Monday, December 06, 2010

Bottling Wine at Jim and Charlotte's

Wine for immediate consumption
in mason jars
 My friend Charlotte, who taught me everything I know about stocking books at the Mercer Island Thrift Shop, said she needed help bottling wine, so last Saturday Kris and I stopped by to see what we could do.
It seems that Charlotte and her husband Jim used to make wine as part of the Boeing Wine Club decades. They kept this up for a while after Jim retired, but for the past decade had been busy doing other things (Jim was the electronics guy at MITS for years, and put in a huge amount of time tinkering on donated gadgets to get them into sellable condition.) Recently while clearing out a basement room, they came across three carboys that had been put to bed 10 or 15 years ago - surely it was time to bottle them!
Kris, Jim and Charlotte
This was a heck of a lot of fun. We'd bottled wine before at Gallagher's Where-U-Brew, and enjoyed it a lot, but doing it in someone's basement was a whole new experience. The biggest issue is that Gallagher's is heavily optimized for getting it all done quickly; they're all set up with spaces and sinks and gadgetry, whereas this home operation was a lot more casual. Also, at Gallagher's we make the wine from juice and it therefore need not be filtered; at Jim & Charlotte's it had been started from fruit, so we had to run it through a filter (...or else the wine would be chewy. I dunno, that might have been o.k.)
We tinkered with the best arrangement for going from the carboy to the pump to the filter to the bottle and eventually worked out an arrangement involving the counter, a table and a chair. Corking was a challenge; whereas Gallagher's has a neat corking machine and pre-softened corks, we had to soak the corks to make them compressible, carve them to fit, and then hammer into place. It all worked but it was a long series of interesting puzzles to solve. Luckily we all like to have a good time.
There were three carboys: pear, blackberry and plum. The last bits of each we poured into mason jars, on the theory that we were going to drink them right away anyway.
Jim & Charlotte insisted that we take half the bottles. We felt that was a bit much since they'd supplied everything, but on the other hand, we didn't want to argue. We'll make sure it all gets put to good us (already we gave one as a holiday gift as our friend Claudia happened by.)
 They gave us one of the carboys as well - a very generous gift and one we will put to use as soon as the blackberries are in season. The best way to honor the gift of winemaking equipment must surely be to make more wine!
Thanks Jim! Thanks Charlotte!

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