Making Homemade Wine + Growing Grapes = Homestead Happiness
We have always had a love affair with fermenting things here on the homestead. It all started years ago with our first batch of pickles, and then moved on to sauerkraut, beer and most recently wine. The real draw for us is making things that you can’t buy in the store. A fresh batch of homemade kraut is unlike anything you have had before. So a few years ago we decided to up our game and go after the holy grail of fermenting, making wine. We did not just want to make wine, we wanted our own vineyard. Although we don’t have much room and equipment, we have found that if we do things in small scale, we can reach our goals, so our vineyard started with 50 vines tucked into a corner of our homestead. We ordered our vines from a grower in our state and chose Marquette grapes, because they were cold hearty, and could make a wine similar to pinot noir which we both enjoy. We also have a few Niagara vines for jelly making. Since being planted, the vineyard has become a kind of oasis. We often stroll through it at dusk with a glass of wine and talk. Or sometimes we just sit on a bench and appreciate how happy we are.
As luck would have it, the perfect place for the vineyard was adjacent to the chicken run, so the girls could fertilize and mow the grass. This year we added some lucky ducks to the homestead. They spend their days wandering the vineyard and eating up bugs.
The vineyard is beautiful in every season. And it is one of the first places that shows signs of life in the spring.
The vineyard requires pruning in order to produce grapes that will be sweet enough to make good wine. We even made a short video on pruning.
Now for the fun part, the grapes as the season goes on and the grapes mature you feel a sense of excitement. Bunches of juicy grapes hanging from a vine are a beautiful sight.
Soon it is time to harvest, we wait for the grapes to reach full ripeness, and test them for sugar content every few days. We have found out that once the birds start eating them, it’s a sure sign that they are ready to go. Harvesting grapes is so satisfying, it is a just reward for all of your hard work.
Once harvested the stems are removed and the grapes crushed slightly. We then place them in a bucket with wine yeast and top with a fermentation lock. Red grapes are fermented and then pressed, White grapes are pressed then fermented.
After about ten days, the grapes are pressed and the liquid placed into a glass carboy with a fermentation lock. Then it is time to wait. Every two months we rack the wine, which is moving it to a different vessel and leaving the sediment in the old container. This helps to clear the wine.
After several months it is time to bottle, the wine will still be young but it will begin to taste closer to the finished product. Bottling is always a satisfying time because your work on this wine is done. We let the wine age a year or so before we drink it and this past year, we were lucky enough to win second place at our county fair with our entry.
Then after a year it is time to enjoy the fermented fruits of your labor. Making wine from grapes is a true test of patience. It takes forethought and vision. It has shown us how to plan better around the homestead. Looking at a finished case of your homemade wine is every bit as good at looking at a freezer full of pork. We have learned that in life if you have a dream or want something, it is always attainable, as long as you do it on a small scale. Our dream of owning a vineyard has come true, just not the way they show it on T.V. It is OK to dream big, but never forget that it is the small things that make you truly happy.
Marquette Wine Recipe
- Pick and remove stems and green grapes.
- Crush grapes slightly and put into fermenter
- Check Sugar content (brix)
- If brix is too low, add sugar, we shoot for a brix of 23 or higher
- Add a packet bourgovin rc212 yeast per 5 gal
- Top with fermentation lock
- After vigorous fermentation ends squeeze grapes and discard skins and seeds
- Put into glass carboy and rack monthly check gravity to see when your wine is finished fermenting ours finished a 0.990
- After six months bottle wine. It is best to wait a year to drink it.