|music||:||Soluna - So In Love|
MIL Woman, Husband Guy and I went to Bayou Brewing Club today. They call it a "club", but it's just a self-serve winery. You book a time to go in and bottle your own wine or beer. They had a promotional special going on where you can get 30 bottles of ice wine at a discount plus they throw in shrink caps and labels for free.
At every step, the staff help you, give you instructions, demonstrate, watch you and give you pointers until you're confident that you're doing it right. Then they leave you alone to finish the rest of your lot.
The pump thing has some kind of clear liquid in it. It's not soap, because it doesn't bubble much. I think it's distilled water, but I'm not sure. But it's evident that they don't want you to waste it because the pump thing has a tray that catches everything that drips.
You turn the bottle upside down, stick the mouth over the nozzle of the pump thing and push down briskly. It squirts the liquid up to the very bottom of the bottle. After 4-5 pumps, you take it off and put the bottle over rinsing apparatus. It's a vertical fountain-ish kind of nozzle with a lever. You push down on the lever and it sprays a jet of hot water up the bottle. You're supposed to let it rinse for 5-10 seconds then, put the bottle upside down on the drip tree.
The next station is the filling and corking. From the drip tree, you take a bottle and fill it with some vapourous stuff that's supposed to help with the preservation. You stick it on this hose and turn the knob to the "ON" position, count to 4 and turn the knob back to the "OFF" position.
The bottle then goes in the filling hose. You stick it in and veg while it fills. There are two filling hoses, so you can keep yourself busy. It automatically detects the fill line and stops filling on its own. I thought that was nifty. When you take it out, you have to be quick about it otherwise, the detector knob will be out of contact with liquid too long and it'll start the flow again.
Then you put the bottle in the corking machine, load a wet cork into the top. There was a big red sign that said to use WET CORKS ONLY, but they didn't explain why. I used a few dry ones before I saw the sign... oops... =P The machine was a little off centre, so it took a few crookedly punched corks before I figured out how to get the thing to punch the corks in straight =}
The third and last station is the capping and labelling. They wheel you over to the capping and labelling table. There's a kettle of boiling water with steam coming out of the spout. They give you shrink caps which is the same material as the heat shrinks you use in electronics assembly, they shrink tight with heat.
So, you put the cap on, push down on the top so that it forms to the bottle and cork. Using your thumb and index finger, hold the cap taut, stick it over the steam and twirl it so that the cap shrinks evenly. The secret is to twirl fast! The first few that we did, we didn't twirl fast enough and got this wrinkled mess.
Once that's done, the labels go on. They have a label wetting machine where you just put the label in and it gets dragged through to wet the glue side. You put the label on the bottle and then using the provided dishtowel, dry it off as well as possible. When you're drying, you need to push from the centre of the label outwards so that you push the air/water pockets out for a nice flat label. Don't worry too much about the label not being totally straight at first, the glue doesn't actually dry straight away so you'll have time to straighten. It's more important to get the air/water pockets out first.
And that's it! That cost about (CDN)$180.00 for 30 bottles of ice wine (it's regularly just over $200 for 30). That's about $6.00 per 375mL bottle which is an insanely good price for ice wine. They're usually around $50.00 for a 375mL bottle. Of course, I'm not sure about the quality of this stuff though. We got to try a little bit that was left over after bottling, but it wasn't ready, so I don't really know if I can go by that.
They have to age for at least 3 months before we can have any. The first week, they have to stand upright. Then after that, we have to lay the bottles sideways.
What is Ice Wine?
Also known as "Eiswein" in Germany, it is a sweet dessert wine made from grapes picked at the first frost (even later than a "Late Harvest", making it very concentrated in flavour, acidity and sugar. Rare and hard to make (thus very pricy), it is available from Germany, Austria and Canada.
I love good ice wine. I love the aftertaste of breathing honey'ed air.