My friend Burt Endsley has been making wine from fruit off of friends and families' properties for quite a while. When I got to try some a few years ago, I was impressed. It then occurred to me that he could do something better with my plums than me. I'd been drying some and making some jam. Yawn!
My plums are amazing. I don't know the variety, but they turn almost black when fully ripe and are delicious. I thought they'd make a great wine. By harvest time I'd decided my cherry plums would make a good addition, as their thick skins are tart, tannic and a bit rustic. There make up about 5% of the wine, but make a significant contribution (a bit like Petite Verdot that way). Also, a good amount of plums come off the main tree at the crunchy red-ripe stage. There's no astrigency, so there's no down-side to that. It adds to the complexity.
The following spring, Burt delivered a bunch of bottles labelled "Barton Orchard '06 Plum Wine". The name stuck, and I've been using it on my jams, jellies and limoncellos, too. This plum wine turned out to be better than any commercial ones I've tried.
Winter '06/'07 I saved a bunch of juice my Meyer Lemons and Rangpur limes that he made wines with. I made limoncello and mandarincello with their zest. After that I started helping out a bit with bottling and crush.
I also helped harvest apricots from the Hesterman Estate this year. Freezing helps both plums and apricots soften up, so they'll break down better in the winemaking. Burt has started making vinis vinifera wines, so we needed to get these started, so the equipment will be free in time for harvest. Plus, we both needed the space in our freezers back. So, today was the day...
No pruning this year, so my biggest harvest yet, netting 151 lbs. of cleaned up, stone-free fruit. That translated to about 18 gallons of "crushed" fruit, which after sugar and water additions, turned into 25 gallons at 25 brix. (Wine grapes are harvested insanely sweet, a world apart from table grapes or plums.) We also got 15 gallons of apricot at 25 brix.
Let's see if I can post some pics:
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