March 3, 2016 | By RJS Craft Winemaking
We have been socializing with a group of neighbours in the form of holding progressive dinner parties for three years now. Everyone participates in preparing the meals, which are consistently gourmet and delicious! A few months ago, we decided to take it to the next level and make our very own craft wine to enjoy during our next dinner that will have a “Southern California” menu theme.
It can be rather difficult to get six busy adults together, but we were motivated and found a night when at least five of us could make our own craft wine. I called Judy at our local RJS Academy store and she booked us in for our debut winemaking experience.
Judy knows her stuff and she answered all our winemaking related questions with ease. We were glad we could rely on her experience to make a couple great batches of craft wine. After some discussion, the group selected Cru International California Chardonnay Style and En Primeur Winery Series Italy Zinfandel. We felt that the two would pair well with a variety of casual dishes. Zinfandel suited our “Southern California” theme perfectly as it is a popular Californian grape varietal grown in 45 of California’s 58 counties.
We started with the Cru International California Chardonnay Style. It’s a lighter style Chardonnay, which we thought would pair nicely with our chosen menu. It comes with an oak packet that adds a slight oaky flavour to the wine but we chose to exclude it because we wanted a lighter, fresher flavour.
Making our wine at Judy’s facility was entirely stress free because she took care of all the heavy lifting, including sanitizing the equipment. We didn’t even need to worry when we got a little silly because Judy kept us on track. The craft winemaking process is easy and Judy was there to keep a watchful eye to make sure we were doing it right!
Next, we made our red – the En Primeur Winery Series Italy Zinfandel. That kit has a few more components than the Chardonnay kit so Judy explained each one to us. We loved that you add the grape skins to enrich the flavour of the craft wine and boy, did it smell good, so good that John decided he wanted a taste!
As I mentioned, since Judy actually does all the tricky stuff, we left our wine in her store where she will monitor the fermentation process. Once that is complete, she will transfer the craft wine into carboys and add ingredients to begin the clearing process. The next step for us is to book a date to bottle and cork our finished craft wine. And finally, the last step, that we are anxiously awaiting, is to crack open a couple bottles and enjoy the fruits of our labour at our next progressive dinner party.