Saturday, March 2, 2013

Old Wine

[From Craig] Friday our efforts to get the house ready for sale led Merikay and I to confront our Very Old Homemade Wine.

Back in 1977 when we lived in Wisconsin, we sold our first house and bought our second, out in the country (or the cutting edge of suburbia). We found our property was near many kinds of old fruit trees and bushes, and took up the hobby of making homemade fruit wines. In 1977, our first year, we made Apple, Pear, Elderberry, and probably other kinds that we've forgotten.

Most of the first-year stuff was surprisingly drinkable. When our son took it into his head to get confirmed in a religion that had never been in our family before, we threw a party for our and his friends and relatives that featured homemade sausage, homemade bread, and homemade wine. A very homemade party!

The next year we seem to have made Huckleberry wine, although neither Merikay nor I can remember where the fruit came from. Then we moved to Texas where our lot included six persimmon trees. Guess what kind of wine we made those years? Unfortunately we could never overcome the alum mouth-puckering component of the persimmons.

We continued to drink our Wisconsin and Texas wines occasionally, and the remaining ones came along when we moved to California in '83. When we moved into our current home in '88, they were consigned to a wooden cabinet in the closet of our family room, of which one wall is an uphill retaining wall that provided some temperature stability. Occasionally we would try one of the old home-brews and discovered that they were turning to sherry that we didn't care for the taste of. So they have just quietly continued aging in their cabinet for 20+ years.

Until Friday, when my projects came to include painting concrete closet floors. We found that several of the bottles had started to leak, leading to gooey brown deposits in the cabinet. We hauled all the bottles up to the kitchen sink and started to empty them, tasting a few of those that had intact corks and reasonable-looking colors.

 All of the persimmon wine, about two dozen bottles from several batches, was still contaminated with the alum taste.  The few bottles of apple, pear, and huckleberry didn't prove to be anything we wanted to drink. The elderberry has been gone since about 1980.

Which leads to two related lessons: 1) only good quality red grape wine improves with age, and 2) if you make fruit wine or white grape wine, drink it soon or toss it.

Anyway it was a more interesting day than many of ours lately. And yes, the floor of the closet that the wine had aged in got painted.

Any past home winemakers among our readers?


  1. My mom used to make dandelion wine. She sent us out to an open field that no one walked in, with shopping bags, and we picked dandelions for her. I never tasted it, we were too young.

  2. We made elderberry and dandelion wine... tasted terrible! (Bill drank it anyway)... We had a lot better success with our beers... got some really good tasting ones. Once, after bottling it we'd stored a few cases in a room outside our bedroom... one night they started exploding, either popping the bottle caps or even the tops of the bottles. What a mess. I miss the homebrew but NOT the wine!

  3. Interesting what you find when readying a house for sale! We never made any wine or beer, although Al did consider beer making at one point.

    One more job done!

  4. Even some red wines don't age, I think they need to be certain grapes to age well (don't ask me what they are, but Carm would know).

    Too bad some of them didn't make a nice vinegar!

  5. Bet your house was fragrant. You would have been in serious trouble had it all been drinkable! lol

  6. No wine making or drinking here, LOL!

    You two just keep plugging along getting the house ready. Soon it will be all worth it. One step at a time.

    Cheers! ~M

  7. As the son who ascribed to a "religion that's never been part of our family before" I need to make a couple things clear: the religion you're talking about is presbyterians! It sounds like I has converting to Buddhism or Jainism or something like that. Second, I was SEVEN YEARS OLD, I didn't even get to to taste the wine, much less pick what Christian sect I happened to be baptised into. I kinda think that was determined by whatever church happened to be closest to our semi-rural Wisconsin home. Be glad I didn't wait until we moved to Texas to be moved by Christ, otherwise, you'd be hosting a bunch of baptists. Then again, they wouldn't be drinking your homemade wine....


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