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Wine with Natasha – Prologue

A bright & sunny vineyard with ripe red wine grapes. Under the grapes there is text saying "Learning Wine Season 2020."


It’s wine time and I work in one of the world’s most amazing wine supply shops in one of the world’s most amazing wine regions. I enjoy wine. So, reasonably, people think I have extensive knowledge of making wine. They assume I make great wine. And they are, sadly, not totally correct. I’ve only attempted to make wine once so far, and I am not confident that wine will be good, much less great. 

I don’t really know how to make wine. Yet.

Last Year

My only experience making wine came last year, when I lucked into enough grapes to make about three gallons of a Malbec and Cabernet Franc blend. I carefully punched down the skins twice a day for ten days, then racked it into a three-gallon glass carboy, and then sat back to wait for the next step. I was pretty sure the next step was malolactic fermentation (“MLF”), but I didn’t know for sure and I didn’t know when to start it if that was the next step.

Then my life got rather topsy-turvy, and in all honesty I didn’t think about that wine again until about January of this year. And our expert, Tom, told me to rack it into a new carboy, sulfite it  and not expect too much. I followed his directions, and (as one always should) I sampled the wine as I moved it.

It isn’t vinegar*. I think that’s the best thing I can say about what I made. I currently have not quite three gallons of flabby, insipid, alcoholic grape juice. Some of this, undoubtedly, is that Cabernet blends require a substantial amount of aging**. But no doubt some is the result of my forgetting the wine for months. (I still haven’t managed the MLF.) Finally, I also think some of that is that I didn’t so much choose a yeast basically because the person who gave me a few grapes shrugged and said, “Use this one,” handed it to me, and wandered off. (I used Red Star Premier Classique.)

Three wine glasses on a stark white backround. The middle is on its side and has red wine gently lying in the bowl of the glass. It is not spilled. The image says "Goals!" in handwriting.

This Year

This year, I’m going to do it differently. This year, I’m going to do it intentionally. This year, I’m doing some research (mostly picking Tom’s brain and reading the things he writes and our copies, new and old, of Wine Maker Magazine) before I buy grapes or juice. Then more research as I work and things ferment. (Tom will be fielding questions from me for months, and I’ll be reading Wine Maker Magazine or the various books we carry) And this year, I’ll document the technique(s) here on the F.H.S. blog. Hopefully this year will be a great deal better.

But I’ll be learning publicly, and so any successes or trip-ups will be documented here.

Socially Distant Together?

I’ll announce the grapes I’m buying next week. I’ll post If anyone wants to do a ferment-a-long, comment here. Anyone who wants to do so is welcome, newbies and experts alike. And it’d be fun, I think, to hear how others’ fermenting is going. Maybe we can build a little wine community and stay safely socially distant. (Thanks 2020.)

Join or not, I hope you’ll follow along. If you have comments, feel free to share them. Or let us know your thoughts on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.

*This is of extra concern for me because my favorite thing to make is actually vinegar.

**I did not know this when I started this project.

4 thoughts on “Wine with Natasha – Prologue

  1. Natasha – good to meet you today. Thanks for the heads up! I’m a wine making beginner as well, but I know my way around beer. Hopefully that helps me in this go-around!


    1. Chip, it was lovely to meet you too. Let’s see what we make this year, as beginners!

  2. Greetings Natasha. Good for you starting to make wine. I’m gearing up for my 27th consecutive home wine vintage with fruit from the same Yamhill Vinyards. Made beer for a number of years before that. And a Steinbarts customer the whole time!!.

    John DeBenedetti is one of my “heroes”. Always pleasant, modest and helpful when I went to the store. Regularly saw him walking to work from our NE Portland neighborhood. And Tom has helped me for years, no decades! Not shy about expressing his views, that’s the Tom I know.

    I have a somewhat different take on wine making than many (good) books and other winemakers. In a nutshell, “get good fruit, don’t screw it up”. So easy to say, less easy to do!! BTW my first vintage was terrible. Almost all since have been good IMHO! You will make good wine with (good) local grapes and Tom’s and Steinbarts help! Looking fwd to comparing notes and progress of 2020 vintage.

    Regards, Chuck

    1. Hi Chuck!

      I’m looking forward to comparing notes too, so I can’t wait.

      Your philosophy matches everything I’ve learned from Tom, John, and several others here. And, honestly, it matches the philosophy I got from Jon Oppegaard of Oppegaard Meadery on 1 Aug 2020 with regards to honey! I figure there must be something to the idea if everyone feels that way, no matter the wine.

      Thank you for being a long-time customer, and for commenting here.


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