Here is an article that ran in the Lodi Sentinel about a class our very own Don Norman put on at the Lodi Library. Way to give back Don!!!
By Christina Cornejo/News-Sentinel Staff Writer | Posted 1 week ago
Have you ever tasted a glass of Lodi Zinfandel and wondered if you could make your own? It’s quite possible with the help of organizations such as the Lodi Amateur Vintners Association.
On July 17, winemaker and LAVA member Don Norman offered a seminar at the Lodi Public Library detailing the tools and information needed to start making wine from grapes at home.
Norman started out as a amateur before working for Beringer Vineyards. He is now is the manager of the Lodi harvest test lab.
“It was scary to get into it, because I thought it was over my head. Until I joined the club, I didn’t realize how attainable it was,” he said.
He fell into the hobby after he bought property that adjoined a vineyard 10 years ago and decided to try his hand at making wine. After working with mentor Aaron Kidder through LAVA, he was able to successfully craft his own wine. Now he shares his expertise with others.
Norman’s advice for would-be vintners:
Use good grapes
Norman explained that the fundamental core of what makes a good wine is having good grapes, not just the grapes found in a friend’s backyard.
“There’s a saying, ‘We make wine in the vineyard,’” Norman said. “Farmers are careful to turn out quality grapes that make quality wine.”
Several factors influence flavor, such as pruning, soil types and the length of time grapes hang on the vine.
Norman said that good red grapes will taste bold, and won’t have a tart taste from the skin. They will be grapes with a balance of flavors, a sugar content of 23 to 24 percent and a pH between 3 and 4 — on the acidic side. One ton of grapes is needed for one barrel of wine, at an average cost of $700 per ton. LAVA maintains a list of grape growers who sell their fruit to amateurs.
Know your tools
Before even purchasing grapes, gather the needed equipment and materials.
Norman recommends purchasing a 55-gallon food-grade container, a crusher-destemmer, a scale to measure yeast for fermentation, sulfites to keep the bacteria and other yeasts from growing, a pH meter, macro-bins to transport the ton of grapes needed to fill a barrel, a hydrometer to measure the percentage of sugar, a thermometer to make sure the fermenting grape juice stays below 85 degrees, an oak barrel, glass bottles, corks and lots of buckets.
“Making wine can be expensive,” Norman said.
Understand the steps
Norman broke down the process into eight major steps:
1. Purchase good quality grapes from local farmers.
2. Remove stems to avoid a bitter taste in the wine, and crush depending on personal preference.
3. Add winemaking yeast such as Pasteur Red to begin fermentation.
4. Press the wine to separate the skins and debris from the wine.
5. Clarify and stabilize the wine by letting any left over debris settle at the bottom over the course of a year and transfer the wine to a new container.
6. Age the wine in different types of oak barrels, such as French oak or American oak, to bring out different flavors in the wine.
7. Test the pH of the wine and the levels of sulfur dioxide every 30 days to watch for spoilage.
8. Bottle the wine and taste.
Find a mentor
Much of the winemaking process can seem very scientific and daunting, so Norman recommends finding a mentor to serve as a guide and answer questions.
He encourages anyone who is interested in making wine to join LAVA. Paid membership includes a helpful binder full of information to get started, as well as connection to a mentor.
“The good thing about the club is that everyone likes wine and they’re all really nice. The commonality is wine so we get along really well,” Norman said.