over at this point.  Patience is the only thing necessary now; every day the wine is getting better!

Movie #1

Movie #2


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Initial Notes

We got the grapes last Thursday and they were very …. very, heavy.  I struggled mightily to get them around the driveway, in the elevator, down the hall in finally into our guest room.  I paid the store $50 to deliver them to our place, which was money well spent. I don’t think I could have gotten these in a van/truck even with the help of another person.  I wanted to weigh them to make sure I got what I paid for, but there was really no use.  The store put in sulfite for me; and they said that the must was 25.43 brix, 3.49 ph, .82 ta.  I didn’t verify any of that; I’m taking their word for it.  Upon the stores recommendation, I got 60 grams of D254 yeast which will apparently be “jammy”.  I put 6g / 100lbs of must at the 24 hour mark to wait for the sulfites to do their thing.  I sprinkled it on, waited 30 minutes, and then punched it down.  On day 3, I put ~1oz of yeast nutrients on top of the must, and sprinkled the other 1oz at the 5 day mark.

The temperature of the guest room is generally staying around 65-72 degrees.  Leah and I are taking turns punching the cap, in the morning, immediately after work and right before we go to bed.  Every few times, I try to really rotate the solids so the same grape skins don’t just rise to the top again; I try to push them down, and then pull up new ones from the center.  The cap is very hot, up to 95 degrees before punching.  Also, the cap seems to rise, and be punched down, by a magnitude of 5-6 inches or so.

Leah and I will be out of town for days 8-10 for 60 hours or so, so we hope to get some help so that the cap is punched once every 24 hours or so.

Equipment Ready To Go

img_0810The harvest is right around the corner, and Leah and I have been busy getting ready.  We procured 6 kegs for a total capacity of 93 gallons of wine.  We plan on putting the wine in these kegs for the bulk of the year for conditioning. Hopefully, we’ll be able to throw them under my parents house to benefit from the constant cool temperature, but moving a full 15.5 gallon is small crawl spaces is easier said than done.  The kegs were absolutely filthy and covered in beer gunk.  We gave them a very thorough scrubbing this past weekend so they are good to go.

We also purchased a sulfite detector, which was %$#%ing expensive.  Apparently, it’s the best you can get, so I hope to do this for many many years.  We put together a budget for the ingredients (what the club members pay for), which I hope to share soon.

We placed the order for the half ton of grapes.  We put down 50% so we’re committed.  We are going to get them in three 300 pound bins at the end of September.  So we might need some help getting them to our place when they arrive from somebody strong in the Oakland area, (cough cough BEN!!).

…. And speaking of committed, some of you haven’t paid.  If you haven’t paid, please send a check over my way.

Welcome To The Club!

First of all, welcome to the club! We have received verbal commitments from all of you, and a couple of you have actually paid. Thank you for your support and willingness to take part in this. Leah and I are really excited.

The first point of business to discuss is what are we going to make? We will use a wine making shop in Berkeley that has sources for grapes. They just provided us their price list for the season. We are thinking about the Zinfandel from Amador.  We will be getting 1000 pounds, so that comes to 95 cents, or $950.  Does anybody have any major objections to this? It will take a lot to change our mind, but let us know.

On a separate note, I am very interested in making a small batch of really really good Napa/Sonoma wine, perhaps Cabernet.  I’d like 100 pounds to make 5 gallons. If anybody has a grape source, let me know. I’m happy to pick it myself, and share some wine or money with the grape grower.  This is just a side project, if you want to be a part of it and can help, let me know.