Grapes to Wine
March 25, 2008 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Spring is the perfect time to start planting your grape crop - First choose your grape and then your training system. Don't get too excited though, it will take about three years before you start getting any usable fruit to make your own homemade wine (pdf). So you might pass the time with some alternative wine making recipes. -Previously
posted by mincus (21 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Alternative link for the PDF file (Geocities)

My wife and I just bought an old Victorian Italianate house and I'm using it as an excuse to plant some grapes and start making our own wine.

Anyone else growing grapes and making wine want to share some tips?
posted by mincus at 3:37 PM on March 25, 2008

Always wondered if I could grow grapes in these latitudes (Chicago is on the same line as Rome, roughly)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:49 PM on March 25, 2008

Better link to the pdf

Cheers for this... I've got a small vine in the yard. A bit of effort and I reckon it could yield two, maybe even three bottles!
posted by pompomtom at 3:53 PM on March 25, 2008

Smedleyman: Wine Grape Cultivars for Illinois

Thanks for pointing the link issue out pompomtom - good luck with your grapes!
posted by mincus at 3:59 PM on March 25, 2008

i started growing grapes on my back fence several years ago. last summer would have been my first harvest, except my neighbor on the other side decided they were weeds and hacked them away about a month before they were ripe.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 4:11 PM on March 25, 2008

lester: Tragedy! Did they sprout up again and try to restart? (Just read "Digging for Votes on your site - I secretly hate my cats)
posted by mincus at 4:16 PM on March 25, 2008

I've made two vintages of tasty Concord grape wine. It is very satisfying labor... you make a great deal of not-so-bad wine for very little money. You learn a lot; it is amazing how much better my second go was than my first. If you don't want to wait to grow your own, you have a couple options. If you live on the East coast, ask your friends if they have a grape vine. My friend's yields about 100lbs of grapes each year! (You need 50 lbs. to make 6 gallons). If you live on the West coast (or certain East Coast states) you are even luckier and you can buy wine juice directly from the vineyard.

If anyone wants my recipe, I'll dig it out of my files and post it :)
posted by noble_rot at 4:22 PM on March 25, 2008

noble_rot: Please do share - I'm sure there are a bunch of lurkers who would love to try it out.

I'm on the east coast and was thinking of trying to do the buy juice from the vineyard thing to get me started at least trying some of the million nifty tricks I've read about.

Thanks for the tips.
posted by mincus at 4:28 PM on March 25, 2008

That Jack Keller site is really intense. I made dandelion wine by one of his recipes a few summers ago, and I keep meaning to try some of the others that he's posted, but there's just so many that it's hard to decide.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:33 PM on March 25, 2008

Interesting post. There used to be several grape vines growing wild in our alley until someone came along and cleared most of them out. The survivors produce some very small, withery-looking grapes every year, but mostly they're just pretty to look at. An older neighbor told us that kids in his generation used to smoke the dried vines like cigarettes. They made themselves sick, but that didn't deter them from thinking it was cool. Now I'm wondering if we could get together and make some alley-grape wine.
posted by amyms at 4:37 PM on March 25, 2008

amyms: It would surely make for a fun bottle label.

nebulawindphone: I wish I had the time he has to make all those fun wines. Where did you get the dandelions? I'm always terrified that I'll pick ones that have weed killer or smog on them.
posted by mincus at 4:47 PM on March 25, 2008

Where did you get the dandelions?

You're a city dweller, aintcha? ;) If your own yard doesn't produce a good crop of dandelions, just go look around your neighborhood until you find one that does. Knock on the door and ask the owner if you can pick them. Chances are, they'll be more than happy to let you. As for the weed killer, just ask to make sure, but basically if a yard is full of dandelions, there is no weed killer on them.
posted by amyms at 5:08 PM on March 25, 2008

I've transplanted myself to the country - but I guess I still have my city fears.

I really want dandelions so I can make vegan honey though.
posted by mincus at 5:15 PM on March 25, 2008

If you don't have enough grapes to make an oenological impact this year—or don't feel like making a foxy, North American grape wine—I can heartily recommend the baking of a Concord Grape Pie or two. Sounds a bit crazy if you're not from Napes, NY, I know, but they're delicious. I made one last Thanksgiving with the last of the season's grapes and it really exceeded everyone's expectations. Skinning them was a bit of unexpected work, but lest you think otherwise, it was both important and worth it.
posted by mumkin at 10:37 PM on March 25, 2008

Naples, NY, please forgive the omission of your l
posted by mumkin at 10:39 PM on March 25, 2008

Here's a very, very simple wine recipe:
Mix 1 1/2 quarts grape juice, 5 cups sugar, 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast into 1 gallon bottle. Mix well enough to disolve the sugar and yeast.

Fill bottle with water until 2" from top.

Poke a few holes in a balloon with a pin. Put over the bottle top.

Put in a cool dark place for 2 weeks.

Pour out contents into another container, leaving sediment behind.

I didn't say it was good wine, just simple.
posted by eye of newt at 11:56 PM on March 25, 2008

After making beer for decades, I switched to wine making a few years ago, buying concentrated juice from home-brew supply places. I've not made an all-juice recipe, but I have sources for juice from California and Argentina.

Last year, we found a Cabernet vine for sale at Trader Joe's, of all places. We planted it in our tiny, north-facing yard in urban DC, and it took over the short chainlink fence the first season. Figuring that was proof of concept, we've now planted two muscadine vines, and have bought a welder to construct a trellis out of rebar. We've tried a bunch of Virginia and Maryland wines, and have found that local efforts to replicate non-local varieties don't usually work very well, so we're going for a country-wine effect. We'll see how it turns out!
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:33 AM on March 26, 2008

mumkin - I didn't even know that grape pies existed, I'm absolutely going to try to make one this Thanksgiving.

Thanks for the recipe eye of newt - you make it sound so easy.

MrMoonPie - Thank you for the vine selection tips, I'm in western MD and was leaning towards some European type vines - but maybe I should rethink that if they don't really work.
posted by mincus at 5:59 AM on March 26, 2008

Muscadines may not work either, mincus, but that'll be due to the fact that the yard is small and not-too-sunny. We also looked at Norton grapes, but decided that muscadines would just be more fun. You might want to look at Norton if you're looking for a "classical" grape that'll grow well in the area--it was first developed in Richmond, and is still grown at Barboursville in Charlottesville. I've not had that, but I have been to a bunch of other VA and MD wineries.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:25 AM on March 26, 2008

(thanks mincus!)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:48 PM on March 26, 2008

Another off-topic recipe for grapes you're not making into wine, from Mark Bittman's blog: salsiccia all’uva — sausages and grapes. That was dinner on Friday it was unexpectedly delicious if I do say so myself. I don't know where else I'd employ the bed of sauteed grapes in my cookery, but even if only in this one dish, yum!
posted by mumkin at 12:39 AM on March 31, 2008

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