It started as a wine club with friends. It progressed to wine tasting at local vineyards, and with a nudge from her friend, Brenda Davis visited Von Klopp’s Brew Shop and purchased her first winemaking kit.
BEM’S BASEMENT WINE
With the purchase of her first wine making kit in 2011, Bem’s Basement Wine was born. Most amateur winemakers use ingredients from the kit because it’s easier; however, Davis uses a scratch kit and produces wine with local organic fruit that she grows or buys from the Amish. Her wine is semisweet and includes a variety of fruit combinations like strawberry and rhubarb, apple and grape or plum and cherry.
As she starts the process, Davis has her diary with recipes and notes from previous batches and a dining room table covered in sterilized supplies. While explaining her process for making wine, she refers to her recipe and begins mixing items into a large plastic container. She adds ingredients into the container of organic apple juice she purchased from People’s Food Co-op.
She says, “When I make apple wine I use organic juice because it’s too time consuming to core and dice apples for the mixture.” Davis measures ingredients and walks me through the process with ease. She says it’s not an exact science, like cooking.
Davis says her first batch was too sweet for her palette, but it has mellowed over time. Now she’s confident making wine even though the results are different from batch to batch. “Even if I use the same recipe from year to year, it takes on different characteristics depending on the sweetness of the fruit.”
VON KLOPP BREW SHOP
When Davis started making wine she ventured to Von Klopp Brew Shop. She continues to visit the owner, Wally Klopp, when she has technical questions. Klopp’s Brew Shop offers two types of kits to produce wine. The foolproof kits are juice kits and include grape juice. The other type of kit is known as a scratch kit. It requires the winemaker to steep their grown or purchased fruits in with the wine.
The price range for a beginner’s kit is between $100 and $175 depending on the type of wine and kit. Klopp says, “The items in the kit are the same items commercial winemakers use. Once people begin to make their own wine they realize it’s better than commercial wines. Homemade wine tastes like a $25 to $30 bottle but only costs about $4 a bottle to make.”
Klopp says, “There are two variables in wine making, sugar and acid. These items must be balanced to make good wine.” Kits include an acid testing kit to control amount of acid, which determines the mouth feel. “If the acid level is too low, it’s flat. If the acid level is too high, it has a sharp feel.”
The other variable tested is sugar in the juice, or must. Sugar is necessary to ensure the correct amount of alcohol. It can taste hot if there is too much alcohol in the wine. “If the sugar level is too low or too high, the wine is imbalanced and won’t age or taste proper,” says Klopp.
There are several other items that come in a starter kit besides sugar and acid. Recipes call for pectic enzymes, yeast nutrient, grape tannin, campden crush and cultured wine yeast. This mixture must be stirred daily. Then, the wine ferments and syphoning, or racking, occurs. Racking rids the wine of sediment.
One of the last steps before bottling is to add more sugar to reach desired taste. At this stage there is live yeast in the wine that creates carbon dioxide, so stabilizer is added. Klopp says, “Out of five gallons of wine, you’ll get about 25 bottles, and without stabilizer you will have 25 time bombs.” Then the wine is bottled, corked and aged for about three months.
PURPLE FOOT WINEMAKERS CLUB
Purple Foot Winemakers Club is an organization that helps winemakers. The group meets about once a month to discuss issues and share successes. Purple Foot hosts a winemaking contest at the Olmsted County Fair. Winemakers can enter free of charge. A small monetary gift is given to winners.
The organization also visits local wineries in the fall. They hire a bus and travel to three or four local wineries. Membership dues are $20 for a single membership and $25 for a couple per year. For more information visit purplefootclub.homestead.com.
Nicole Czarnomski is a freelance writer.