The Wine Name

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Maybe it is because I was always forced to title my papers in college and it often stretched my already exhausted and strained creativity, but when I make wine, I always feel it needs a name. That might not make any sense to anyone else out there, but it does to me. Heck, I want to name our house, though I have been forbidden to by Kevin and the girls (fun-suckers, I say).

So, I have been thinking very carefully about the name for this vintage (did you smell the burning?). Finally, I have arrived at a name and a label to go along with it.

I kinda like it alot.

Red Handed

And yes, I know I still have a carmenere out there unnamed. I am still thinking on that one. I told you my creativity is limited.

Well, This Was Messier

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Well, the bubbling of the fermentation tank finally stopped. So, it is time to move the wine to the carboy for secondary fermentation and aging. Previously, we have accomplished this task in about 5 minutes. That was before we stuff floating in the mix. Now I have stuff to fish out.

Ewww. Seedy.And a question to answer. What do I do with this stuff? Toss it right away? or try to press the remaining juice out of it. And of course, how to accomplish that as I still have not invested in a fruit press.

I went with trying to get the extra juice out. I used a familiar technique. A strainer and wooden spoon, like I use when making raspberry sauce, though I vow to now strain it so ruthlessly. I want juice, not pulp. It took a while and it was messy. I wish I had a compost pile for all the skins and seeds left behind but with my luck, it would attract rats which is a no-no here in the city.Much Messier

Next up I have to let it age a bit longer, because the flavor? kinda bitey. But because I have transferred the liquids into a new clean container (called racking) it is legally now wine, bitey wine, but wine, nevertheless. Now I have to figure out how I am going to clarify this stuff. Decisions, decisions…

Wine Bloop

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

So, we squeezed some grapes, an amusing, slightly insane and definitely messy job. Next day when the juice came up to room temperature, I stirred in the yeast. Also known as the only yeast that Caputo’s carried that I had to go to customer service to find after I asked around at the really crowded market. Luckily, the yeast was from Lanvin an known producer (at least to me and seemed to be a somewhat generic bordeaux type. So, red wine. Yeah. Just what I have, so this works.

PreWow, what a build up.What are differences between using just juice (must) (though I mean not grapes skins) and must with skins. One of the things that changes when the skins are in play is the volume of the mix. It turns out that before fermentation juice and skins just kind of hang out together in mixture.. kind of like a soup… but after fermentation? Oy! Those skins rise to the top forming a thick layer that has to be broken through to get a good mixture.

Taking Wine Making Up A Notch

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

GrenacheYes, those were crates of grapes, but I am not making jelly. I am making wine. With real grapes. Do we know what we are doing? Kinda sort.

In the meantime it has been an adventure.

Making wine the hard wayKevin and I headed off to Caputo’s Market and found the grapes. Boxes of grapes piled up. Sorted by varietal. Plastic pails of juice were also there. So now we had to decide what we were going to try. Which isn’t as easy to decide as you think. We decided to go with a blend of grapes and red grapes at that. So we walked up and down the aisle and finally decided on two varietals. Alicante, which is also (and more commonly in the US) known as Grenache and Carignan which is often found in Catalan and Languedoc wines.

Ready to crush the CarignanNow there is a problem with our plan. We do not own a fruit press and we were not prepared to shell out $800 for one of the ones that they had at Caputo’s. So we decided to wing it. We brought the grapes home cracked into the crates and started squeezing them by hand. It was a messy process. But getting that up close and personal with your grapes teaches you something. The Grenache are really, really red. The Carignan, have black skins but green pulp and were sweeter than the Grenache. And they are really, really sticky.

Making ProgressWe have left the skins in contact with the juice and will punch them down into the mix twice a day to enhance the color and the tannins. And we learned that it is trickier getting a sugar and potential alcohol readings with the skins in the way too. But now we are just waiting.

An you shall too.

Cross your fingers!

Ventimiglia Vineyards ~ The Reds (New Jersey)

Marguerite BarrettVentimiglia Vineyards ~ vineyards behind winery / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Gene Ventimiglia, patriarch and principal winemaker of Ventimiglia Vineyards, is a third-generation winemaker, having learned the craft from his grandfather, who emigrated from Italy in the early part of the 20th century.   In the 1920s, the elder Ventimiglia, a member of a local Italian-American Club, produced wine for the club throughout the Prohibition era.  With the demise of Prohibition in 1933, Ventimiglia continued to produce wine, albeit legally now, and passed the traditional hand-crafted winemaking methods he learned in Italy down to his grandson, Gene, who after growing up in Patterson, New Jersey, opted to continue the family traditions here on the East Coast.

As for the Ventimiglia Reds, Gene has produced a very interesting collection of California and New Jersey table wines:

Rocky Ridge Red 2006 The Rocky Ridge Red is a bland of eight different grapes, all grown locally in New Jersey.  It is cold-fermented and aged in oak, and like all of the Ventimiglia Reds it is unfined and unfiltered.  The nose is bright and fruity, and in the mouth there are lovely notes of dark berries and stone fruits.  The wine has a slight tartness, which gives it a piquancy.

Chambourcin 2007 A Gold Medal Winner at the 2009 NJ Wine Competition, this is a very interesting wine.  Chambourcin with a slight blend of Syrah, Merlot and a little Sangiovese, this is a medium-bodied wine with a lovely deep ruby color.  The nose is bright and fruity, and the mouth-feel is lovely and full.  Aged for 16 months in French and Hungarian oak, there are notes of dark berries, particularly blackberry, in the mouth, with a light pepper finish.  95% of the grapes are grown locally in New Jersey, making this one of three of Ventimiglia’s New Jersey Reds.

Syrah 2007 The last of Ventimiglia’s New Jersey Reds, the Syrah is made from grapes grown in vineyards directly across the street from Jon Bon Jovi’s house.  Gene has added just a touch of Grenache to the Syrah and the result is a lovely medium-bodied wine with a delicate, fruity nose, a smooth, soft mouth-feel, and light cherry notes on the palate.  The Syrah will pair well with a wide range of food, and will also cellar nicely.

Carignane 2006 This was my first taste of a Carignane wine, as despite it being one of the most planted grapes in France, it is often used for blending rather than as the primary grape.  Medium-bodied with a soft mouth-feel and notes of stone fruits on the palate, it is designed to be a “companion” or table-wine, and is Gene Ventimiglia’s favorite everyday wine.  It shares many of the characteristics of a good European (French or Italian) table wine – interesting and lightly complex, without being overpowering, it will pair well with a wide variety of foods.

Merlot 2006 Made from California grapes, the Merlot has a bright nose with notes of plum and cherry, and a lovely soft fruitiness in the mouth that is balanced by a slightly acidic finish.   A nice wine, but not as interesting as the Syrah, Carignane, Chambourcin or Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Also made from California grapes, this is a full-bodied wine with a lovely deep garnet color.  The nose is sharp and tangy, and in the mouth the wine is soft with nice notes of plum and a smoky, spicy, slight tobacco finish.  The finish also lingers beautifully, and the wine grows more complex and interesting with each sip.

Cabernet Franc 2006 The afternoon ended with the 2006 Cabernet Franc, one of my favorites of the day.  Aged in French Oak, the wine ages an additional 3 years in the bottle.  Made in the Bordeaux-style,  this is a full-bodied, dry red.  The nose is earthy with a slight mustiness, and in the mouth the wine is rich, full, with notes of grass and berries and a strong earthiness that gives it depth and character.   Very interesting wine.

A smaller winery, tucked in the northwest corner of the State, Ventimiglia is worth a stop.  While I definitely had my favorites from among the selection, none of the wines disappointed.