Friday, September 12, 2014

"Wine is bottled poetry." -Robert Louis Stevenson

We found a wonderful place outside of Tampa, FL that allows you to make your own wines.  Luckily, with the Southshore Uncorked wine making shop located in Apollo Beach, FL for a mere $50 you will have the assistance of a professional and all of the sanitized tools necessary to make, ferment, and finally bottle and label your own creation!   Kathy and Steve Lieberman are the owners of this great shop, and with the help of Lora we made it look so easy!  Check out the fun we had and what we made!!!
First, you select your grapes (*juice).  These range from $50 to $200+ per kit depending on varietal, vintage, etc.   We liked a lovely California Trinity Red Blend of Cabernet and Merlot grapes which was around $100.  Keep in mind, this ends up making between 24-30 bottles of wine, so when all is said and done you have a fantastic deal to enjoy or give away as corporate gifts or to friends for under $10 per bottle! They have samples of many of the grapes so you can test drive your taste buds before you decide.

The first step is making sure that anything that comes in contact with the wine is sanitized.  You want to continue to sanitize everything as you move on through the wine making process including the fermenting container,  spoons, etc.  We the combined the ingredients together with our wine making pro and we followed the directions that come in the kit.  The first packet to go in contained bentonite, which is a clarifier.  

We then added  about a 1/2 gallon of warm water to the fermenter.  

Next, we poured in the juice from our kit and topped off our wine with water to the 6 gallon mark.

Then it was Rob's turn to stir everything together really well. This helps blend everything, but also introduces air to our wine. Air is a good thing at this stage because the yeast will need it to ferment the wine.

After everything has been stirred up, we added the yeast.  You do not stir the yeast into the wine because if you stir too hard, you are beating up the yeast. Just simply sprinkle it in, or pour it in and place the lid on top of the fermenter.  This is also a good time to add some natural oak for flavor - it will turn your wine into an oak barreled buttery concoction but will add depth and complexity to your grapes.

Fill an airlock half way with water (or vodka....) and inset it into the rubber grommet on the lid. This helps gases escape.  Place fermenter in an area that maintains a 65 °F to 75 °F consistent temperature.  

That is it, our part is done for about a month.... except for all the bottles we wanted to work on getting empty for our final product!
It was a labor of love getting those 30 bad boys all ready- lots of hot water, vinegar, baking powder - but it worked!  Of course, if you prefer less elbow grease, you can have Uncorked provide you bottles at around $1.69 each.  

Meanwhile, the team at Uncorked will transfer the wine from the primary fermenter into a secondary fermenter to leave as much sediment behind.  As the wine sits and ferments they add the additional kit ingredients such as potassium metabisulphite and potassium sorbate. These work together to kill off the yeast and stabilize the wine to help preserve it once you are ready to bottle.   Speaking of bottling time.... we got the call a month later and went to create our final product!  Time to sanitize the bottles!

This is a wine tree to aid in drying out the bottles after we squished them down onto the sanitizer sponge.

We began filling the wine right from the main fermenter through what looked similar to an iv line... after sampling some of course!  It was fun to move from bottle to bottle watching them fill to perfection!

Next we went on to cork the bottles.  They offer you unused corks (which they sell for a few cents each) imagine that- using the corks from my own private collection was not worthwhile - don't your leftover corks have holes in them too? ;)

Using their corking machine we leveraged ourselves and closed them up!  You can have Uncorked do all or some of these steps completely for you.... but what's the fun in that?

We washed the bottles off with glass cleaner and it was time to apply our custom made labels.  

We chose a photo of us in front of the vineyard from our recent trip to Napa and Sonoma and Robert added a special touch with our family crest right on the top!  This will still make for a great corporate gift to some of our business clients but with a personal touch!  You can use a generic label that comes with the kit, design and bring your own or let them design it for you based on whatever name, photo, idea you want for only $20!  

Applying the labels was very easy.  

And last but not least we used their hot coils to add a pretty top seal for a few cents more.  

We will be enjoying our lovely wine in only one more month and because they do not add any additional sulfites other than what naturally occurs with the grapes, etc it will hold on the shelf for 1-2 years.  Less sulfites means less headaches the day after - f you've ever drank wine in Europe you will know the value in less sulfites = more vino time!  
Our finished product is ready to go on our shelves!  Just in time for the upcoming holidays... 

Who want to go back with us next time and make some more wine?