Winemaking

Wine aging in carboys

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Cherry Chocolate Almond primary fermentation

The pictures show wine aging in carboys, a bottle of Jalapeno Lime wine and Cherry Chocolate Almond wine in primary fermentation.

This has been a busy season for winemaking. I’m currently writing a home winemaking book for Story Publishing and have been creating new recipes to add to the list of wines I describe in the book. I have created 144 different wines in over 30 years of winemaking and only four of those are made from grapes. I will discuss all of these wines in the book as well as describe my method of winemaking which doesn’t seem to be very common among other home winemakers. Most of them use chemicals such as sulfites as well as other additives and are in a hurry to bottle and drink their wines. I use no sulfites or any other additives and age most of my wines in bulk for a least a year before bottling. I have become active in three Facebook home winemaking groups to share my experiences and see what other winemakers are doing. A few grow their own grapes, many use winemaking kits with canned grape juices to make traditional wines and most venture into making what are called “country wines” which are wines made from ingredients other than grapes. Some people are wildly experimental, including making wines from crushed candies like peppermint sticks and skittles.

I’ve used a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices and herbs to make my wines. My most unique wines are fermented from citrus and hot peppers, starting with Jalapeno Lime in 1992. I’ve since made more than 30 different hot pepper/citrus wines, some of them several times. Perhaps the most unusual wines I’ve created are Burgundy Kale and Garlic Chive Flower. I like flower wines and my favorites out of more than ten varieties are Dandelion, Elderflower, Jasmine and Vanilla Rose Petal. The oldest wine in my cellar is a 1986 Lavender. Out of more than 10 different herbal wines, my favorites are Sweet Basil, French Tarragon and Double Lemon Lime Basil which was fermented from lemons, limes, lemon basil and lime basil. The most unusual herbal wines I’ve made include marijuana … I do live in Colorado. I’ve made several wines with chocolate. The first ones were made with cocoa powder but I’ve since switched to using cocoa bean hulls which give a much better chocolate flavor. My favorites so far are Blueberry Chocolate Chocolate Mint and Orange Mole. There are several tomato wines in the cellar. The best one is called Tomato Italiano, made from heirloom tomatoes, onions, garlic, celery, bell pepper, basil and oregano. It is a beautiful wine that tastes like marinara sauce and is also a good cooking wine which can be used as a substitute for vinegar in making salad dressings. I served it once with an appetizer sword piercing a cherry tomato and a venison meatball calling it a Meatball Martini.

My recent wines since signing the contract to produce the book include Plumbarb(plum rhubarb,) Burgundy Kale, Mandarin Chocolate Chocolate Habanero, Cherry Chocolate Almond and Mary Jane’s Grapes, made with grapes and cannabis. I have several new wines planned including Tangerine Brainstrain(a superhot pepper I grew) and Chocolate which may become Chocolate Coffee. I will be growing several new hot peppers this year to use in hot pepper citrus wines: Brazilian Starfish, Volcano and Count Dracula.

I name all my wines after the main ingredients. My favorite names so far are Buddha’s Hand Cherry Bomb and Kumquat Kung Pao, both of which are hot pepper citrus wines. Home winemaking has enriched my life. I’ve given many friends the opportunity to stomp fruit. I have a large variety of wines to share with friends and always have at hand a much appreciated homemade gift for almost any occasion. I would recommend a home winemaking hobby to anyone interested in wine.

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Changing of the Seasons

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It has been a warm and dry fall until just recently, but the season has definitely begun to change.  The days are shorter and the nights are cool.  My outdoor activities have changed focus.  The trout pictured above are from my last fishing trip on the Cache la Poudre river a couple weeks ago.  Two were caught on a hopper dry fly and two were caught on a tiny #20 nymph dropper off of that large grasshopper dry fly. They will be smoked on the grill soon.  Fall has me switching time to hunting rather than fishing.  I didn’t draw a deer tag this year so I had to buy a leftover tag in an area I had never hunted before.  I went scouting there a few days before the season opened.  I didn’t see any deer and found some sign, including a couple fresh rubs which was important as I had a buck tag, but not near as much deer sign as I am used to seeing in my regular hunting area.  I carried my shotgun and did bring home a rabbit.

Opening day was predicted to be unseasonably warm, although it was plenty cold before sunrise, about 36 degrees.  There were several other cars parked at my spot when I arrived, letting me know there would be other hunters in the area. I was in place, before legal shooting time, watching those fresh rubs for the first couple of hours that morning.  I saw no deer, but did see several other hunters move through the area.  Before the day was through I would see 10 hunters, including a party of 5 that were hunting together. With no early activity around those rubs, I began exploring, still hunting and stopping to watch promising areas, taking time to sip coffee and eat some snacks while sitting.  I continued to see other hunters, but no deer and very little wildlife other than a couple rabbits and some birds.  At one point, while in deep woods I heard strange sounds from what had to be a flock of birds flying overhead.  I never did see them, but knew that sound.  It had to be a large flock of sandhill cranes.  That was confirmed when I heard from several friends later that day that they had seen large flocks migrating overhead along the Front Range.

By midafternoon I had seen no deer, but plenty of hunters.  I was beginning to think it might be wise to call it a day and come back after the weekend when there would likely be fewer hunters in the woods.  I had made a large loop through deep woods and was heading back in the direction of my car as I approached a large clearing.  Suddenly there were two deer, right on the edge of the clearing, no more than sixty feet away.  I looked at one through my scope and saw antlers.  They had seen me at this point so I quickly shifted my aim and shot.  That deer took off and disappeared from view.  The other ran a dozen feet and stopped to look at me again before taking off.  I ran forward and couldn’t find a blood trail where that deer had been standing.  I was sure I couldn’t have missed at that distance so I started a search.  I couldn’t find a trail in the direction he ran, but it only took a couple minutes of searching before I spotting him laying just inside the woods about seventy feet away from where he was shot.

I ran over and offered a prayer of thanksgiving to Mother Gaia for providing me with this bounty to feed my family. My circle of friends call this spiritmeat, and wild game meat is always treated with reverence.  After field dressing and bagging the liver to carry out to the cooler in the car, I hiked out to get my game cart.  I passed another hunter on the way.
When he saw me pulling my cart, he followed and asked if I would like some help.  This is common practice, even among hunters who have never met before and the help is always appreciated.  My first meal from this buck was fresh liver.

The garden is winding down and we covered it two nights ago from the first frost.  There are still a few tomatoes and lots of tomatillos and peppers still in the garden.  Our fall cool season crop has started adding lettuce, spinach and mustard greens as well as pea pods, shoots and leaves to our daily salads.  The flower pictured above is a toad lily.  We came across this while looking for plants to put in Cathy’s flower garden last spring.  We couldn’t resist pictures of the flower which described this as a fall blooming perennial.  The flowers are small, only a couple inches across, but is has been blooming prolifically for several weeks now.  We are still harvesting plenty of kale, rainbow chard, radish roots and greens, parsley, chives, carrots and basil from the garden for our salads and hope to continue picking salad greens for a while.

It has been a good year in the garden and our freezer is packed full.  Next weekend is elk season.  If I bring home a bull, we will need to either buy another freezer or trade some meat to a friend for some storage space.  The weather has been delightful with pleasant days, cool nights and we recently received some much needed rain.  It would be nice to get a little tracking snow in the high country where I will be elk hunting in a week.  Based on long range predictions, it may happen.  Knowing we have a plentiful supply of vegetables and venison in the freezer, the pressure may be off, but bringing home some elk meat would be a delightful bonus to this beautiful fall season.