Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

I’m taking the day off from blogging to participate in the Memorial Weekend Wine Tasting that happens in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The Rusty Grape Vineyards has a new blackberry wine, orange Muscat, and Pinot Gris out for me to try. I’ll have new posts for up in June.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Review: Wine Playing Cards

On the last day of the 2010 WineMaker Magazine Conference in Stevenson, WA, there was an hour between the last session and the dinner and awards ceremony. Being in the Skamania Lodge, I wandered around a little bit until I found the gift shop. There, I discovered that they were selling a red wine deck of cards and a white wine deck of cards for $8.95 each. While I found that to be a bit expensive, I figured I could use them to play solitaire with, or stop and read them and learn more about the grapes that go into wines. I also figured it could be a conversation piece sometime.

These cards were printed by Inkstone Design, Inc in 2003. The more popular varieties of wine grapes take the ace or king cards, and I was amazed that there are 52 red and 52 white grape varieties, as you only hear of a handful of breeds. Each card talks about the grape’s origins, characteristics, and gives a suggested food to pair it with.

I did find one error in them, which is amazing given my limited knowledge of grape wines. The red wine ace of hearts is the Cabernet Sauvignon, which puts its origins as, “A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes...” The white wine king of diamonds is the Sauvignon Blanc, which says, “In 1997 it was discovered to be a natural mutation of the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.” This confuses me, as it sounds like “Which came first – the chicken or the egg?”

There are probably better books out there on the topic of wine grapes and the different varieties, but those would be books that I wouldn’t really be interested in. These playing cards are small, fit into your pocket, and versatile, as I could actually play games with them rather than just read them. I could also see someone using them like flashcards. Overall, I find them useful and educational.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My New Eco-Lawn

A few months ago, I read a local news story about a woman who planted an eco friendly lawn. It was a grass seed mix that was developed by the Oregon State University. “The blend requires less water consumption, no chemical fertilizers and needs less frequent mowing. This means less time and money spent on lawn care even as it stays lush and green… This summer, as her neighbor’s lawns leaned toward a brownish tint despite frequently watering, [hers] stayed green. This was due to the mixture’s variety of drought tolerant plants. She also has found less moss since using the eco-lawn mix." Unfortunately, this was news worthy because here Home Owner’s Association was making her remove it. I tell you, there is nothing that makes people want something more than telling them they can’t have it, and I wanted this lawn (luckily, there is no HOA for me). This was good advertisement for eco friendly lawns.

The mix in this story was called Fleur-de-Lawn made by Hobbs and Hopkins LTD. They used things like English Daisy and clover instead of pure grass. The clover puts nitrogen back into the soil, acting like a natural fertilizer, and is more drought resistant than grass.

While looking for this mix, I came across Earth Turf, which also uses clover to minimize fertilizer use, chemicals, and watering.

Washington State University King County Extension put out a posting about eco lawns, which also had a link to Seattle Public Utilities’s thoughts on ecoturf . Both recommended the Fleur-de-Lawn, and also suggested Albany, Oregon’s Nichols Garden Nursery (whom I like because of vegetable and herb seed varieties) and their ecology lawn mixtures. Nichol’s and Fleur-de-Lawn both use clover, wild English daisies, yarrow, and baby blue eyes.

Just for comparison, I looked up the Scotts Turf Builder Pacific Northwest Mix. For starters, I have no idea what kind of grass it was using, so that was frustrating. It also claimed to reduce moss like the Fleur-de-lawn testimony story, and it needs less water to get started due to the seeds being covered. It is much cheaper per pound, but requires more seed per square foot. In fact, for half the price of 1 lb of Fleur de Lawn, you can get three pounds of Scotts, but it only covers half as much lawn, so you end up paying the same amount as Fleur de Lawn to get the same coverage. I also figure Scotts will cost me more in the end due to water, fertilizer, gas to mow it, and my time it takes to maintain it.

Thing is, we will have a beautiful, green lawn that will be soft to walk on bare footed without all the work and money!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ironic Lawn Care

My recent newsletter from the Home Orchard Society also included a story about God and St. Francis discussing lawn care, though this conversation could be with a foreigner unfamiliar with our customs. While I’m not quit this extreme in my views about lawns, I have been arguing for some time now that I don’t need a perfect lawn, and might rip out some of it in favor of a garden instead. Also, the pollution involved in mowing and the chemicals involved is horrible. Anyway, the story goes:

GOD: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.
ST. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
GOD: Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?
ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.
ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.
GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
ST. FRANCIS: No Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.
GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.
ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?
ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
GOD: And where do they get this mulch?
ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.
GOD: Enough. I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have they scheduled for us tonight?"
ST. CATHERINE: "Dumb and Dumber", Lord. It's a really stupid movie about.....
GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I’ve been gardening a lot recently, trying to get our property in tip top shape to grow a garden and plant my apple trees. This is all so that I have things to ferment.

When we bought the place, it had a moss lawn. There is no grass, just moss. Growing up on a farm, I was taught that if you have moss in the fields, something was wrong. Moss only grows where it has no competition. So if the grass dies off and moss comes in, then something needs to be done to encourage grass to grow there. Sure, the moss could be killed, but that does not mean that the grass would return, or if it is reseeded, it does not mean it will grow. So the key is really finding out why the grass died out.

With my new house, the back yard was completely moss. How it got to be that way is pretty simple: there were a lot of evergreen that blocked out the sunlight, killing the grass. Since then, we have cut down a few trees, and we thought that the moss would die back with that much sunlight on it now, but it isn’t really.

Thing is, we didn’t use moss killer on our lawn because we want to plant apple trees and a garden, so we don’t want chemicals like that entering our food. We ended up sort of kind of removing it with lime and hard work. The lime will also hopefully bring the soil back a little more basic after having acidic pine needles everywhere.

We didn’t toss the moss out, either, but put it in a raised bed that only contained berries. If it composts down, great. If it starts growing, no worries. I like reusing things.

Monday, May 24, 2010

2010 WineMaker Magazine Conference

This last Friday and Saturday, I attended the 2010 WineMaker Magazine Conference in Stevenson, WA. I attended for several reasons. I make fruit wine, making cider is very similar to making fruit wine, and it was so close I felt I shouldn’t pass it up.

Admittedly, I was a little out of place. Most of the people there were in there 50s or older, and probably two thirds of the attendants were male. However, these people had a wealth of experience, and I did go there to learn.

The group of people was a mixture – some were hobbyists like me, and some actually had their winery license. Though, when asked how long they had been making wine, most respond in seasons rather than years. After a bit, I got used to responding that I make cider, and that I had never fermented a grape in my life. After some of the classes, like making sparkling wine from wine kits, I might actually try now.

I attended classes on malolatic fermentation, troubleshooting wine problems, and yeast health. They had two tasting sessions, where the first one served us the same wine fermented with different yeasts to see how the yeast affects flavor. The second session was about the sensory of tasting.

Most of the speakers submitted their power point presentations a head of time, allowing the Conference to print them out and put them in a binder for us. That allowed us just to scribble notes rather than try to jot down everything. In addition, every presentation was projected though a PA system, which allows the organizers to record each session and then sell the entire conference recordings for $20, which is a good price if you could not attend the session and you wanted to make more sense out of the presentation power point print offs.

During lunch, they had signs on the tables like Northwest, Merlot, kit wines, and more. The idea was that if you sat at that table, then you were interested in that topic, possibly making the conversation flow easier. I sat at the Fruit Wine Maker table both days, and I met some brew supply store owners, one guy who allowed us to try his peach/plum wine, and a fellow guy interested in cider making.

Next year, the conference is moving to Santa Barbara, CA, so I will not be attending next year. However, if it came back around to this region, I would go back.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Review: He Said Beer, She Said Wine

Granted, I’m not fond of any beer that has hops, though I’m not really a grape wine drinker, either, but He Said Beer, She Said Wine by Sam Calagione and Marine Old has given my husband lots of amusement. It was given to us as a Christmas present, and we use it to try and develop our palattes, especially for wine.

Calagione is actually the founder of Dogfish Head Brewing in Delaware, and Old is a wine sommelier friend of his. They would get into debates about what drink pairs better with a given food, which went from their own little private competitions to using the Dogfish Head Pub to host tastings with secret ballots. To their surprise, they got about a 50/50 vote, and it wasn’t based on gender.

The book goes though some basic principles on tasting wine and beer before it gets to the food pairings. About six foods from cheese, vegetables, sandwiches, pizza and pasta, spicy food, shellfish, poultry, meat, fruit desserts, and other desserts are presented. Old goes though and talks about them before offering her suggested wine pairing for that particular dish, and then Calagione has the same opportunity with beer for the same dish.

Most of these dishes are fairly common, which makes it much easier to concentrate on the alcohol rather than worrying about finding that particular food. For example, she recommends a Cave Spring Riesling paired with Kung Pao Chicken, while he recommends an Austrian Doppelbock such as Schloss Eggenberg Urbock 23⁰. Thing is, while the Kung Pao Chicken might be easy to find, rationality makes it a little harder to find the alcohol, so my husband and I would find another Riesling and Doppelbock that might be close to what they are describing.

At the back of the book, they do provide a few recipes to help you have your own beer vs wine tasting parties. While we have not had the parties, we have cooked up a few of the dishes.

In our experience with this book, the wine pairings always seem to work with each dish even though we made substitutions. The beer aspect of this seems to be a bit trickier, as sometimes it is better than the wine pairing, sometimes it ties with the wine pairing, and sometimes it just doesn’t go with the food it was paired with, leaving wine as the clear winner. In fact, my husband recently made the spicy Gulf Shrimp recipe again, which pairs with a Domaine Longval Tavel Rosé wine and a Moortgat Duvel beer. This time, he didn’t even want to bother with the beer, and instead just stick to the regional Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Rosé we had found. But our previous cooking of the Classic Beer Tenderloin paired with Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon wine and Chimay Preière beer left us at a draw.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cider Review by Gary Vaynerchuk: Farnum Hill

Normally, I like to give my opinion and maybe I will link to others at the end, but I try not to let others sway my opinions. However, while I do follow Farnum Hill Cider in cyber world in which they have a large presence as an American cider producer, I am unable to acquire and taste their product on the West Coast. Therefore, when a video blog by Gary Vaynerchuk reviewing Farnum Hill Cider resurfaced, I thought I would make an exception and post it.

I hope you enjoy it.

Gary Vaynerchuk reviews Farnum Hill Kingston Black Cider Reserve, Farmhouse Cider, and Extra-Dry Cider on March 10, 2008 on Wine Library.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yesterday, I talked about cider black and tans. Today, I will turn my attention to some of the cider cocktail recipes I have managed to collect.

JB Worcester UK posted on the Cider Workshop a calvados brandy and hard cider drink which he called “frogs nose,” and claimed it is better than pommeau.

Crispin Cider, always looking to promote their product, has posted several recipes.

Other sources of cider, both sweet or hard, drink recipes include:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cider Black and Tan

In the beer world, a black and tan is two beers of different color and densities poured in such a way that they do not mix, but instead remained layered. A tan beer, such as a lager, is usually poured first, and then a dark beer such as Guinness is poured over a spoon into the glass, which causes it to sit on top of the tan beer. It is quite lovely to look at.

Recently, I have discovered that there are cider versions of black and tans, in which the cider is usually poured first. The most common is the Snakebite, which is cider and lager. The lesser known varieties include the Hummingbird, Black & Velvet, and the specialized Oregon Hop Blossom. The Hummingbird is a pear cider and stout combo. The Black & Velvet is cider with Guinness. Wandering Aengus, based out of Salem, OR, told me that the Oregon Hop Blossom is an Oregon Cider paired with an Oregon IPA. Is it just me, or is the Oregon Hop Blossom a bit of a marketing ploy?

Speaking of marketing ploys, Crispin Cider has a list of many more cider black & tans using their products. They have the 3 Velveteers, which is Crispin cider paired with either an amber, stout (usually Guinness), or cream ale. They also have Snakes & Lagers, which is again Crispin cider, the snake, paired with different beers. They have the classic Snakebite, Snakelight (light beer), Snakelight Lime (light beer with a lime wedge), Brown Adder (Brown Ale), Sidewinder (Mexican beer with a lime wedge), or a Rattlesnake (Mexican Amber with a lime wedge). Check out their blends, or at least take a look at the lovely pictures.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cedar Apple Rust in the West

I am a paying member of the Home Orchard Society, in which I get a quarterly newsletter. I recently got one the other day in the mail, and it had an article submitted by Harry Burton in Salt Spring Island, BC is about Cedar Apple Rust.

As I understand it, is a fungus that winters on cedar trees, and then transfers to apple trees, infecting the leaves and fruit. I have been very careful trying to pick out apple trees that would be immune to this, as I am planning on planting the apple trees where cedar trees used to be. Also, there are a lot of cedar trees in this climate to expose my apple trees to, which kind of makes it puzzling that this state successfully grows so many apples with so many cedar trees around.

Burton talks about how he has cedar and apple trees living next to each other, and he has absolutely no problems with cedar apple rust. He admits he has some problems with canker and bitter pit, but never any problems with cedar apple rust that he knows of. This makes me less worried.

At the end of the article, there is a small editor’s note saying, “Cedar apple rust is rare west of the Rockies. We do not have the alternate hosts unless some careless landscaper planted one.” In fact, the cedar they are referring to in “cedar apple rust” is the Eastern red cedar or the Rocky Mountain juniper, which is why it is rarely seen here.

I guess I’ll quit worrying about cedar apple rust when picking out apple trees, along with fire blight, as we don’t have long hot summers to make that an issue.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review: Crush It

Last fall, I was watching KGW Live @ 7 when they sent their business journalist Joe Smith to Powell’s Books to cover an author’s signing of Crush It! Why NOW is the Time to Cash In On Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk, the guy from Wine Library.

Vaynerchuk is an entrepreneur who was able to “[grow] his family wine business from $4 million to $60 million in five years”, and he did most of this by “focusing on the Internet and leveraging social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter." His book gives you a little bit of his history so you can understand how he worked to earn his success.

I first checked the book out from the library, but quickly released I should buy it. It is because of that book that this blog exists today, along with my Twitter account and Facebook page. The timing of that book coming out was perfect for me – I had realized I wanted to make cider, but had not realized the potential of the Internet to help me grow though writing rather than struggle silently on my own.

I then went out and bought two more copies to give to my brother-in-law who was finishing up his graphic design degree, and for my favorite cousin in college for interior design. I think this is a great book for people coming out of college, people looking for a career change, people who want to grow their business, and most importantly, people have a job or hobby they love to talk about. What topic do you talk about that puts a twinkle in your eyes?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gary Vaynerchuk on Noses

Gary Vaynerchuk is a wine guru with a video blog called Wine Library TV. Vaynerchuk’s family immigrated from Belrus to New York, where his father operated a liquor store in which he worked as a janitor. He realized that when people came in for hard liquor, they knew exactly what they wanted, bought it, and left. However, wine drinkers would often browse the selection and ask for advice, and he saw a potential to grow his father’s business though these drinkers. Problem was, he was still underage:

As a teenager, tasting wine was legally impossible, so he set out to train his palate “backwards.” To study various flavors associated with wine, he tasted obscure fruits and vegetables, along with earthly influences, including grass, dirt, rocks, tobacco, and wood [based on a wine’s description]. “I probably consumed more New Jersey grass in my teens than any lawn mower.” By familiarizing himself with the numerous tastes that contributed to a specific wine, Vaynerchuk was able to detect subtleties that an ordinary palate wouldn’t recognize.

The following is a 30 minute long Wine Library TV video blog #148, “How to Get Your Wine Palate Trained”, which shows Vaynerchuk using foods to build up a palate. It is interesting to watch, because he eats something, and it reminds him of a particular wine.

He admits early on that it cost him $180 to obtain all the foods for this segment, but a lot of what he buys are items slow to expire in multiple servings, such as jam and spices, and can be bought over a period of time to reduce the impact on your wallet. Some of these items you probably already have in your cupboard. It is the fresh things that make it more difficult.

There were a few foods he was missing that are listed in the comments, but I’ve also noticed that some are missing from his list that are on the wine wheel. I think I would use the wine wheel to help guide my grocery list of wine tasting.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Class: Le Nez du Vin Part II

Last night was my second and last class for “Le Nez du Vin”: The Nose of Wine, offered by my local community college “Cooking & Wine School." It is a class designed to help improve one’s ability to identify smells in wine, with last night focusing on red wines.

Our lecture for the evening was about taste. Taste and smell are different senses in the fact that our bodies are having reactions to chemicals in order to sense. Another odd thing is that 75% of tasting is actually smelling. Together, they help us identify if something is safe to consume.

Recently, there is a group of people being identified as “supertasters.” About one quarter of the population seems to have more of the smaller taste buds, making them more sensitive to tasting things. There is a simple test of consuming a harmless chemical called propylthouracil (PROP), which will taste bitter to a supertaster, while a nontaster will taste nothing. I’ve always doubted that I was a supertaster, but they said that supertasters avoid coffee because it is too bitter, which I do. Looking at the list on Wikipedia, I also avoid grapefruit juice, only consume spinach in a lettuce mixture, I don’t care for soy, and I love gin but cannot handle tonic water. Maybe supertaster explains my aversion to goat’s milk products, when others cannot tell the difference? My instructors did indicate that sometimes supertasters avoid alcohol because it “burns,” so maybe I’m not a supertaster. I’ll have to try and find PROP and find out for sure.

Back to wine – besides actually tasting wine, there is also how it feels in the mouth, which can be broken up into a few categories:

  • Body – sometimes thought of as thickness. Ideally, wine should be silky, not thin.
  • Temperature – consuming any food cold masks flavors. If a vendor is having you taste refrigerator cold wine, then there are flaws that they are hiding.
  • Texture
  • Tannin – tannins create a bit of puckering. A little bit of tannins open up the taste buds, while a lot of tannins close down the taste buds, sometimes even leaving the mouth feeling dry. Initially, tannins are short chains which are not exactly pleasant tasting. As they age, they bond to make longer chains, which taste better.
  • Alcohol

Somehow, I had a wine smelling reputation from the previous week, and it kind of spooked me when a clerk came in and said I was the one to beat, and I had never seen her before. Plus, I didn’t really think I was that good as I had a list go guide me before. Well, after last week’s 14/17 correct on smelling jars, it was decided not to give us a list of what smells there were to challenge me. I still ended up with a 14/17, with one very close one of being marionberry jam (a thornless blackberry hybrid developed at OSU in 1956), and I thought it was blueberry jam. I had a little harder time with the flaws, and said one was like plant rot, but more pleasant, and he said it was actually the water drained off of a can of mushrooms, so he was trying to get us to smell fungus.

When we started drinking the wines, I had a hard time, as all of them had a black pepper nose to me, and it was difficult to get past that to smell any fruit. Maybe I’m not a supertaster.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Apple Press

After I figured out how I was going to crush apples this coming year, I started looking into how to press them.

There are two basic types of presses – the basket press and the cheese press. The basket press is usually a round slatted basket in which pressure is applied using a screw in the middle, and the juice runs out the side. There are already made presses out there for $250, but an overwhelming amount of people I talked to said that this design yields a poor amount of juice when working with apples. Instead, they suggested I look into the cheese press system, which tray with “cheese” and a hydraulic jack. There is a set of plans in Annie Proloux and Lew Nichol’s Cider: Making, Using, & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider, which is similar but better to one on Andrew Lea’s website. Old Time Cider just posted a video of Alan Yelvington building a cider press out of a Harbor Freight Shop Press, which is a press already mounted into a frame and would save some time and energy building (I appologize about the layout, but resizing the video is just fighting me today):

He also posted with the video his suppliers:

How the press works:

Harbor Freight recently had a sale in which their 12 ton shop press, which normally runs for $120 was on sale for $80, and I got one. However, this means that the tray he used is too big because it is a narrower press. I’m currently looking into other food grade plastic or stainless steel trays that would fit.

I’m going to slowly buy up the parts I need and try to have everything ready by the end of August to make apple cider.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Apple Grinder

Somewhere in the back of my head, a little alarm went off saying that while I have access to apples this fall to try and make apple cider from, I have no way of crushing and pressing the apples. That’s the equipment I really need to be attempting to get before this fall.

My local home brew supply store does rent crushers and presses. However, they don’t have very many, so you have to sign up months in advance to rent them and hope that your timing is right. Since my folk’s apple trees ripen at different times, I think it would be better if I spent about $400 for an initial crush and press that I would have for years to come until I upgrade.

I’ve been on the Cider Workshop for awhile now, and when it comes to apple grinders, they keep recommending garbage disposals, which costs less than $100. From there, you would need some lumber to make a frame to set it in.

This method seems pretty good to me – it is cheaper than an industrial apple grinder, and it is electric. For $150-250, I could buy a manual apple grinder, but that just seems silly compared to this.

I would need some food grade buckets to catch the crushed apples and juice with, so I went to my local grocery store bakery and I got about six free 3 gallon buckets that they had frosting in, so they are food grade. Downside is that the store didn’t keep the lids.

A few notes of caution that I have heard about using garbage disposals. First, they can overheat, especially the cheaper ones, so they need to shut down every 15 minutes or so, and having a fan run on them does help. Secondly, all the parts need to be plastic, rubber, or stainless steel, as the acid in the juice can leech other metals, which is not good.

So, I have a plan for the crusher.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book Review: The New Book of Apples

The New Book of Apples: The Definitive Guide to Apples, Including Over 2,000 Varieties by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards was first published in 1993 and revised in 2002.

It starts off with a long history of the apple which is several chapters long with historical drawings of apples in culture.

Skipping to the Directory of Apple Varieties, it starts out talking about different flavor descriptors, culinary apples, and then tree habits like flowering, bud types, tree vigor, time to pick, and apple shapes to give you guides to help identify apple breeds. When it gets to the actual breeds, it looks very much like a dictionary with its short descriptions and column like format. It splits the apples into two sections. The first is for “dessert, fresh eating”, “culinary”, or both, and the second smaller section is for cider only apples. My Ashmead’s Kernel is in the book and has a slightly bigger than average entry, but there is a lot of short hand and other things that cause me to keep referencing what it means. My Dabinett, on the other hand, is a small entry. They read:

ASHEMEAD’S KERNEL 8 L D [8 = russeted, usually sweet, dessert varieties, L = late use, D = dessert, fresh eating]
UK; according to Hogg raise in C 18th by physician Dr Ashmead but local historians now believe this to be an error. It is more likely that William Ashmead (d 1782), Clerk of Gloucester City, raised this variety in garden of house, which became Ashmead House, Gloucester. Ronalds records in 1831 that tree was then 100 years’ old. RHS FCC 1981; AGM 1993
Strong, sweet-sharp intense flavor reminiscent of fruit or acid drops and of Nonpareil, but sweeter than its probable parent; firm, white flesh. Long esteemed by connoisseurs; widely planted from mid-C19th and recently regain popularity in England and North America.
Grown commercially on small scale in England, but dull colour, poor crops weight against it.
Frt Col grnish yell/yell, some frt flushed in diffuse brownish rd/orng rd; many russet patches, netting, dots. Size med. Shape fltrnd [flat-round]; sltly flt sides; sltly ribbed. Basin [opposite of the stem] brd, shal [broad shallow]; sltly ribbed; russet lined. Eye [in the basin where the flower petals would have been] hlf open; sepals med to lng, v downy. Cavity [where the stem attaches] med dpth, wdth; russet lined. Stalk shrt, qte thck. Flesh wht.
F* [attractive blossom] 14 [optimum pollination time]. T2 [medium vigior]. C [crop] gd but erratic poss due to cold springs; prn bitter pit. P [pick] e/m-Oct. S [storage] Dec-Feb.

DABINETT full bittersweet, vintage [referring to the acid and tannin classification, age]
Found prob early 1900s, in a hedge in Middle Lambrook, Somerset, by Mr William Dabinett. Believed Chisel Jersey seedling.
Small, greenish yellow, flushed and striped in red; strong aroma when ripe. Produces sweet, astringent juice and bittersweet cider with ‘soft, full bodied, astringency’. Grown all cider countrids and widely planted intensive orchards.
F m [mid season flowering]; slf fertile. T1 [weak vigior]; prec, gd crops. H [harvest] Nov.

This book has beautiful paintings of apples by Elisabeth Dowle, but there are only 32 paintings in a book that boasts talking about 2,000 apples.

This book contains three major appendices – cooking with apples (5 pages long), growing apples (8 pages long), and further information. I find it a pity that growing apples, which includes soil, climate, rootstock, pruning, grafting, training, diseases, and pests are given so little thought after so much is given to the history in 164 pages and cataloging 2,000 varieties of apples in 103 pages. This kind of shows me that this is not an apple orchardist book, and would even be difficult to use to identify apples with so few pictures. This is a book for historians. At £35.00 (approximately $50), I will not be buying this book and instead check it out from the library should I want it.

Speaking of apple history books, The Story of the Apple by Barrie B Juniper and David J Mabberley is exclusively one, and has an impressive reference section. It does have a section on cyder, but I’m currently too busy to read a history book.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Class: Le Nez du Vin Part I

My local community college offers workshops in their “Cooking & Wine School,” in which I just took the first off a two series class titled “Le Nez du Vin”: The Nose of Wine. It is a class designed to help improve one’s ability to identify smells in wine.

They started us off talking about how sight affects our perception of wine, as it gives the first impression based on color and haze. For instance, age changes the color of the wine, which we then perceive and it sets up expectations on our part. They also gave a 5 minute talk regarding the science of seeing.

From there, they gave us a grape wine aroma wheel designed for Washington State wines. It was a copy of what was originally a small flip book, where the wheel was limited just to smells common to this state, and then each page talked about a specific wine style. It gave a brief description, an ideal food pairing, indicated the usual flavor characteristics, and then indicated where they were on the wine wheel.

They then took us into another room where there were 17 foil covered jars with lids. Each jar contained either a mashed up food in it covered with tissue paper so you couldn’t see it, or cotton balls dipped in a liquid. We were to smell these jars and identify what they were, such as honey, pineapple, orange, apple, hazelnut, vanilla, etc. These smells were characteristics of white wines. They had briefly flashed a list of what the options where, so I got 14/17 correct, messing up three of the citrus and mixing up pear and apple. However, if I hadn’t seen the list, I’m not sure I would have gotten that many. They also included four “flaws” for us to smell – acetone (nail polish remover), vinegar, pickle juice, and sulfites.

They explained that if you google for “Le Nez du Vin,” you would find a kit of 12, 14, or 54 vials representing wine smells. These kits cost between $120-500, so this class’s “kitchen approach” method of jars was much cheaper, though not as long lasting since the items would parish.

They brought us back to other room and talked a little bit about smell. They said that the average person can smell 20,000 smells, and wine typically has 200 or more (cider has about 163 aromas determined by Long Aston Research Station in 1975). In order to smell something, the “smell” has to be able to evaporate, and it has to be able to dissolve in oil. This is part of the reason wine drinkers swirl their wine – it increases the ability to evaporate and therefore be smelled. Again, they talked a little bit about the science regarding how we smell.

We then went and tasted seven known white wines and just tried to identify smells in them. There were no right or wrong answers, just what you perceive. Unfortunately, our culture does not really encourage the development of a vocabulary for smell, so sometimes it would be frustrating that I might know a smell but would be unable to give it a name.

Next week’s class will talk about red wines.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reflection Yields a Plan

Writing this blog has been therapeutic for me the last couple of days. It started with my husband asking a simple enough question of what would it take more me to make larger batches of wine and cider. This lead to a good analysis, but also revealed some hesitation due to liquor licensing laws and money fears. This has lead me to today’s plan.

I had a thought that I would buy one carboy a month.

My husband loves the idea, which he does benefit from, though he suggested thinking about alternatives buy using plastic Better Bottles instead of glass carboys. For instance, 5 gallon glass carboys can be obtained for about $35, while a 5 gallon plastic Better Bottle would cost about $25.

But my husband and I are both a bit twitchy about plastic. It does give off flavors after awhile, where glass does not. However, I currently use a plastic bucket as a primary fermenter if I am working with solid material such as fruit or vegetables. Therefore, I think I would be okay to have a few of these plastic Better Bottles around for the batch to be in for a week or two, but long term aging would have me rack the batch into glass.

I’m feeling pretty good about this plan and feel like I’m moving forward.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What it would take to be a winery

I got to thinking how yesterday, I was sort of resistant to making bigger batches of wine and cider, yet my goal is to open a cidery and perhaps sell country wine. So why the hesitation?

It is true that I would need to build up in equipment in order to start being a producer. In fact, I have heard of a winery out of Texas called Cork This! that uses carboys to make their batches. Clear Creek Distillery puts all of their batches into 5 gallon carboys so that they can taste test each one for quality control to determine if they want that particular carboy to be part of the final batch. So to the “young and broke” argument against saving money and not getting carboys, this rebukes it. Carboys are very essential.

No, my biggest issue is licensing. Originally, I thought I could make a batch of cider in my home very much like I hear how people make jam in their homes to sell. Then I found out that since wine and cider are controlled by the government, I have to have an exclusive kitchen for the making of wine and cider, and it has to be separate from one that makes beer. In an email to a follow beginner wine maker, he was provided the following information from the TTB:

Winery in a residence - Segregation of Operations Required

A winery must be totally segregated from any living space. TTB must be able to directly access the winery without going through personal space and you must be able to directly access your personal living space without going through the winery. The winery premises should be business use only so you cannot be storing bikes, doing laundry etc. on winery premises nor can you cross winery premises to get to an area where you store bikes, do laundry etc. The winery premises must be secure which includes a lock on any door providing direct access from the residence to the winery.

So I guess while I do need the carboys to help start up my business, not having a space in which I can make wine and cider has me hesitant to make investments.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bigger Batches

My husband asked me last week, “What equipment would it take to get you making bigger batches of wine and cider?”

He brews up 5 gallons of beer at a time. Due to the amount of boiling water, it doesn’t make much sense to do smaller batches since you end up going though the same amount of work. In the end, he ends up with nearly sixty 12 oz bottles, and it only cost about $50.

He watches me make batches of wine for $12 for a gallon, maybe even more money if I used honey instead of sugar. And my final yield is 5 wine bottles or a dozen 12 oz bottles. Granted, I have to let them age for awhile, but they sort of become like gold, where I’m more willing to pay $15 for a fruit wine in a 750 mL bottle than drink mine. I think he wants to start drinking my wine with an evening meal much like he does his beer.

He is also at a point to take his brewing to the next level. See, beer relies on sugar in grains to ferment. Now, there is a cheater method of buying these grain sugars already extracted out as malt, but any really serious home brewer and any brewery is going to do a process to get those grain sugars out themselves. My husband is looking to do this, which may require more equipment, but I think he is also wanting me to step up to the next level with him.

What would it take for me? Well, for starters, I currently have seven 1 gallon jugs, which allow me to experiment for a small price. I would need lots of carboys, and my batches would become much more expensive and harder to obtain all the materials I would need. Right now, my husband has all the carboys tied up. The one gallon glass jugs cost $5 each, and the carboys run about $30 and more (cost provided from link shown also requires shipping and handling).

The other thing that I should probably upgrade is from my $20 hand corker to an $70-150 floor corker. Right now, with my small batches where I’m doing 5 bottles at a time, the hand corker isn’t so bad, but I hear that for larger batches, the floor corker is what you need.

I’ll get there someday, but for now, to help with money, I’ll just stick to doing 1 gallon batches.