To Move Forward, We Must Go Back – Pressing our Red Wine Grapes – Part 1 of 2

Caitlin – November 5th 2012
Back before we lived in a hotel, we were minding our own business, entertaining two lovely house guests from Texas (Robert’s home state). Now our life is a little like Eloise, except we don’t live in the room on the tippy-top floor, we live on the second floor, and instead of a pug named Weenie and a turtle named Skipperdee, we have two bottles of bourbon and a bottle of gin. We also have a half a case of red wine from local favorite Bin 604:

Kindly Bin 604 Wine Guru: Can I help you find anything this evening?
Me: Sure! Please recommend six reds that will pair very well with my neighbors burning my house down.
Kindly Bin 604 Wine Guru: <without even batting an eye>, right this way, madam! I have some excellent selections for you.

Two thoughts come to mind: (1) I wish I did have a turtle named Skipperdee, and (2) either the wine guy at Bin 604 is the consummate professional or they have gotten way weirder requests at Bin 604. For the record, he did make some excellent suggestions, which I will share in a future post. You know, in case you find yourself facing minor or major life tragedies in the future. Which I hope you don’t, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Pinot Noir: healing your broken heart since 2012!

Anyway, what I am trying to say is, back before we lived in a hotel, we had house guests, and we were preparing for one of the most exciting wine events of the year: pressing our red. As my Pop will tell you, if you agree to come to our home, there is a 99.9 percent chance that we will trick you into manual labor. He calls it our Tom Sawyer complex. True to form, we enlisted our guests to perform very hard
physical work, claiming that pressing a red wine in a parking pad in the middle of Baltimore City is a rare treat few people ever get to enjoy.

For some reason, they bought it. On Saturday, October 20th, our adventure began inauspiciously when Robert went to pick up our press at the Home Brew Store in Columbia, MD, only to find that they were completely sold out for the day. After a jaunt over to the Home Brew Store in Annapolis, we had the tools we needed.

As we mentioned earlier this year, our white wine was pressed immediately after crush, on-site at Dr. Bob’s vineyard. The crushed red grapes are not pressed until primary fermentation is complete. Why is that? Well, you might be surprised to know that practically all red grapes have clear, colorless juice. The red pigment is in the grape skins. During fermentation, the red color is extracted from the skins. After several days of fermentation, the new red wine is pressed, thereby separating the liquid from the solids.

I also recently told you about the difference between free run juice and pressed juice. Free run juice…runs freely. Pressed juice is squeezed from the solids in the press. For the first time ever, we organized ourselves in such a way as to keep the free run juice separate from the pressed juice and the varietals separate from one another. By varietals, I mean a single named grape variety, in this case, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Ultimately, we’ll decide whether we want to blend the varietals or keep them separate, and whether or not we’ll blend pressed juice into the free run juice.

Pressing the grapes is a straightforward operation, only complicated if you have an annual tradition of drinking the previous year’s vintage at the same time. You dump the
crushed fruit into the press basket. The free run juice will start collecting and coming out of a spout of the press. Make sure you have a bucket in place before dumping in the crushed fruit, to handle this immediate flow of juice. We make this mistake every single year. I’m too busy pouring myself a second or third glass of Abeille and I have no idea what Robert’s excuse is. Probably something about being busy doing science stuff and how I should put down my wine glass and starting helping a little bit better. I know, right? That guy talks crazy talk.

Stay tuned to discover:
1. How many bottles of wine I can drink by myself. Hint: a ton.
2. How the reds turned out. Hint: very promising.



  1. Dave Kramer

    I can’t quite figure out what the upper left picture is. It kind of looks like some kind of seafood. I know it’s not a horse. Perhaps it’s my tablet resolution.

  2. Grubarazzi (@Grubarazzi)

    Every time I’ve stepped in to Bin 604 I preface my need for wine with something smart like “What would you recommend for someone who feels like death today?” or “What pairs well with Indian carry out?” Did he even bat an eyelash at you? I think they have heard and seen it all, sort of like everyone who works in Las Vegas. Speaking of… let’s go to Vegas. I hear they have cheap drinks.

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