Summer School (at the Grape Escape in Dayton)

Snack time at winemaking school.

This week brought me back to school for workshops, and getting organized and prepared for school to start up again in September.  But that’s it.  Everything is finished and now, my vacation can really begin.

Though the school year has ended, I won’t be entirely without some kind of school this summer.  I’m attending Winemaking School at the Grape Escape in Dayton with friends from work.  We’re learning how to make a Syrah from Chile, but there is actually a whole lot more “friends” to this experience than there is “school.”  The guides are a ton of fun and full of great information, but when we’re not working with them on the wine we get to hang out and socialize a bit.  There are tables and couches set up for groups to bring their own snacks and drinks.  In between the “lessons” this is a great place to catch up with friends – or to come on your own to make some new ones.

Crushed

Stirring the mixture after the grapes were first crushed.

Checking the sugar content.

We’ve had two classes so far.  The first day, we crushed the grapes.  The tiny, dark grapes were dumped – stems and all – into a machine that separated them, began to crush them, and got rid of any material we didn’t need.  Our wine was pumped into the storage vat, and we checked the sugar levels.

Everything checked out nicely and our wine was left to begin fermenting.  I was surprised to learn that the wine is drinkable at every stage of the process – I’m not sure why I didn’t think that would be the case, but it is.  We got to taste our wine that we had just crushed, and it was a sweet, fresh juice.  We were told that from the taste of this initial juice, we would get a good sense of what the final wine will taste like.  We’ll see!

And Pressed

It's a group effort!

On our second day of class, a few weeks after the crushing – when most of the fermentation that will happen has already taken place – we pressed the grapes.  This process promised to be just as messy, if not messier, than the first day so I came prepared in dark colors.  We pressed the wine – extracting the juice from the “must” and sent it into the oak barrels for another few weeks or so.  The remaining solid parts of the grapes were collected to be used for agricultural purposes – nothing was wasted.

Our freshly pressed wine on its way to the oak barrel.

We have two more sessions of Winemaking School to go: racking and bottling.  This is a really fun process and definitely something I would consider doing again in the future.  It makes for a great family activity – the kids can come and be a part of the entire process – and gives everyone a fun reason to get together.

I’m thinking I might even try to persuade some family members in the area to go in on a barrel with me.  Maybe I can get a few family stories out of them for the genealogy project while we’re there…

~Melissa
The Jersey Girl

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2 thoughts on “Summer School (at the Grape Escape in Dayton)

  1. We had a great time. I love the pictures! You are right in saying that it really is a great chance for friends to catch up and for people to meet new people. Everyone is always in a great mood and friendly! What a fun way to get together over a common love of food and wine! Looking forward to our next “class”!

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