Thanksgiving & Wine Making 2018

As is always the case in October we made our annual pilgrimage to the Okanagan to spend Thanksgiving with the Maclean/Martin/Suuban family and also to pick grapes and make wine.

The drive went pretty well considering we had 17 month old twins in the back seat and as usual, the mountains and fall forests did not disappoint.

Sunrise over Skaha Lake and the vineyard
Sunrise over Skaha Lake and the vineyard

Fortunately, timing worked out perfectly and both the Gewurztraminer and Merlot grapes were ready for picking right on Thanksgiving weekend. It wasn’t long before we were put to work picking grapes.

Gewurztramine Grapes ready to harvest
Gewurztraminer grapes ready to harvest

As Saturday was Janet’s birthday, I made her a smoothie and she went for a run to start her day while I strapped Ewan and Eileen onto me and headed out to join Grandpa Ken in the vineyard to pick grapes.

Kyle picking grapes with Eileen and Ewan
Kyle picking grapes with Eileen and Ewan

Before long Janet, Loren, and Davis had joined us.

Davis Loren and Janet picking grapes
Davis Loren and Janet picking grapes

Once the gewurtz was picked it was time to start crushing the grapes.

Crushing the gewurtz
Crushing the gewurtz

We let the Gewurztraminer grapes sit on the skins for a few hours this year to extract a little more flavour from the skins. While that was happening we got a head start on picking the Merlot. Ewan and Eileen had a blast running through the rows in the vineyard and eating grapes straight from the vines.

Ewan in the vineyard
Ewan in the vineyard

Ewan in particular couldn’t get enough of the grapes. He was eating entire cluster at a time!

Ewan eating grapes
Ewan eating grapes
Ewan eating grapes from the bucket
Ewan eating grapes from the bucket
Eileen in the vineyard
Eileen in the vineyard
Ewan getting a ride on the tractor with Grandpa
Ewan getting a ride on the tractor with Grandpa

Before long it was time to press the gewurtz while the sun set behind the benches.

Pressing the gewurtz
Pressing the gewurtz
Madeline performing some quality control on the gewurtz juice
Madeline performing some quality control on the gewurtz juice

Ewan and Eileen seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to unattended alcoholic beverages…

The yield on the gewurtz was a little greater than we were expecting. We ended up nearly filling the 290 Litre stainless steel fermentation vessel to the brim which is risky business as fermentation inevitably leads to a certain amount of foam.

fermenter full of gewurtz
Fermenter full of gewurtz
Grandma and Grandpa with the grandkids
Grandma and Grandpa with the grandkids
Eileen, Ewan, mom and dad
Eileen, Ewan, mom and dad

Ewan and Eileen really enjoyed the little rocking chairs that their late Great Grandpa Mani built for Davis and I when we were kids.

Ewan and Eileen on rocking chairs
Ewan and Eileen on rocking chairs
Eileen snuggling with mom
Eileen snuggling with mom

The next day we made a quick trip out to Keremeos to purchase some produce. Some of the markets had fantastic pumpkin/produce displays setup so we took the opportunity to get a a few pictures of the kids.

the kids in Keremeos
the cousins in Keremeos
Keremeos produce
Keremeos produce

When we got back, it was time to get started on the Merlot.

~400L of Merlot must
~400L of Merlot must

This year we used a yeast that was new to us for the Merlot, Lalvin RC212 which is known for it’s unusual characteristic of not absorbing colour from the wine thereby leaving more colour and potentially flavour in place. It’s also reported to promote berry and fruit flavours. As usual, we re-hydrated our yeast using the yeast re-hydration nutrient go-ferm according to the instructions provided by Scott Labs.

Just 12 hours after pitching the yeast, a cap had formed (the grapes getting pushed to the top of the vessel from rising CO2 bubbles) and fermentation was under way.

Meanwhile, the Gewurztraminer wine was also well under way. We used a new yeast on this one too, Lalvin BA11 which originates from Portugal and is known to promote tropical fruit flavours.

gewurtz fermenting
Gewurtz fermenting

Ewan and Eileen ate lots of grapes over the course of our stay in the Okanagan.

Eileen and Ewan also had a blast crawling into and out of the stools.

Ewan and Eileen in the stools
Ewan and Eileen in the stools

The Gewurztraminer was transferred into glass for the trip home which provided a good opportunity to see the yeast in action.

Unfortunately I don’t know that anyone got a picture of the incredible spread that we had for Thanksgiving dinner but we certainly enjoyed an impressive array of home cooked food and delicious wine, beer and mead.

Just like last year, the truck was full for the ride home. This is what the bed of the truck looked likeĀ before adding all of our gear.

full truck
full truck

The trip is now behind us, but there’s still lots of work ahead to finish this wine so that we have something to enjoy next year when we start the process all over again.

Author: Kyle Maclean

IT Guy during the week, hunter, mountain biker, and snowboarder on the weekends. I was born and raised in Calgary and attended the U of C where I completed a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science. Shortly after graduating I got a job with Calgary Alternative Support Services as a Systems Analyst and I've been there ever since.

4 thoughts on “Thanksgiving & Wine Making 2018”

  1. Great blog Kyle and terrific pictures. Unfortunately only the first two videos worked. All the others said there was a media error. Sure wish we were there for all the festivities. Great memories for all of you!

    1. That’s strange about the videos not working. There are quite a few in this post so it might just be a lot to load especially on a cell signal if that’s what you were using. Reloading the page may or may not help.

      1. I opened the blog on my tablet. So I shut everything down and opened the blog again. I can view one or two of the videos and then have to start again. Strange. Anyway, I am really enjoying it and I see Mom this after noon and will show her as well. Love to you all! xo

  2. That was an impressive weekend of work and an equally impressive blog post! Thanks for sharing.

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