Monthly Archives: July 2014

Lodi winemaker Don Norman gives advice to amateur vintners

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.

Don Norman pours a glass of homemade Sangiovese wine for those attending the wine making seminar on Thursday, July 17, 2014. He asks them to taste for flavors such as vanilla, which would indicate the wine was aged with American oak.
Don Norman pours a glass of homemade Sangiovese wine for those attending the wine making seminar on Thursday, July 17, 2014. He asks them to taste for flavors such as vanilla, which would indicate the wine was aged with American oak.

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.

Read the original article here.

High Definition Video camera we can use?

Hi All,

Ozzie Neal has volunteered to be The Bottle Shock Open Home Wine Competition Photograper/Videographer.  We are looking for a HD video recorder we can borrow for the day on August 1st for The Bottle Shock Open Home Wine Competition.  It you have such a camera and are willing to loan it for the day, contact Ozzie Neal at 209 327-721seven.  Thanks. John Bischoff

July 2014 Meeting Agenda


LAVA Meeting Agenda, Jul 17th , 2014

D’Art Winery

 Welcome and thank you to Dave and Helen for hosting LAVA. The bar is open so show your appreciation.

Approval of April Meeting Minutes (E-mailed and on the WEB at

 Approval of Treasurer’s Report & Finance Update: (Aaron Kidder) Balance as of Jul 17th , 2014 ~$6,490 ;   Agendas and Financials for June are posted on our website:

 Introductions: (Kelli Huth) – Membership, New members and visitors and guests; LAVA binders available to each new member.

Designated Wine Pourers for the meeting

 In the Vineyard Report: ( Ted Lauchland/Charlie Starr):

 Wine Director Report: ( John B.)

  • Racking, topping, and Check SO2 levels ($1.50/test for SO2 and $1.50/test for TA) at Don Norman’s house; cost is more than that ($2-2.50, but LAVA subsidizes)
  • Topping off barrels/carboys
  • tart sourcing your grapes for this year


  • Summer BBQ & wine judging,  August 23rd, Sat, Contact Mamie or Charlie to volunteer to help
  • The Bottle Shock Open home wine competition is closed. Sign-up sheet with the existing people signed up is being passed around. We have 29 people signed up. We need more pourers and clerks (detailed people). If you want to sign up for these two slots, put your name down. Judging will be Fri. August 1st. Captain training will be Thursday evening, time TBD. Volunteer training will be 7:30am day of judging.
  • Club Crush, Syrah donated by Charlie Starr, THANK YOU CHARLIE! Sign-up sheet is being passed around.
  • Equipment update: J.Manzel & Charlie Starr
  • 93 people on our closed group on Facebook; 69 people registered on our Website…..good job JR and Greg
  • We are purchasing a PA system for the meetings. Thanks to Greg Helland and Greg Guth for their input and suggestions. Trying not to exceed $500, but that is proving to be tough.
  • KOV and LAVA mixer planned Sept. 11th, Ken Levy & John Tudor (KOV chairman), Sign-up sheet available for those who want to pour their wine at this event. Proceeds go to 4-H.


  • The Bottle Shock Open Wine Competition, Jackson Hall, Lodi Grape Festival, Friday, August 1, 2014

Program:   Winegrape Fermentation & Temperature by Heather Pyle  


Next meeting,   Aug 21st , 2014, Location: Charlie & Mamie Starr’s Residence, Program: TBA

Updated Volunteer List for The Bottle Shock Open Home Wine Competition

Sign up Sheet for Volunteering for The Bottle Shock Open Home Wine Competition (Updated 3:30pm Thurs, July 17th)

(The slots open are those that have no name by it)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Head Judge/Judge Coordinator ___________G.M. “Pooch” Pucilowski______________

Volunteer Coordinator ________________John Bischoff__________________________

Buyer/On-site Coordinator ________________________________________________

Donation/Sponsor Coordinator______________________________________________

Data Coordinator _________________________Aaron Kidder______________________

Digital Photographer/Videographer   ___________Ozzie Neal_______________________

Judges Coordinator _________________Gary Daniel__________________________

Truck driver___________________Mario _?__ (Gary Daniel)___________________


Warehouse/Cellar/Backroom Coordinator/Thurs Set-up Capt____Fred Fickert_________

Cellar Crew

  1. ___________________Ozzie Neal_________________________
  2. ___________________John Bischoff_______________________
  3. ___________________Fred Bennett_______________________


Captain- Clerk    _______________________Heidi Coffee_________________________


  1. _____________Lynette Desa _____________________________
  2. _____________Lee Brown_____________________________
  3. _____________Refelyn St.Charles_________________________
  4. ___________________________________________________
  5. _____________________________________________________
  6. ___________________________________________________


Captain- Pouring _____________________ Jim Schweikardt_______________________


  1. __________Fred Danielson______________________________
  2. ___________Tom McFadden____________________________
  3. ____________________________________________________
  4. ____________________________________________________
  5. _____________________________________________________
  6. _____________________________________________________


Captain- Steward _____________________Greg Helland_________________________


  1. _________________Joan Schweikardt______________________
  2. _________________Peg Helland__________________________
  3. ______________ Thomas St. Charles ____________________________
  4. __________________ Nancy Baldwin _______________
  5. ________________________________________________

Captain- Panel Assistant __________________________________________

Panel Assistants

  1. ______________________Paul Desa ______________________
  2. ______________________Liz Daniel_______________________


Communications Desk Captain/Coordinator_________Dan Coyne_______________

Data Entry

  1. _____________________Ron Mettler______________________
  2. ____________________Kathie Mettler_____________________
  3. ___________________Gary D – person #1__________________
  4. ___________________ Gary D – person #2__________________
  5. ____________________ Gary D – person #3_________________


Captain- Glass Washing___________________Mike Johnston _______________________

Washing Glass (by dishwasher?)

  1. ____________________Naomi Burns______________________
  2. _____________________Jeff Burns_______________________


Rule #1: NEVER look for the results for how YOUR wine did in the competition while working!

Rule #2:   NEVER break rule number one!