August 31, 2011
We make our own wine at home; it's a fun process that requires attention to detail and an appreciation for chemistry. But if you have the patience, it can produce an amazing wine with fabulous flavor, character and taste.
The best part I have noticed is that every step along the way -- the checking, testing, re-checking, re-testing and adding or subtracting elements -- is exactly the same as if you were looking to become better at what you do in your career.
Like everything, it all starts with the right equipment. Get a primary fermenter (which is basically a large food-grade plastic bucket with a small hole in top that serves as an airlock), some siphon tubes, grape juice from whatever grape you like (we prefer Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay) and a glass carboy (which is a large glass bottle which holds about six gallons).
Sterilization is key; you need an oxygen-based cleaner and sterilizer or lots of metabisulphite.
MIX, COVER AND WATCH
By mixing in bentonite (clay), grape juice and oak if you like oak-flavor in wine, and pitching yeast on top of the juice, you are set to allow the fermentation to begin. Cover the fermenter and place a water airlock in the hole in the fermenter lid. Step back and watch the magic begin. The yeast multiplies by the millions and eats the sugar in the juice, while producing CO2 and alcohol. If everything stays in balance, the sugar from the juice gets consumed by the yeast during a process called "primary fermentation." During this stage, you see the CO2 escaping the bubbler airlock and you know your wine is being made naturally.
Once Primary is over, the wine should be about 11% alcohol and almost no sugar; you check this by using a Hydrometer, which measures the density of the liquid. As sugar goes away and is replaced by alcohol, the density of the liquid becomes less. Then it's on to secondary fermentation and a series of rackings (pouring the wine from jug to jug) before it is clarified, filtered and then readied for bottling in about six weeks or so, give or take. It is fun to experiment with the processes to come up with the perfect wine - in many cases, so good your friends will want to know what it is.
YOU ARE THE BEST VINTAGE
If you are undertaking a new career change, it is a lot like this process ... It takes care, attention and management. You will go through many of the same processes before you feel completely comfortable. You will be getting steeped in the new career field, introduced to new and different things ... and all of it will have an effect on you -- just like winemaking process has an effect on the wine you are making.
Take your time, pay attention to your career "ingredients" and just like making a fine wine, you can fashion a fine career.