Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Convertible Club Makes Wine

When the newsletter for The Villages Convertible Club came out and I saw that there was a day trip to a make-it-yourself winery, I thought "where do I sign up?"   Over a period of two days there were eight different groups from the club (because we are 700 strong) signed up to create bottles of merlot, shiraz, chardonnay and pinot grigio.   I signed Denny and myself up for the shiraz; Denny only drinks white zin so I pretty much figured I'd get all the wine for myself.  Hee. 
 On the day of our wine making adventure, we gathered in the front room of the Corkscrew Winery in Ocala, Florida where we met the youthful owners, Joe and Kelli Carvalho. We were shown the "back room", where Joe built a 20 foot long table from recycled wood surrounded by twelve mismatched and reupholstered chairs.  The walls are lined with jugs of wine in various stages of fermentation that have been made by other groups.

Our wine starts off in a plastic pail surrounded by a wooden barrel and lid.  Our shiraz mixture is one of grape juice and pulp, pre-mashed and from Australian grapes.  Joe explains the process we will be going through while Kelli offers us samples of the varieties of wine they have on tap this week.  Joe and Kelli offer wine tastings and wine by the glass available during the evening hours along with small snacks.  The Corkscrew Winery also does special events such as a Valentine's Day wine making where they made strawberry wine, even allowing some folks to "stomp" the strawberries for the wine.  Today our experience was much tamer.  The group equally participated in the various steps of the process of creating the wine, from choosing how much to water down the grapes (not one iota because we were going for wine that had a higher alcohol content) to choosing the type of charcoal we'd add to our wine (since the wine isn't being casked, we had our choice of a variety of wood charcoals which would change the flavor and aroma of our wine) to reading the hydrometer which showed how much sugar was in the grape mixture to checking the temperature of our batch to make sure it was staying cool enough to adding the yeast which would add in the fermentation.  One of our group created our temporary logo on a brown paper bag so we'd know which wine jug was ours and then when our batch of wine was stirred one final time we all headed out to lunch.  We wouldn't return for our wine for eight weeks.

One March 18 the Shiraz group once again met at The Corkscrew to bottle our batch of wine.
We are bottling the Topless (for the Convertible Club) Shiraz.  The afternoon group has the Top Down Pinot Grigio.

Sanitation is paramount; we sanitized our hands and sanitized the bottles prior to bottling as well as prior to corking the final product.

Filling the bottles came next--it was a totally automated process once you placed the bottle on the filling station.  You simply pulled down on the top lever and the bottle filled itself with a tiny bit going into the overflow bottle.

Next up; corking the wine.  A simple press which required a little arm strength and keeping your foot on the press to hold it still.  Smooth as silk.

No classy wine is complete without a seal, so we picked out which color of seal we wanted,placed it over the end of the bottle and then slid the bottle into the heat lamp for a count of 4.

After the bottle cooled for a moment, we grabbed our labels and stuck them on our bottles.  Voila'.  Topless Shiraz, vintage 2014 and bottled by TVCC.

For those who aren't fans of wine, the Corkscrew Winery also has the capabilities of brewing craft beers--one batch makes about 52 bottles if you're a beer lover or if you want to get a group together to make some.  For the wine making, one batch of wine will come out to about 29-30 bottles depending on whether it is white or red.  Each couple took home two bottles and the remainder of the wine will be held for next year's annual party, giving the wine time to age since we added sulfites to the remainder of the batch once we had bottled some for our personal use.  Our group chose to only have the natural sulfites in our wine, meaning we will have to drink the wine before six months to make sure it doesn't turn to vinegar.  Some of the group said theirs would be gone by evening, so that was okay. ;)

This certainly was a fun way to spend the day outside of the bubble (an inside joke of Villagers.)