Thursday, October 11, 2012

Winemaking Part II

Photos by OHventures

At the end of June of this year (which was Ohio Wines Month), I decided to embark on a journey in winemaking. Rather than purchasing hundreds of dollars of equipment and brewing my own wine at home (like my father does), I opted to take advantage of the handcrafted winemaking experience offered locally at Camelot Cellars Urban Boutique Winery in the Short North in Columbus. My first visit just over three months ago involved many steps to get the red stuff going! I had to sample a variety of wines, choose the kind I wanted to concoct, mix together the grape juice, and add additional ingredients (such as oak chips, yeast, benzonite, and grape skins). Part 1 of my winemaking experience was documented on the blog. Now, after 12 weeks of fermentation, it was time for me to start Part 2!

I will admit that Part 2 of my winemaking process was much more enjoyable than Part 1! There were 5 major steps involved: cleaning, bottling, corking, capping, and labeling.

1. Cleaning: The very first step (after throwing on a snazzy Camelot Cellars apron, of course) was to clean and sanitize the bottles in which my wine would be going. It was a rather basic process: I placed the empty bottles on nozzles that squirted water and a cleaning chemical into the bottle, and then I placed the bottle on a rack to dry. It was a simple, but very necessary step to get rid of any dirt, dust, or germs on the bottles!

2. Bottling: Next, Rick from Camelot Cellars hooked up the huge glass container that held my wine (a South Australian Single Vineyard Shiraz) to an impressive looking machine for bottling. The contraption (pictured above) had four tubes running from the container of wine to four separate dispensers. Pushing the wine against the dispensers would essentially suck the wine from the container, through the tube, and into the bottle, stopping at just the right spot so that it didn't overflow. I am not sure of the exact science and mechanics behind this fancy invention, but I knew it was much simpler than pouring and funneling each bottle of wine by hand!

3. Corking: Probably the coolest and most fun of the five steps was the corking process. Another fancy machine helped achieve this with ease and perfection. I individually corked each bottle by taking Camelot Cellars cork from a bowl of cleaning solution, and placing it in the top of the cylindrical device (pictured above). I then placed a bottle in the bottom part of the device, closed the door, and watched as - like magic - the cork was shoved into the top of the bottle. The machine was probably rather simple, but it still was fun to watch!

4. Capping: Capping the wine was next. The caps are the plastic material (or in some cases, an aluminum-type material) that are placed over top of the corks on the neck of the wine bottles which are peeled or torn off before opening. I was given a variety of cap to choose from, and I opted for a traditional red-colored "sleeve" with golden grapes. I placed the caps on each of the bottles, inserted the bottle in a apparatus with red-hot coils, and swifty and quickly removed it from the coils. In a split second, the plastic had melted onto the bottle. I had to be careful, as holding the plastic near the hot coils any longer would cause it to burn!

5. Labeling: The absolute final step in winemaking at Camelot Cellars was labeling my bottles. I had earlier (at home) drawn my very own label (and had it touched up in PhotoShop). I then emailed the image to Rick at Camelot Cellars, who then printed off the design onto stickers for me to place onto the bottles of wine. I had chosen the name The Red Mime Red Wine for my creation. This was because my childhood nickname with my family (that has stuck over the years, for better or for worse), was "Mime" because at a very young age, I had trouble pronouncing my name "Mike." I thought this was fitting, as most of the wine would be going to family and close friends familiar with the nickname. I was proud of the artwork I had created and admired it as I applied the label to each bottle.

I walked out of Camelot Cellars with a crate of 15 bottles of wine. It took time, patience, creativity, and some money, but I can proudly say that I made my very own wine from start to finish!


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