Tasty whites

We’ve begun the bottling of our 2016 white wines.  So far we have 2 cases of muscat, 4 pinot gris, 4.5 of viognier, and 4 of sangiovese rose bottled.  Michael is still doing some adjustments with the sauvignon blanc, so we will likely bottle that the beginning of June.  The chokecherry is coming along as well and we may bottle that in early June too.  All are looking beautiful and tasting great so far.  It should be a terrific summer of wine on the deck – if we can ever get to summer.

Finally getting to a new posting

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last posted and much has been happening in the winery.  The 2015 wines are tasty. We had a sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, rose, cab franc, malbec, merlot, petit verdot and cab sauv.  The petit verdot was particularly surprising and good.

We had an interesting experience with our apricot wine.  It seemed a little too tart so we added some simple syrup to sweeten it and lessen the acid.  However even with filtering it restarted fermentation and we ended up with some popping corks.  We unbottled everything, which was like pouring out shaken bottles of beer, and let it finish out fermentation again.  For our wine club competition we entered 3 of the apricots of varying levels of sweetness; and the one that we didn’t add any extra sugar to won 1st place.  The sauvignon blanc and cab sauvignon both came in second place.

Michael and Leann, along with friend and fellow winemaker Dawne started on a 3 year process for becoming certified wine judges through the American Wine Society.  We also started a local chapter of the American Wine Society and have had a lot of fun with monthly meetings/tastings.  Our group grows monthly, and anyone is welcome to join.  In November 2016 we attended the AWS National Conference in Costa Mesa, CA.  We had a great time at the conference and passed our 1st year exams for the judging program.  Michael won a bronze metal for his malbec (50/50 2014/2015).

The 2016 wines are coming along nicely.  For whites we have muscat, viognier, sauvignon blanc, and pinot gris.  For reds: cab sauvignon, merlot, and malbec.  We also are doing a sangiovese as both a rose and a full red as part of our wine club competition.  We still have chokecherries in the freezer that need to get started on their wine journey soon.

Things are pretty quiet now with Michael just doing testing and racking.  We should be ready for bottling the whites in April/May.

Hopefully it won’t take me another 18 months to do another post!   Happy tasting!  Leann

Bottling beginning!

The 2014 whites and rose are ready to be bottled and enjoyed for the summer. We have pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, and viognier.  The rose of syrah ended up a little dark – like a light pinot noir, but still tasty.  We’re bottling over memorial day weekend.  And good news on the trouble child syrah – its turning out very nice!

2014 Whites and Rose
2014 Whites and Rose

Michael’s winemaking notes part 2 – my sweet, stuck syrah

April update….

In my last update, I was retesting the SG, pH, and TA of all my wines and making sure that all of my equipment was truly clean for the season. Well I found out that my syrah had not finished with the primary fermentation; it was “stuck”. I have syrah in three different containers, the specific gravity (SG) readings were, Tank #1 1.010, Tank #2 1.001 and #3 1.006. This is a big spread from the same batch of grapes.

So why was the syrah stuck? I think the main reasons are that the brix were too high, at about 27. I should have watered the wine down to 24. In addition, I was out of town and was not monitoring and feeding the yeast, as I should have been. I quickly made a few calls to confirm what my next step should be, and all agreed that I needed to do a restart.  I have never done a restart before so I went to Winemaker Magazine.com and to Scott Labs.com to find the best procedure. Scott Labs had a good print out for the step-by-step procedure. Both web sites said the same thing but Scott Labs was easier to follow.

I will just give a quick overview of what I did. I am not giving amounts, because they are based on volume of the wine. So my numbers are based on my volumes. First, I added yeast hulls to help remove toxins from the wine 24 to 48 hours before the restart. When yeast struggles to finish due to bad conditions, they produce unwanted compounds in the wine.  After the 48 hours I racked it off the lees. Next, add half as much yeast hulls and start hydrating the yeast. The recommended strain for this is Uvaferm 43.  This is where you need to read the steps carefully because this yeast is going into a low sugar, high alcohol environment and you do not want to overfeed the yeast. The next step is a slow process designed to prevent the yeast from going into shock in this high alcohol low sugar environment.. I mixed a small amount of wine into the yeast and waited 20 min. Then I added 5% of the wine volume and an equal volume of water into the restart bucket and added yeast starter. Wait 30 min add 10% of wine volume, wait 30 min add 20%, and wait 30 min repeat this until all the wine is in the new fermenter. The wine should be warm, about 70° F or more; the range for this yeast is 56-95°F.

I had no clue how long this was going to take or how long it should take. There is no big foaming head, just a few small bubbles each day. However, this is how it went for me and the temperature was about 65-75°F. Make sure to correct for temperature with the hydrometer. Warmer wine is less dense than cold wine and most hydrometers are calibrated to 60° F.

#1 start 1.010, 1 wk,1.008, 2wk 1.007 3wk 1.005

#2 start 1.001, 1wk 0.999, 2wk 0.999, 3wk 0.999

#3 start 1.006, 1wk 1.004, 2wk 1.004, 3wk 1.001


Tank #2 got to dry”0.999″,but there is most likely still residual sugar in the wine,  so I quickly put it back into the tank to protect from oxygen.  But what to do about the other two batches of wine? Well, I was planning on making a Cab-Syrah-Merlot blend anyway so I thought, why not now? I had a small blending party to get some input on what percentages to do and this is what we came up with, tank #1 69% Syrah 15% Merlot and 16% Cab Sav. Batch #3 70% Syrah 13%Merlot 17% Cab Sav. Both the Syrah and Cab Sav are 2014 and the Merlot is from 2013. I blended the wines hoping that the blend would drop the SG some more and give it more acid, but wanted to wait a week to give it time to work things out while I was out of town. One week later, it was time to check on the wine and to my surprise, the two blended batches of wine were bubbling away. “It’s fermenting again!

I had to wait a few more weeks for the bubbling to stop. I now have the results for tank #1 and batch #3. Tank #1 the SG is now 0.995 and a pH of 3.79.  I am adding 50 ppm SO2 and adding tartaric acid in small doses until the pH and taste is where I want them. Batch #3 the SG is now 0.994 with a pH of 3.81, I will do the same as I did with tank #1 with the SO2 and acid.

I am not sure what the future will be for tank #2. I need to buy a clinitest to test how much residual sugar is still in the wine.  I may bottle some of it as an almost off dry wine and save the rest for blending with next year’s grapes. If I do that, I will add it before new grapes are done fermenting so that any sugar in the syrah can be converted.

Michael’s winemaking notes part 1

What’s Been Going On In Michael’s Winery? (January update)

At the end of January I was doing some cleaning and rearranging in the winery to make the area more open when I found out that two of my primary fermenters had an odor. Over time one small spot of wine juice can spoil and lead to problems the next fall. Some dust and dirt will wash out easily but not moldy spots. So I cleaned all of my primaries with Oxyclean and StarSan again and made sure to check under the lip and all corners.

I inoculated my red wines with a malolactic bacteria back in October and have been testing the progress with a chromatography test kit from More Wine. The wine in the steel tanks is done with the malolactic fermentation (MLF) but the wine in the glass carboys is not. The wine that is finished with MLF was sulfited to 50 ppm and I added argon gas to stabilize the wine and will rack soon.

So why wasn’t the wine in the glass carboys done? Well, I had last year’s wine that needed to be bottled up on the countertop and the new wine on the floor. With the big cold snap the wine got cold due to the fact that I had not finished insulating the winery. The cold from the cement floor and the fact that cold air sinks were the difference. The wine was too cold to complete the MLF process like the tanks could. I now have two heaters in the winery and I finished insulating the walls.

Last year’s wine is now bottled and the new wine is up on the countertop where it is much warmer. Hopefully the new conditions will get the carboys to finish with MLF so I can start racking and sulfiting the wines and can get to other projects in the winery/shop this winter.  I just retested the specific gravity (now that more solids have dropped out), pH, TA, to see if things have changed after MLF or for any other reason.

We’re still here!

Hi everyone,

its been a while since I posted, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy with the winemaking.  Michael’s been busy with testing and making sure the wines are behaving themselves.  He’s had an interesting experience with the syrah this year, which we’ll post about separately.

Currently we’ve got some nice batches of pinot gris, viognier, sauvignon blanc, and plum going for whites.   All but the plum should be ready to bottle and enjoy soon – just in time for nice weather!   For reds we’ve got syrah, malbec, cab sav, and agria.  Due to the issues with the syrah (to be discussed later), we ended up blending most of the syrah with merlot and cab sav.   They’re turning out tasty, but likely will need another year to mature.  FYI the funky foil bubble wrap is to keep the light off the glass carboys.

2014 wines as of April 2015
2014 wines as of April 2015
2014 reds April 2015
2014 reds April 2015

We were lucky to have 3 tanks on loan from friends.  We will be buying one of them from our friend Dawne, who’s going more to barrels.  Its our 10th wedding anniversay – and aluminum or tin are the traditional gifts – but we’re going to stretch it a bit. Of course the gift for 11 years is steel, so Michael will likely use that as an excuse to get another one.

Tanks of yum
Tanks of yum

Michael’s also been busy with organizing the shop to make it more winery friendly. The plastic sheeting is to keep it warmer through the winter.

The leaves are starting to come out on the vines, getting us thinking about grapes for next year!

Pinot Gris April 2015
Pinot Gris April 2015

More to come soon!



There’s light at the end of the tunnel, some space to walk in the winery, and good wine in process

Ask any winemaker how they’re doing this October and most will say crazy, busy, tired.  With our hot, dry summer and terrific weather through September the grapes were just crazy and all were finishing quick and together.  Michael’s been working out of town during the week so it’s made it even busier on the weekends trying to get everything done then.   This is the time of year that reminds us why we don’t want to go commercial – and magnify this craziness 10 times.    It has been a lot of fun and our friends have been really helpful coming over with little notice to help with crushing, pressing, sampling, and the not so much fun parts of winemaking lifting, cleaning, etc.

Last weekend was really busy.  It started Friday with Michael and Dawne bottling several cases or our 2013 wines: merlot, cab franc, and malbec.   He left several gallons of each for us to blend.  Then Friday evening we pressed the syrah.  This was an experience because it’s getting dark early now and makes for a challenge cleaning in the yard in the dark.  Note to selves for next year – mount a flood light for the carport and yard.   We had lots (about 9 gallons) of sludge left from the syrah pressing. And not wanting to let a few bottles get away, Michael decided to see if we could get some more out of it after it settled.


milliepressingsyrahThe following day we helped out our friends Dawne and Mark at her winery, Moose Canyon.  She was bottling 27 cases of bordeaux blends from her barrels. She has a really cool/fun bottling machine that fills 4 bottles in 19 seconds.  Much easier/quicker than the 45 seconds for 1 bottle with our siphon method.   This was a great time with lots of friends, food, and wine.  This was followed up by pressing at her house on Sunday.




Sunday morning we went down and picked about 150 pounds of grapes in Puyallup.  Sharon’s husband unexpectedly passed away earlier this year.  He has 5+ types of grapes growing in his yard.  Earlier this summer we bottled some of his wine that he had in process for the family. Michael is still working with his pear wine and we hope to get that bottled in the next week or so.  The grapes we picked are similar to the agria that we are growing in our yard.  We think they may be “Golubuk” based on the description in the nursery catalog.  The name means “little pigeon” in Russian.  It is also a tino or teinturier grape like our agria.  That means that the juice is red as well as the skins.  Most grapes have clear/light juice – and the color in the wine comes from the skins.   We hand destemmed and crushed these grapes in the afternoon Sunday, while watching the Seahawks game (unfortunately they lost).  This is quite a messy process because of the red juice.    We added almost a gallon of agria grapes from our yard to this wine.



Today, Sunday 10/19 we pressed our Malbec.   Then we strained the syrah “sludge”.   We got an additional 4 gallons of non-sludge juice to add to the wine!  Well worth the extra week and effort.   That still left 4+ gallons of alcoholic sludge for the birds.

pressing malbec20141019_111445


Since it was dry and sunny Leann spent some time cleaning up the gardens – getting rid of the dead squash vines and grape clusters.   The leaves are getting gorgeous.  These are our agria grapes.

Agria fall leaves
Agria fall leaves
Agria fall leaves
Agria fall leaves


So that leaves us down to just the cabernet sauvignon and the golubuk/agria still working on primary fermentation – and needing daily punch down.  The rest are settling in nicely in their tanks or carboys going through malolactic fermentation. Our plan for next weekend is to press the cab and golubuk (will need to come up with a good name for this one).  We’re also looking at playing with blending the 2013’s and bottling.  Michael is also going to be adding oak to the reds next weekend.

I think that’s about it for the updates – so far.  The wines are coming along great and should be tasty – in the next 1-2 years!

Everything should be settling down by the end of October.    Take care everyone!  Leann



Wine Label a Winner!

A big shout out to my sister Lore Mayr who designed our very cool Chorus Frog label.  Our label won the People’s Choice Award for the Open Wine Division at The Washington State Fair for 2014.    We’ve gotten a ton of compliments on it.   Our good friends Mary and Jerome Robbins also tied for first place with their label – with a picture of their laughing dog Mitzi.

Chorus Frog label wins People's Choice Award at the Washington State Fair
Chorus Frog label wins People’s Choice Award at the Washington State Fair

Winery Schedule

If anyone would like to join us for some fun with winemaking this weekends here’s the plan.

Friday 10/10 – Michael and Dawne are going to be working in the winery during the day bottling some of the 2013 Malbec, Merlot and Cab Franc.   At about 630 pm we’re going to have a pressing party to press the syrah – and maybe the malbec depending on how its coming along.  Leann’s going to pick up some pizza and munchies if anyone wants to come by and help with the pressing.  Its really not much work – and involves a lot of fun and tasting of both food and wine.

On Saturday and Sunday we’re going to be helping out Dawne at Moose Canyon Winery ( a short 1.8 miles from our house and Michael’s winemaking buddy). On Saturday we’ll be pressing her syrah and likely the malbec too. On Sunday we’re going to be bottling about 25 cases of her bordeaux blend.  She got a cool little multi-bottle bottler this year to play with, and will also have “stations” set up for corking and “foiling”, plus the typical eating and drinking support of the winemaker assistants.

Stay tuned for the following weekend plans as we’ll be needing to press the malbec (if not done this weekend) and the cabernet.

This past weekend we had a great time with our wineclub crushing/destemming the cabernet and crushing/destemming/pressing the viognier for the club competition.

crushing wineclub sauvignon blanc
crushing wineclub sauvignon blanc


The ever “fluid” winemaking schedule

Just as we think we have a plan, this year’s crazy harvest changes it once again.

The cabernet sauvignon and the viognier we’re getting for our winemaking club competition is ready.

Michael will be picking up on Friday Oct 3.  Saturday am we will be crushing the cabernet and crushing/pressing the viognier.

We are going to follow this up with a little tasting and blending party.  We’ve got to get some of the 2013 vintage into bottles to make room for the 2014.   We’ll be tasting and playing with blending the malbec, cab franc, and merlot.   Anyone interested is welcome to join us.

The syrah looks like it may have another week yet on fermenting, so we’ll keep everyone posted on the schedule for pressing that.

This picture of “baby puke or poop” is sauvignon blanc and pinot gris going through primary fermentation.  In 3-6 months it will be lovely and tasty – we promise!  The second photo is the pinot gris from last year in the spring before bottling if you don’t believe.