Fall 2020 Wine Making Plans

I made 3 different wines from fresh grapes last year (2019) — Malbec, Merlot, and Zinfandel. I purchased five 36 lb lugs of each, a total of 15 lugs (540 lbs of grapes). If we count the light press and hard press second run wines, I made 5  different wines. This means I had a lot of small containers of wine that didn’t fit in the barrel & carboys.

The wines experienced some blending as all containers need to be topped up, so if one small container is being used for top up, I may use it for all larger containers that need topping. Not a big deal, adding a quarter or half bottle of wine in a carboy already containing 24+ bottles worth.

This fall I planned to make 2 wines. I figured I’d buy 8 lugs of each grape, which means each batch can go into a 54 liter barrel. I was considering Sangiovese (Italian) and Tempranillo (Spanish), both of which grow well on the West Coast.

Then I thought of making a Bordeaux blend — a blended wine that includes grapes originally grown in the Bordeaux region of France:

  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Malbec
  • Petit Verdot

Maybe I’d make 2 different blends, both with Merlot as the primary grape and varying amounts of the others. It might be nice to have a bit of variety.


Too complicated.

Keep it simple — buy 16 lugs and make a single wine. Keep things simple, it reduces storage problems during fermentation and aging. Plus I can get that second barrel and barrel age everything.

Most wineries ferment and age the different grapes separately, then blend after numerous taste tests. I do not have the space for that, nor will I have enough of the blending grapes to fill a carboy of each. So I’m doing a “field blend”, e.g., crush and ferment the grapes together and hope that my selection works well.

This sounds chancy, but it’s not. The grape varieties all work well together, proven over the centuries in Bordeaux. Will it be the most optimal blend for this fall’s grapes? It’s impossible to determine, and besides, “best” is subjective. I have every confidence I’ll be happy with the result.

I tossed through numerous ideas, anything from 8 to 14 lugs of Merlot (I prefer Merlot-heavy Bordeaux style wines), and kept thinking about what I want to do. I probably thought of a dozen different blends.

Last weekend Lorraine & I celebrated our anniversary by going to Asheville, NC. [Our anniversary is July, but for various reasons we delayed our trip until now.] Biltmore Winery has Bordeaux style blend that is really good — but it’s not a “pure” blend, as in uses only the grapes listed above. It includes Zinfandel. Huh, this is interesting.

It’s now time to order grapes, and when I received the order form listing the available grapes, I initially selected a Merlot heavy blend, 12 lugs of Merlot and 1 lug of each of the others. Then I thought of Biltmore’s wine, and in the end, I substituted 4 lugs of Zinfandel for 4 lugs of Merlot. So the final blend is 50% Merlot, 25% Zinfandel, and 6.25% of each of the others.

The grapes should arrive at the end of the month — I can’t wait!