June 23, 2016 | By RJS Craft Winemaking
It is my absolute pleasure to introduce Callie McHarg from 100 Mile House, BC. Callie, a self-taught winemaker, has been a dedicated RJS Craft Winemaking customer since 2009. Callie claims she learned everything she knows about winemaking from reading online articles, communicating with other local winemakers, and a lot of trial and error. Oh yeah – she is also an avid reader of our Craft and Cork blog!
Recently Callie was awarded Best in Show Sparkling Wine at the 2016 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition for her 2015 RJS Craft Winemaking Cru International California Muscat Style. Callie’s big win this year came as no surprise to anyone; she had already won Best in Show Sparkling Wine in 2011 and 2012 for her Grand Cru Gewurztraminer Style and Cellar Classic Gewurztraminer respectively.
How did Callie hone her formidable skills as a craft winemaker in such a relatively short period of time? Like many amateur winemakers, she did it primarily through trial and error. Her sparkling wine program has progressed a long way since she first began making it back in 2009. In her earlier winemaking days she put her sparkling wine kegs in snow banks in an attempt to carbonate her wines. Then she tried using a SodaStream system, which worked well but didn’t quite give the results she wanted. Finally, with the help of her good friend Keith, she actually designed her very own carbonation system.
Callie’s current carbonation system is quite ingenious. It requires using a 5 gallon Cornelius keg, CO2 tank and regulator, and ¾ inch food grade reinforced vinyl tubing which is fed into a 3/8 inch copper pipe. She even modified a standard floor corker with a rubber bung that maintains a tight seal once the bottle is gassed with CO2 prior to filling. Even the rubber bung had to be modified with two holes, one hole to receive the wine and CO2 and the other hole to allow the CO2 to escape once bottle filling begins.
Before bottle filling, Callie chills the wine down to 3°C and carbonates it at 40 PSI for two to three days while rolling the Cornelius keg daily to maximize the saturation of CO2 in the wine. Once she is ready to fill a bottle, she first gasses it with CO2. Then she opens the wine feed valve coming from the keg and the CO2 in the bottle is allowed to escape through a pressure release valve. It is this CO2 escape from the bottle that sucks the wine out of the keg and into the bottle. Callie always makes her wines by following the RJS Craft Winemaking instructions, but when she makes sparkling wine, she often adds 10 to 15 ml/L of wine conditioner before bottling because otherwise the CO2 makes the wine too dry.
Now that Callie has mastered the science of making sparkling wine, she is always looking for ways to improve her art – and to add her own special touch to her wines. Some of her ideas include adding flavours like spearmint, lavender, chamomile, vanilla, honey, and banana flakes. I expect we will see Callie winning even more awards for her sparkling wines in next year’s competition.
WineMaker magazine has granted the re-use of its registered trademark and copyright-protected results of the WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition. For more information on the competition, please visit www.winemakermag.com.
Chris Holman has been making wine professionally since 2006, which has led him to work in regions such as the Niagara Peninsula, Okanagan Valley, McLaren Vale South Australia, and Tasmania. Chris earned a 2 year diploma at Niagara College in Winemaking and Viticulture in 2008 and more recently he received a 4 year B.Sc degree majoring in Oenology and Viticulture at Brock University in 2015. His academic achievements in addition to his technical winemaking experience will allow him to provide our customers with excellent technical support and new ideas, helping them continue to make excellent wines.