Pressing Red Wine (Pt. 2)

I know what you’re thinking. When was the last time my husband Robert posted? Well, I am pleased to inform you that Robert will be updating you later this week. In the meantime, let me entertain you with the dramatic conclusion of our press.

Ok, you caught me. It’s not that dramatic. It is traumatic, however. And I’m not even talking about our house this time. I’m talking about my ego.

Yesterday, I told you about how the press works and our annual tradition of drinking the previous year’s vintage. Well, it’s a lot of work. And everyone gets pretty hungry. Robert asked me to order pizza, which I did. He seemed overly concerned about us not hearing the pizza guy while we were in the back. He asked me approximately 32 times if I had put appropriate notes on the order for his cellphone to be called, which I did. But, if you know me, you know that I can be a fretful person. So, when Robert asked me this question repeatedly, my thought was: I am sure I did. But I probably messed this up somehow. And the pizza is never going to come. We’re all going to starve to death back here! And then I had a mental image of our bodies being discovered, covered in grape juice, and someone saying, “if only Caitlin had ordered the pizza correctly, these poor people would still be alive.” I thought I might be off the hook when Robert gave the pizza guy his number instead of mine. I could relax my watch.

Unfortunately, when Robert’s phone rang, everyone’s hands were full but mine. Shit. How was I in charge of this again? Well, I had to get to the front door as quickly as possible before the pizza guy gave up and left. Side note: do pizza guys even really give up and leave? How long do you think they would wait for, theoretically speaking? In my mind, he was going to give up after approximately one second. So, I leapt up the stairs from our parking pad into our mudroom AND….

I slipped on grape juice. I rocketed through the air like a flying squirrel with a broken wing, a wonky tail, high on crack, with nothing left to live for. Side note: I reserve all copyrights for future mega-hit Ernesto Highflyer: Nothing Left to Live For. I’m thinking a cartoon. I’m thinking tiny scarf and goggles à la the Red Baron. I’m thinking it’s unbelievable that no one has come up with this concept before.

Anyway, I saw myself plummeting toward the white wine we had just moved to a new carboy, sitting in the middle of the mudroom. To avoid crashing into our handiwork, I sacrificed myself, and simply took a header directly into the wall.

And then everyone asked me if I was ok, which if you’ve ever tripped or fallen, you know is the
last thing you want to talk about

I was fine, I got the pizza, and we ate it, and it was delicious. Plus, the good thing about embarrassing yourself is that it gives you free rein to do whatever you want to do for the rest of the day. Which in my case meant I drank two bottles of Abellie, all by myself. Honestly? It did really make me feel better.

The rest of the day was uneventful. I might not have mentioned it yesterday, but in red wine production, the timing of the press is one of the most important decisions, because it is when maceration ends. We use the Brix measurement to determine when the wine has reached complete dryness, and that is when we press. This year was a very good year for our red grapes. The overall ripeness of the harvested grapes plays a critical role in the quality of the end product. Last year, we were dealing with under ripe grapes. This year, our grapes were full ripe. A post on the mathematics of Brix, final alcohol percentage, and other science type things that would make Bill Nye proud is coming your way in the very near future.

After we collected the free run juice, which we’ve already discussed, it was time to press the juice out of out skins that remained. This meant setting up the ratchet system built into the basket press, which allows us to crank down the pressure on our grape skins to extract all of the juice left. This was a delicate move, because we want to make sure we get as much juice out of the skins as possible without cracking or breaking the grape seeds left behind. This can contribute harsh tannins to the wine. This was a three person job, with one person ratcheting the press, one person steadying, and one person holding the collecting bucket. One item to note is that we collected nearly as much juice from pressing as we did from our free run juice. In other words, we have approximately 5 and a half gallons of free run juice and 5 and a half gallons of pressed juice for each red varietal.

Even though we made them do manual labor, our wonderful house guests treated us to a delicious dinner at Thames Street Oyster House. We think they serve up the best seafood going in Baltimore right now. Oh, and I did I mention our house guests even made us a video: They spoil us.

Now our wine lives with our friends. It should be an exciting few weeks as we decide how and where to move it. The service we are using to find our long-term housing solution asked me plenty of questions about our retired racing greyhound, Sprocket. Maybe I should have mentioned we need a six-month to one-year rental for two adults, one dog, and 25 gallons of wine? Or maybe not. Maybe that sounds super suspicious. We will be really great tenants, scout’s honor! It is extremely unlikely that I will crash into a wall twice in one year*.

*It is extremely likely.


  1. Yay! Love the video. Your story about falling reminds me of that time I fell straight in to the glass window at the entrance of our favorite restaurant, Samos. Do you feel better yet? Are you laughing at the memory yet? LOL

  2. As the cameraman and editor (boy does that sound like I knew what I was doing! –not ) of the youtube video I feel I must give may Grandfather musical credit for the song at the end of the video. Raoul Bonnano was an Italian folk opera singer that traveled the country performing at Chautauqua concert series in the 20’s. I had always heard growing up that he recorded for RCA but had not heard any of his music. My cousin found a copy of his records at the Library of Congress and we were able to purchase a CD. Although I never knew him I am sure he would be glad to have anyone still hear his music- Clay

  3. I laughed really hard at your flight into the wall. I’m a bad sister, but the imagery is pretty damn funny. Glad you didn’t suffer any head contusions.

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