A Small but Robust Sticky Crush

Yesterday we picked out first little crop of Vidal Blanc grapes for wine. We hauled everything out through the orchard into the teensy vineyard (10 vines to pick),  set up the harvest table, (made from old recycled barn timbers) and numerous vessels. Gathered the troops and began. This is our first pick of these grapes so no-one knew what we were going to get. I was thinking if every grape is a milli-sip then I probably would only have one bottle of wine in there. I was the only one allowed to cut the bunches because I am mean like that, so in I went with my clean garage sale enamel basin and my sharp snippers and was pleasantly surprised.

I have picked grapes before. But never in an organic micro vineyard and (sorry Mandy) There were creepy crawlies. Spiders! Many different kinds of spiders and their webs. And Earwigs.  I hate earwigs, ever since my mother told me that if I did not make my bed every morning the earwigs would slither IN! Slither is a horrible word for a little kid. In where? Where will they slither? EARwigs! Will they slither into my EARS!? Absolute  open mouthed horror. I still rapidly make my bed every morning and tuck it in tight, they only come out in the morning evidently to test your bedmaking skills. Apparently the grapes are terrible at bedmaking.  Anyway we were talking about spiders. I have not put up a photo of any spiders as I do not want to be the cause of an ‘incident’.( i.e chgjohn running screaming down the hall in his jim-jams followed closely by a mystified Max and a wild looking parrot) But Our John began to wonder if the webs were going to help with the taste. Well I said they are organic webs!. Then those little fella’s,  those tiny yellow and black striped bugs that hover like aliens and LOOK at you.  I hate it when they look at me.   I call them spit bugs.   And those other nasty little insects that eat HOLES into your fruit.  Hideous!  However I am hip with that. ( I love that term though really I have no idea what it means!) Bugs do not bother me. Spiders in the bunches are not a problem. Ladybirds are kind of sweet. No-one ended up in the juice. I am sure they all washed their feet so all good. But wait there is more! 

I have to tell you right now NEVER try to crush your wine on the same property as three overfull vigorous active bee hives. On a good day each bee hive houses more than 30, 000 bees sometimes a lot more and yesterday they all wanted grape juice! I did not feed them their sugar water because naively  I thought maybe they would go aroaming far away searching for food and not be a bother. But as we de-stemmed the bunches and the juice began to seep out – we were harrassed, bombarded, buzzed at, stared at, shoved along, shouldered aside, tickled and gently terrorised by insistent little bees. To de-stem you grab a bunch and run your hand down the stem pushing  the grapes off into another basin but we had to examine each bunch for naughty bees before each movement.  It became a little tense. 

So eventually  we were forced to become crushing gypsies and began to move about the gardens. We would set up again and then we would  work quickly before they found us. Each time  we moved we would have about a 20 minute hiatus before we were discovered by one of those dreadfully efficient scout bees who would rush back and tell on us.  I had a special spoon for gently removing  struggling bees from the wrong containers. They just wanted a little drink.

However we had many more grapes than I had at first thought.  No-one got stung. We had lovely big piles of fruit. Plenty to go around. So we proceeded  to the first crush stage.

No-ones feet came up to standard so the  preliminary crush was done with terribly clean hands!  I know it was a cop out but that whole feet thing.. mm. Well. I would not mind so much if they were Young feet or possibly unused never been in socks feet. But in the absence of a barefoot baby to gently dip in and out and stir about, we used hands.   There was talk of a potato masher but it was only talk. The hand crushing thing was curiously compelling.  

So our destemmed grapes were crushed lightly just to release the juice, then left to sit (covered and hidden from the bees) in all manner of large containers for an hour.

Then into the press. John found the press in the basement a few years ago and remade it so that he could crush apples for his quite undrinkable apple cider. (Once he switched to pear cider we all sighed with relief – but not for long)  Now I know this next shot could be interpreted in an ambiguous way  but I am expecting you all to be grown ups about it. And yes I am going to use the word Gush! followed closely by the words Woo Hoo! Look at that juice.

Very good aim too.

We only have the equipment for a six gallon procedure or a three gallon one.(Don’t ask me why. I grow the grapes and pick the grapes and Our John makes the wine.) As there were not quite enough grapes for six gallons but plenty for three, I left some of the fruit on the vines for another later smaller crush, with a smaller equation and receptacles. We will do this late one gallon crush after the freeze and look at the difference in taste. Not a bad idea really. And I like to start small.

As John the Silent One took all the necessary readings, sugar level (very good) acidity level (very good). Then strained it thrice. I did the clean up and then did a bad thing. I heaved his most precious of preciouses, The Press, onto its side to clean it, it fell and the handle.. well it kind of .. um..  broke ..broke  off actually.  The winemaker was not impressed.

It is now sitting in the middle of his workshop looking sad. All armless and friendly but sad.  I am forgiven, I think. Well, sometimes these things take time.

But enough of that. Last night John added the yeast. This morning it has been reported that the juice is bubbly, smells good and has begun its slow ascent into wine! (If you will excuse me I shall insert another wee WOO HOO in here.. WooHoo !.. thank you).  In a few weeks it is racked/ poured into the lovely enormous imported glass jar designed for the fermenting period (this enormous glass jar  has a special name that escapes me for the moment but I am the  Grower not the Winemaker, though later I will be the Vinter and sell it all to myself! ) Anyway this jar will contain the wine as it ferments into a sticky white (touch wood) for a few months…too many months probably as Our John is very stern with me about being patient.

When I say Sticky I mean Dessert Wine. These grapes are sweet.  And if we play our cards right this should be a lovely little sticky white. So it will be bottled into small dessert wine bottles. Eventually.

Now we need to design a label for thekitchensgarden wine. And no there will not be an animal on it! Never buy a wine with an animal on the label! Family rule.

And then it rained last night. A good inch, what amazing timing!  This shot is the reflection in a puddle. Just so’s you know.  And with all the rain I need to go out and get those big fat heavy cows OFF my grass and into the yards until the ground drains a bit. They just pug it up something terrible when it is wet and I am very particular about my grass!


60 Comments on “A Small but Robust Sticky Crush

    • Hullo there, I have not heard from you for ages, where have you been hiding?.. yes we have lots of fun out here in the boonies! c

  1. This looks like a lot of fun, and with the benefit of the wine! Hope it turns out well. 🙂 (We’re thinking of trying our hand at making meade)

  2. Oh god, I hate earwigs ever since my mom told me why they were called earwigs. I was so terrified of brain rot from an earwig as a child.

  3. What a marvellous time you had! Sounds like an amazing day…
    Except for the Poor Press, but he can be mended…It’s not a real party until someone falls over, right? 😉

  4. Sounds like a fantastic day and brings back so many happy memories of wine making with my family. Those big glass bottles are called demi-johns – at least, the ones we use are!

    • Thank you tanya! clever girl.. Hopefully everyone reads your comment so that they will know what I was talking about!.. what kind of wine did your family make? c

      • They buy red grapes from Italy every year (along with hundreds of other Italian families in London and the UK) and make a red table wine. The grape variety varies a little from year to year. All great fun!

        • That does sound great.. that sounds really great. I wish I had known about that when I lived over there. I have a feeling that chgjohns father used to do that too.. I must ask him.. c

  5. Sounds brilliant – I used to stay with French friends near Perpignan who had a very old fashioned vineyard, complete with stable, yard and bell tower. Sadly the old machinery collects cobwebs while the grapes get crushed at the local cooperative.
    Great bee story too!

  6. I was enthralled reading your post. At the moment, I’m chopping up windfall apples, making a sugar water solution, and I’m going to try my hand at making apple cider vinegar. Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed that I can produce something usable. 😀 How’s your experience with making homemade vinegars

    • Well Johns famous apple cider was so .. um.. different that he decided to turn it into apple cider vinegar, but all he had to do was expose it to the air really, it is very tasty though. Took a while. c

      • I just noticed that my name shows as Musk Cooks. What a hoot!

        Can you recall how long ‘a while’ was before it turned to vinegar? My husband is on a business trip this week, and I imagine that when he returns home he’ll accuse me of running a boot-leg distillery from the aroma oozing from the house. If I had a cellar this wouldn’t be an issue but I don’t, so it might … if you follow. 😀

        • well a few months really, we cover ours with a cloth and a rubber band to keep the bugs out and put it in the cool dark bottom cupboard and forget about it, occasionally tasting. A good three months anyway.. when John comes home i shall ask him. It does not smell so bad though, just shut the cupboard door firmly! Yep that Musk did have me thinking, great word.. musk! c

  7. Well, your post’s title sounded like a perfect description of my early feelings about the guy that became my husband, so I knew I had to read!
    What a grand party, bugs and bees and all. Had they not done their part, I’m sure you wouldn’t’ve had this excellent material both for wine and for writing. All worthwhile, in my view. I expect you’ll have some seriously delicious wine on your hands when the time comes. Cheers indeed!

    • You are so funny, now that i think about it that title describes some certain periods in my life too! I am seriously hoping for seriously delicious wine! Thanks Kathryn! c

  8. This looks like so much fun! I love it. That press is awesome, too. What a great hidden gem to find in the basement. 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing the adventure you’ll had picking and pressing the grapes. Sounds like so much fun…even with the bees. Can’t wait to hear how the wine turns out!

  10. I have one apple tree with three grafts and the russets have very short stems and are often paired, and the EWW-WIGS live in the spaces between so when you pick them…. anyway it is awful and they like hiding in the rainbow chard too. My first joke that I ever told as a three year old was this one:

    What did the earwig say when he fell off the tree?

    ‘ere we go!

    Well I was three. I hope your vintage is exquisite with all that love and extra help from the bees it will be something special I am sure. What a glorious existence you have 😀

  11. Such a day you had! I can just picture you all “moving camp” each time the bees discovered you. Too bad you didn’t have a camera set up taking time-lapsed shots. The resultant movie would have rivaled Benny Hill. And, for the record, I do not run screaming down the hall at the sight of a spider. I reach for the handy bug spray and fight the Good Fight. Yes, it has made a mess of my monitor’s surface a few times but that’s only because people don’t warn me that they’re posting spider pics on their blogs.

    • You, the parrot and the dog running/flying down a hall would have looked better in the movie, John. Benny Hill and bug -spray might sell though! You are safe with me I will always warn you about the nasties.. well mostly always.. c

  12. This, to say the least, was a very entertaining read!! I’m so impressed with all that you had to endure…do… to make this wine!! Can’t wait to hear how it turns out!

  13. I did a number of wine exams many years ago, I wish your post had been around to read at the time, it is so descriptive of the wine making process and makes it so easy to understand. One of the the things we learned about was MOG (material other than grapes) going into the crush, I used to hope it was just leaves not bugs!

    • Hmm. maybe I should do a course. The joy of hand making the wine is that we can pick all that stuff out with the Special Spoon! Hopefully!! (laugh) c

  14. Hi Cecilia! I know you just won this award, but I received it too, and just HAD to include you on my list, so I have also awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award. However, I have changed the terms of the award. Especially since you have already won this award, but even if you hadn’t, you don’t have to do anything to accept this award. Period. However, I thought you might like to see what I wrote about your blog in the post that will go out tomorrow:

    Cecilia is a New Zealander who married an American, lived in Britain for many years, and now lives in Illinois where she cooks and runs a self-sustaining farm. Her blog is about her life there and the recipes she cooks and memories from her time in New Zealand. She is an excellent writer.

    Have a great day!


    • Oh Nancy thank you, these awards are such fun, and thank you for what you wrote it reminds me that i should change my About page, to fit with the development of the blog! c

  15. Oh my, you’re making win :). This sounds absolutely wonderful. And I love those grapes. I have always enjoyed green grapes or read anyday. But you’re making wine :).. Love it. Can’t wait to see the labels you make.

    • Hi kay, well I hope we are making wine, Our John was gazing at it solemnly last night wondering at the overt activity of the yeast!! this is our learning year!.. c

  16. What a good idea you had there – each time you open a bottle you should put some money in a jar – maybe what you think the wine is worth (each time of course) and see how much you collect?

    • Wow Tandy, we could too have a wine piggy bank to put the money into.. that would be fun, especially if it is nice wine! fingers crossed.. c

  17. Well, there goes the romance of a vineyard right out of the window for me – spiders! Eek! Thanks for remembering my phobia (I really do mean that in a nice way – I like that you remembered) and for the link.
    I cannot wait to see how your wine turns out – just a pity we can’t all come and have a taste with you – now that would be fun.
    Have a great day.
    🙂 Mandy

    • Oh Mandy, wouldn’t that be a REALLY wonderful day, even though i have only know you all for a few months i feel sure we would have a wild and wonderful day! c

  18. Hi Cecilia! We are thinking of putting in some wine plants, but that’s ‘down the road’ a bit. Which means, sometime in the futures. I just love the way you embellish your writing… “However I am hip with that. ( I love that term though really I have no idea what it means!)” We do have some interesting sayings that come in and then go out again here in the USA, don’t we? Another good one that means much the same as the one above is “I’m all about that.” Which is kind of fun to say too! I just love your many NZ sayings as well and have great fun trying to figure them out!

    • I’m all about that.. yes you are right! what does that mean!? we will be planting more vines also and they are going to be on two big pergolas close to the house, so that when we open the french doors the leaves and grapes will be hanging right there like a leaky leafy roof ..l love this idea! c

  19. WOW! This is a great job. How I love grapes and wine too… But you can guess what was so beautiful for me 🙂 Your lovely cat!!!!!! Should be so nice to sleep near the grapes… How I love her/him… (sorry! can’t remember) Thank you so much, Blessing and Happiness, with my love, nia

    • thank you nia, actually to tell the truth I have not checked yet to see if that kitten is a him or a her.. will have to deal with all that soon i am sure!

  20. I like your wine making story. So how is the crusher? Will it be repaired and useable again? I just heard on the radio that bees and such are over active right now because of the seasonal change and a lack of food sources.

    • too much mowing Harold. that is why the bees have so little to eat. All those lovely late summer weeds mowed down in their prime! Yes the wee press is being worked on and the prognosis is tentatively positive so fingers crossed! c

  21. What a ritual crushing grapes!! This must be so much fun, specially if you do it in good compaby. While you do it, you share thoughts and great conversation. So sorry about the bees.

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