On Wednesday, Suzanne invited me to California WineWorks, in Ramsey, New Jersey, to partake in the pressing of her group’s Cabernet Franc. Just one week prior, they’d gone to crush the grapes, which came from Napa, their fist step towards making and bottling their own barrel of wine. Under the guidance of Craig and Clara Cicciari, the owners and winemakers at California WineWorks, they then added sulfites to kill off the natural yeasts (or bloom), before adding one of the six yeasts from which they could choose. After fermenting the grapes for a week, during which they were punched down to extract color, flavor, and tannins from the grapes, Craig added rice hulls to aid in the extraction of fermented juice.
Located in a warehouse behind Bottle King Liquors on Route 17, California WineWorks has all one needs to produce and bottle a barrel of wine. Here, one can choose from two white and five red varietals that are sourced from California, Sonoma, or Napa (in ascending order of quality), to be aged in American or French Oak. One is also free to blend.
For their first barrel, Suzanne and her group are blending 70% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot, to be aged for a year in French Oak. Their second barrel will be made from 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, and aged for two years in American Oak.
As the juice ran off the press, it was measured at 11% abv, and tasted quite sweet. Suzanne and I thought it’d pair well with cereal–the ultimate breakfast of champions.
As the grape skins, juice, and pips were added to the pneumatic press, the ‘balloon’ expanded, gently pressing all content against the walls of the barrel to maximize the extraction of juice.
As the press neared completion, the ‘wine’ developed earthier flavors, with aromas of red delicious apple fruit.
Once the lid on the press was lifted, there was nothing left but a solid wall of pips, skins, and stems, without a trace of liquid or fruit.
Thanks to Suzanne, CWW, and everyone else, Cheers!