Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cellar Craft & WinExpert Wine Kits - Rule 5

Cellar Craft Porto Corinto When you put your wine ingredient kit together one of the things that will most likely be part of the instructions is that after putting the ingredients into the primary fermenter that you stir vigorously!

You will find that the concentrated juice provided with your kit seems to mix easily with the water that you add but in actuality, the juice will settle to the bottom of the fermenter because it is heavier than the water you add.

This will have the affect of giving you a false initial hydrometer reading. Since wine ingredient kits are pretty much on target with where the hydrometer reading should be, the fact that you get a reading which is out of the suggested range should be a clue to you that something is not right. Stirring the fermenter vigorously will disburse the water and juice concentrate evenly.

Another problem may be when you sprinkle the wine yeast onto the top of the fermenter. There will be a lesser supply of sugar at the top of the fermenter and your yeast may not get off to a quick and healthy start. If the yeast does settle through the thinner layer at the top it may still not be able to ferment properly in the high sugar environment of the unmixed juice concentrate.

Another benefit to aggressive stirring at this early stage is the oxygenation of the wine must. We preach, preach, preach about keeping air away from your wine must to prevent the oxygenation of your wine. That is true when you have wine. But at this moment you have juice, not wine. Yeast loves oxygen. By aggressively stirring the wine must you will provide a good source of oxygen for the yeast and help it get off to a robust start.

Whether you are looking to make your wine from a WinExpert ingredient kit or from a Cellar Craft ingredient kit, from fresh fruit or from one of the BlueStem fruit wine ingredient kits listed on our website at we can help you get off to a great start. BlueStem Winery, in addition to carrying a complete line of winemaking supplies, also carries homebrewing equipment, supplies and ingredients for the home brew enthusiast. We offer prompt, courteous and knowledgeable service.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cellar Craft & WinExpert Wine Kits - Rule 4

Italian Reserva NebbioloOur next rule when making WinExpert or Cellar Craft winemaking ingredient kits is that you need to fill the primary fermenter to the proper level with good, clean water. What I mean here is that if you are making a six gallon (23L) wine kit you need to make sure that you have the primary fermenter full to the six gallon mark.

If you put an excess amount of water into your mix you will lower the specific gravity (which reduces the potential alcohol of your wine) and it will also dilute the body characteristics (your wine will be less full-bodied).

If your intent is to make a more full-bodied wine and you intentionally underfill your fermenter there are a whole different set of potential consequences. Wine kits are manufactured with a certain quantity of wine (30 bottles normally) being the intent. Acid levels in the wine are balanced with this in mind. Underfilling your primary fermenter may cause your finished product to be overly acidic. There are other possible consequences as well including the disruption of the typical fermentation process.

BlueStem Winery offers a complete line of winemaking ingredients and also is well-stocked with home brewing ingredients, equipment and supplies. We put together our own line of home brewing ingredient kits known as BlueStem's Best plus we are proud to be retailers for both Cellar Craft kits and WinExpert wine ingredient kits. Our website features a handling fee of $6 per order with all shipping expense included in the price of each item purchased.

For prompt, knowledgeable and friendly service BlueStem Winery can be counted on to be there for you!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cellar Craft & WinExpert Wine Kits - Rule 3

Cabernet Franc Icewine Style Many, many times I have told customers that there are only two rules for making homemade wine: First, read and follow the directions and second, keep your equipment clean.

There is no doubt that these two rules are the most important but there are a few other rules, too, and even though I am writing this blog article in the context of making wine from WinExpert or Cellar Craft ingredient kits the same rules apply to any wine making that you do.

Our third rule is that you should keep records. Keep a pad and pencil close by your winemaking area so that you can write down exactly what you did and the environment in which you did it.

Things you should record are the ambient temperature of the area in which you are making wine, the temperature of your wine must, the specific gravity of your wine must, the date you put together your wine must, the date you pitched the yeast (with temperatures), the total acidity of your wine must (WinExpert and Cellar Craft kits are acid balanced so this is not as important with these kits but it is important if you are making wine from backyard fruit or grapes you raised or purchased). If you do any other testing (such as pH) be sure to record this information, too. Also make a complete listing (with quantities) of any additives you put in your wine (such as acid blend, yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, etc.).

As your wine progresses, be sure and continue to make notations with dates of specific gravity changes and anything else that you feel is important in the progession of from juice to wine and continue right on through bottling (and even aging). If this particular wine becomes one of your cellar classics you want to be able to duplicate the process you used in making this wine.

Other ideas on making wine or homebrewing your own beer can be found in other blog articles or in our newsletter. You can find our newsletter on the newsletter page at and then clicking on the links to our .pdf files.

BlueStem Winery is a full-service winemaking and home brewing supply store located at 305 Third Street in Parkersburg, Iowa. You can visit our website at or drop by our store. All pricing on the website includes shipping within the lower 48 states.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cellar Craft & WinExpert Wine Kits - Rule 2

Sonoma Dry Creek Valley Chardonnay As I have said in a previous blog post, I tell new winemakers that women make better winemakers then men because the two most important rules are read and follow the directions and keep your equipment clean and women are better at both of these then men. In my previous blog we talked about reading directions and today we will visit the subject of keeping your equipment clean.

You need to protect your wine from oxygen (to prevent oxidation) and you need to protect it from bacterial infection (this is the cleanliness part!).

First, always wash your equipment with a good detergent soap and rinse it well with good, clean water. The is the cleaning part of the equation. This step removes the dirt and grime which may have accumulated on your equipment from previous usage or just from being idle for awhile. Second comes the sanitizing of your equipment. Sanitizing is different from cleaning in that this is the step that involves the application of a chemical or chemicals to your winemaking equipment that give as little opportunity as possible for the start up of a bacterial culture. Whether you use Easy Clean or or a solution of Potassium Metabisulphite the important thing is that you sanitize each and every piece of equipment that comes in contact with your wine each and every time that it does!

They are moving fast! BlueStem Winery recently added the Cellar Craft lineup of winemaking ingredient kits from Cellar Craft International and they have been a hit! Two more went out the door today (a Showcase Gewurztraminer-Riesling blend wine kit and a Showcase Yakima Valley Viognier). I have three of these new kits in process right now, the Washington Reserve Late Harvest Riesling, the Showcase Yakima Valley Pinot Gris, and the Showcase Walla Walla Cabernet-Merlot. Check out the links to take a look at these products on our website at!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cellar Craft & WinExpert Wine Kits - Rule 1

Cellar Craft Amarone

Always read the directions! You may be an experienced kit winemaker but things sometimes change. Sometimes Cellar Craft or WinExpert will change the procedures because of new technologies or because of variances in the raw ingredients they are using to build the kits. The procedures vary slightly between companies, too, as the procedure recommended with the Cellar Craft kit may vary to a degree from those recommended by WinExpert.

Pay attention to what the company recommends regarding when to rack your wine, when to stir the wine and to their recommended procedures for fining the wine ingredient kits.

BlueStem Winery is a licensed and bonded winery located in northeast Iowa. We operate a winery, a winemaking and homebrewing supplies store and also have a wide range of gift items which include wine accessories and stemware, Amish quilts, and gourmet foods. We are on the web at but welcome you to visit our store if you are in northeast Iowa. We are located at 305 Third Street in downtown Parkersburg, Iowa and look forward to seeing you at the store or we look forward to being of service to you on the web. We offer prompt, courteous service. Questions are taken via phone or e-mail and are answered promptly.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sanitizing with Metabisulphite (or Metabisulfite)

I have fun at the store with male winemakers (when they are accompanied by their wives) by telling them that women make better winemakers then men because there are only two rules for making good wine. First, you need to read and follow the directions. Second, you need to keep your equipment clean. Women are better at both of these then men! The wives have a good time with this!

On a more serious note, keeping that equipment clean is an absolute must (no pun intended) when making wine.

There are several ways to approach sanitizing your equipment and we will cover just one today: using Potassium Metabisulphite (or Metabisulfite) powder to sanitize your equipment.

To make a final rinse solution for your equipment and if bottling, for your wine bottles, from Potassium Metabisulphite powder simply mix one teaspoon of Potassium Metabisulphite powder in a quart of water. For your wine equipment, just rinse the surfaces with this solution to sanitize. If bottling, you can make the solution and then pour it into your bottles (cover all the inside surface of the bottle) and then drain. If you have a bottle tree with a rinse attachment (called a vinator), fill the basin with solution and then rinse the inside of the bottles with the vinator. Do not rinse with water! Allow the wine bottles to drain. This will not only sanitize your bottles but it will also help add shelf life to your wine.

As always, all winemaking and homebrewing items mentioned are available on our website at Take a look! We offer prompt, friendly and knowledgeable service.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Story on Campden Tablets

Campden tablets are manufactured from either sodium metabisulfite or potassium metabisulfite. We had sold the sodium variety several years ago but have switched now to exclusively using the potassium variety mostly because of thoughts of my doctor preaching to me about the benefits of reducing my sodium intake. In the same vein, we no longer sell the powdered form of sodium metabisulfite either. We now sell only powdered potassium metabisulfite.

The thought behind Campden tablets is that it provides a premeasured dose of sulfites for your homemade wine. The tablets should not be matched one to one with the powdered form of metabisulfite as the powdered variety is much, much stronger. Campden tablets are made with a considerable amount of inert material so that the home winemaker can precisely control the amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) being added to their wine.

One Campden tablet will provide 65mg/L of sulfur dioxide if added to one gallon of wine must (or 13mg/L if added to five gallons of wine must).

Campden tablets are used for several reasons. First, when used in conjuction with backyard fruit, they help stifle the wild yeasts that are always present. This helps create a good, clean environment for the wine yeast you will be using. Second, sulfites can be used to slow the growth of bacteria which can get started in your wine (especially during the very early stage prior to the presence of much alcohol). Third, sulfites can be used to sanitize your winemaking equipment. In actuality, the powdered (or crystal) potassium metabisulphite works much better for this because this powder is much more concentrated than Campden tablets.

If Campden is added to wine (one tablet per gallon) at bottling, it will help to increase the shelf life potential of your wine.

To add Campden to wine must (or wine) simply crush one tablet (per gallon) and add the resulting powder to a small amount of hot water to help the tablet(s) dissolve. Stir until it is completely dissolved and then stir into your must or wine.

Visit us on the web at for a complete line of winemaking ingredients and home brewing supplies including both Campden tablets (the potassium variety) and Potassium Metabisulfite in crystal (powdered) form.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dry Hopping, With or Without a Hop Bag

Pellet HopsA problem with using a hop boiling bag when dry hopping your beer is that is difficult (or impossible) to remove the bag of hops through the neck of the carboy after the hops have swollen from contact with the beer.

As discussed in prior blogs, the remedy to this is simple. Simply suspend your hop boiling bag with a piece of string and when you are ready just siphon out the beer to your bottling bucket, use the string to pull the hop bag up to the neck of the carboy and then snip a hole in the bag using a scissors. A vigorous shaking will remove the hops from the bag so that the hop boiling bag can be removed. Then just rinse the hops out of the carboy.

You may find that by using a hop boiling bag as opposed to using loose hops that you reduce the amount of hop contact with the beer. Try increasing the weight of the hops used by about 10% and make further adjustments according to your own taste.

If you have not tried dry hopping your beer and you love hop flavor and aroma then you absolutely need to give it a try with your next batch of homebrew.

Wine Tidbit: Merlot is similar in many ways to Cabernet Sauvignon. These two wines have many of the same aroma and flavor traits. Cabernet Sauvignon can vary from being relatively light-bodied to being a very full-bodied wine while Merlot is a softer version of Cabernet Sauvignon.

BlueStem Winery features a complete line of winemaking ingredients including ingredient kits from WinExpert and Cellar Craft. We also feature a complete line of homebrewing ingredients, beer making equipment and home brewing supplies.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dry Hopping Beer ~ Hop Quantity to Use

How many hops do you use when dry hopping? In a nutshell, as many as you want.

The "normal" amount to use would be in the one to two ounce range but this really depends on the variety of hop being used and more important, your own personal taste.

If you are new to dry hopping, we suggest using approximately one ounce of a hop variety which is normally used for aroma infusion. After that you can use a half ounce, one ounce, two ounces, four ounces . . . or more!

Tomorrow: Should you bag hops when dry hopping or should you use loose hops?

Wine Tidbit: While formal events call for Cabernets and Chardonnays, other more casual events call for wines which are lighter in nature. When it is warm outside wines which are considered refreshing such as Rieslings and blushes are in order. Chill them to offset the warm weather.

Whether you want a Riesling or a Cabernet or a Merlot, BlueStem Winery has the wine ingredient kit for you! Check out the many, many ingredient kits from both WinExpert and Cellar Craft which are available in our store or on our website at Along with these ingredient kits we also have all of the equipment, supplies, and ingredients you need to make your homemade wine. Making wine is our business (we are a fully licensed and bonded Iowa winery). We make wine for our business, we make beer for fun! Check out our complete line of homebrewing supplies on the website, too!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dry Hopping Beer, Plugs, Pellets or Loose Hops?

Over the past few days we have decided when to dry hop and we have decided what variety of hops to use so now the next question is which hop form we are going to use. The options are pellet hops, hop plugs or loose hops.

Plug hops have the convenience of being pre-measured (1/2 ounce each), they fit into a bag easily, and fit through the neck of a carboy fairly easily, too. Plugs were designed with dry hopping in mind and they still work for that purpose.

Loose hops must be measured to the quantity desired for your beer but they, too, fit easily through the neck of a carboy. Not so easily if you wish to put them in a bag, however!

Pellet hops, too, must be weighed but are by far the easiest hop to pour into the neck of a carboy. They also fit through the neck of a carboy easily when bagged. As I said in an earlier blog article, I use a muslin hop bag (these are available on our website at and I sanitize the bag and a length of string. After sanitizing the bag I pour the hops into the bag and tie a knot in the top of the bag. I then tie the string just below the bag knot and push the bag through the neck of the carboy. I then use the carboy bung to adjust the bag of hops so that they are suspended in the carboy. The fine mesh of the muslin bag contains the hops as they dissolve. This bag will swell up making it impossible to pull it back out of the carboy. Simply rack the beer out of the carboy to your bottling bucket when the beer is ready to bottle. Then pull the bag up to the neck (using the attached string) of the carboy and snip a hole in the bag with a scissors. Shake the bag up and down, the hop residue will exit the bag so that the bag can be removed. The simply rinse the hop residue out of your carboy.

Tomorrow: Hop Quantity to Use When Dry Hopping

Wine Tidbit: Any formal dinner calls for special wines! Serve Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel or any other full-bodied red, Chardonnay which has been oak-aged or any red or white which is special. Always serve a wine which you enjoy!

BlueStem Winery is a world-wide retailer of both winemaking and homebrew supplies for the serious maker of home made wine or for the home brewing enthusiast. BlueStem stocks a complete line for wine makers or homebrewers at any level of knowledge in their hobby. We love beginners and we love to help beginners. We appreciate the phone calls and e-mails asking for assistance and we respond quickly to these requests for help. Equipment, suppies, ingredients and of course, our specialty, ingredient kits.

Our homebrew ingredient kits are made up fresh in our store. We have a wide range of kits available and are looking for more to add to our BlueStem's Best menu. Our homebrewing ingredient kits are either liquid and dry malt extract combinations, liquid extract and whole grain combinations or liquid and dry malt extracts combined with whole grains.

Our wine ingredient kits feature a huge line-up of superior wines from WinExpert (see our website at for a complete listing of available kits) and a growing inventory of the highest quality wine ingredient kits from Cellar Craft International. We also put together our own line of fruit wine kits which are available in 3-gallon, 5-gallon and 6-gallon kits in more than a dozen fruit wine varieties.

Check us out at We work hard for your business and we work even harder to keep you satisfied.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

At What Point Do You Dry Hop?

Now the you have decided which hops to use, you must decide at what point in the beer brewing cycle do you want to do the dry hopping.

Most consider dry hopping in the secondary fermentation stage to be the best time to dry hop. The beer is pretty much finished fermenting when it enters the glass carboy secondary fermenter. As mentioned in days past the alcohol and the low pH of the beer will help fight off any bacterial development from infusing your beer with hops which have not been sanitized. The vigorous fermentation which occurs in the primary fermenter has subsided so the hops now infused will be able to add their aromatic qualities to the beer easily.

One problem with dry hopping in the secondary is the narrow neck of the carboy. My solution to this problem has been to sanitize a muslin hop bag and a piece of string. I place my hops in the muslin bag and tie a not in the top of the bag and also tie the piece of string to the bag just below the knot. I push the bag full of hops through the carboy neck and suspend the bag in the carboy. When I am ready to bottle I simply siphon my beer out of the carboy leaving the bag of hops behind. I then pull the string with the bloated bag of hops attached up to the top of the carboy, snip a hole in the bag and shake out the spent hops. I then pull the bag through the neck and rinse the hops out of the carboy.

Some brewers like to dry hop in the primary but the bubbling action taking place may actually remove some of the aroma from the beer. One thing to consider if dry hopping in the primary is that you add extra hops to compensate for the loss caused by the fermentation process.

The final option is to dry hop in the keg. This is done similar to using the muslin bag as described above but without the string. The downside of this method is that depending on the length of time your beer remains in the keg the beer may be subjected to extended contact with the hops which could alter the taste and aroma of your beer.

Tomorrow: Hop Quantity and Type

Wine Tidbit: Pinot Noir is possibly the most challenging wine for winemakers because of this varietal's extreme sensitivity to changes in the weather. In years of weather favorable to Pinot Noir it will develop into a truly great wine.

BlueStem Winery provides homebrewers (and winemakers) in northeast Iowa with a full service source for their equipment, supplies, and ingredients. BlueStem is also on the web at and where we provide wine making ingredient kits, equipment, supplies and ingredients plus home brew supplies, equipment, ingredients and ingredient kits to a world market. Check out our complete line of WinExpert winemaking ingredient kits including the Selection International, Selection Original, Selection Estate, Vintner's Reserve, Selection Speciale and World Vineyard product lines. We are the newest dealer in the United States for Cellar Craft International and we offer select wines from their Showcase and Classics winemaking ingredient kit lines plus a few of their dessert wines. BlueStem's website features a $6 handling charge per order with all other shipping costs included in the price of the merchandise purchased. It's and easy way to shop! We're looking forward to being your home brewing and winemaking supply store no matter where you are located from Pakistan to Peru to Peoria.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Choosing a Hop for "Dry Hopping"

First, remember that you are now hopping your beer for flavor and aroma, not for bitterness! Many hops are listed as hops that are typically used as flavor or aroma hops rather than as bittering hops and these are the ones that you will want to look to when dry hopping your home brew.

Most hops considered to be good aroma and flavor hops have low levels of alpha acids (around 6% or less). These varieties (there are others) include Cascade, Crystal, Fuggle, Kent Goldings, Hallertau, Saaz, Tettnang and Willamette.

Want to experiment? Feel free! That is what home brewing is all about! Any hop that you like the results of when using them in the last 15 minutes of the wort boil will most likely be ones that you will like the results of when dry hopping.

Tomorrow: At what stage in the lift of your home brew should you actually do your dry hopping?

Wine Tidbit: Many, many wines are purchased because of the bottle they are in or because of the label that is on the bottle! Why do you think we purchase beautiful blue bottles imported from France for our premier Once in a Blue Moon Riesling wine? If you are collecting bottles and labels then please, be my guest! A beautiful bottle and a designer label do not guarantee a superior wine! Read the label! If you are paying a premier price you should be getting a premier wine, not a pretty bottle.

Besides Once in a Blue Moon, BlueStem Winery markets many choice Iowa wines from our store in Parkersburg, Iowa. BlueStem has a gift shop which sells wine accessories plus gourmet foods, art, antiques, Amish quilts, and rare (and not so rare) books. BlueStem also features a complete line of home brewing supplies including fermenters, siphon equipment, dry malts, liquid malt extract, malted grains plus a complete inventory of bottles, cappers, grain mills and all of the necessities a homebrew enthusiast would need. BlueStem also features a complete line of wine making equipment, supplies, ingredients and both equipment and ingredient kits for your winemaking ventures. BlueStem features premium grade ingredient kits from both WinExpert and Cellar Craft and has the expertise to assist you with any winemaking question. Look for us on the web at

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Why "Dry Hop"?

Because the hops are added to your beer after the boil and cool down you benefit from the flavoring and aroma characteristics of the hop without the bittering. This happens because hops that are boiled for an extended period (longer than about 15 minutes) have the oils boiled off and what remains is the bitterness.

By not boiling off the oils (by doing your hop infusion late in the boil or by dry hopping after the cool down of your wort) you get the maximum benefit of the flavoring and aroma characteristics of your hops. Dry hopping does not add any bitterness to your beer because boiling is necessary to convert the alpha acids present in the hops to iso-alpha acids which create the bittering in your beer.

The result is a beer that has a floral essence and an intense flavor. These characteristics are very desirable in beers which are "hoppy" such as IPA's or pale ales.

What about the possibility of adding bacteria to your beer by dry hopping (remember, you are not boiling which does sanitize everything)? When I use a muslin bag and a string to dry hop beer in a carboy I boil the bag and string prior to dry hopping. What about the hops themselves? Beyond that there are several factors which actually inhibit the development of bacteria including that hops themselves do not provide an environment that is conducive to the growth of bacteria plus any bacteria which enter the wort during the primary fermentation stage will be competing with yeast which is aggressively converting the wort into alcohol. Bacteria which enters at the secondary fermentation stage will find a situation in which there is a combination of alcohol together with a low pH level both of which will tend of inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Bacteria caused by dry hopping? It could happen but not on a frequency level which should prevent you from using this method to obtain more flavor and aroma in your beer.

Tomorrow: Determining which hops to use when dry hopping

Wine Tidbit: Going out for your evening meal? Planning on taking a bottle of wine along? Be sure to call ahead and ask about the restaurant's corking policy. Most establishments will charge a nominal fee ($10 or less per bottle).

Home brew supplies? Winemaking Equipment? Iowa wines? They are all available at BlueStem Winery. BlueStem features a complete line of homebrewing equipment, supplies, hops, malts, yeast for the home beer maker plus we also stock wine making equipment, ingredients, supplies and ingredient kits and feature both Cellar Craft International and WinExpert ingredient kits. And . . . we also have a nice line of native Iowa wines featuring, of course, our own BlueStem label wines. Visit us on the web at!

Monday, August 13, 2007

What is "Dry Hopping" Beer?

Bitterness, flavor, and aroma are all derived from the hops added to beer (beer is called wort before it is beer). Which of these three is derived from the hops depends on when the hops are added to the wort. Sometimes only bitterness is obtained from a hop infusion and sometimes your beer will get all three from a single infusion.

Bitterness in beer comes from the alpha acids prevalent in hops. Flavor and aroma in beer is derived from the oils.

Hops intended to bitter beer are added at the beginning of the wort boil while hops intended to flavor beer or give it aroma are added near the end of the boil because the oils dissipitate quickly (15 minutes or so) in the boil and if infused into the wort too early they will all disappear before the end of the boil.

Thus, most homebrewing recipes call for the infusion of "bittering" hops at the start of the boil time (usually 60 minutes) while flavoring and aroma hops are added near the end of the boil (usually with only 15 minutes of boil time remaining).

The term "dry hopping" is used to describe the process of adding hops after the wort has been cooled. Dry hopping can be done in the primary fermenter or you can wait until the beer is transferred to the secondary fermenter or hops can be added to the beer as it is being kegged. I have often used pellet hops in the secondary fermentation stage by putting the pellets in a small muslin bag and then tying a string around the top of the bag. I stuff the bag through the neck of the carboy and suspend the bag of pellets in the beer during the duration of the secondary fermentation. Of course, the bag swells up and cannot be retrieved from the carboy! Simply siphon your beer into your bottling bucket for bottling, then pull the bag up to the neck of the carboy, snip the bag with a scissors and shake out the hop residue. Throw the bag and string away and rinse the carboy.

Tomorrow: Why Dry Hop?

Wine Tidbit: There exist in the world over 5,000 different grape varietals. Of these 5,000 plus varietals there are 9 considered to be the "classic" wine grapes. These are Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay.

BlueStem Winery invites you to check out our large inventory of homebrewing supplies, equipment, ingredients and ingredient kits at BlueStem has just recently (last week!) added Cellar Craft International wine ingredient kits to our inventory (including many of the "classics" listed in the prior paragraph! Whether you need winemaking ingredients, supplies, equipment or wine making ingredient kits from either Cellar Craft or WinExpert please consider us as your beer brewing or wine making supply source! We feature a one time per order handling charge with no additional shipping charges. We look forward to serving you! We are fast, friendly and knowledgable and look forward to serving you!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cellar Craft International Wine Ingredient Kits

I have been too busy to do blog entries for the past couple of days--our new wine kits from Cellar Craft International arrived early Thursday and we have been moving freight for several days.

Then we had to take photos, right descriptions, etc. to get these wine ingredient kits listed on our website. I have all but two done! BlueStem Winery is now prepared to market its new line of supurb wine ingredient kits from Cellar Craft International.

We have stocked the following kits initially:

From the Showcase line: Amarone, Rosso Fortissimo, Chateau du Pays, Yakima Valley Merlot, Yakima Valley Syrah, Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel, Walla Walla Cabernet-Merlot, Gewurztraminer-Riesling, Yakima Valley Viognier and Yakima Valley Pinot Gris.

From the Premium 6-Week line: Italian Reserva Pinot Grigio, Washington Reserve Late Harvest Riesling, Italian Riserva Nebbiolo, European Reserve Meritage Rouge and Washington State White Merlot.

From the Dessert Wine line: Classic Port and Porto Corinto.

BlueStem Winery stocks these fine wine ingredient kits from Cellar Craft and also stocks an extensive line of wine ingredient kits from WinExpert. See our website at for a complete listing and description of all of our wine ingredient kits, winemaking equipment, wine making supplies plus we carry home brewing supplies, ingredients, equipment, and a complete line of beer making ingredient kits (under the brand BlueStem's Best) for all of your homebrewing needs.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Various Uses of Campden Tablets

Campden tablets come in two forms (Sodium Metabisulphite and Potassium Metabisulphite). BlueStem Winery stocks the potassium variety mostly because of all the warnings out there about decreasing your sodium intake. Potassium just sounded healthier to me then sodium and we discontinued carrying the sodium variety tablets several years ago.

We stock potassium metabisulphite in two forms, the granular variety and the tablet variety known as Campden tablets.

Campden tablets are just a pre-measured dosage of sulphites (or sulfites) compressed with a carrier (inert material). This measured amount of sulphites makes it much easier for the home winemaker to control the dosage of sulphites (aka sulfur dioxide or SO2) going into the wine must.

Each tablet contains 65mg/L of sulfur dioxide when dissolved into one gallon of wine must (or 13mg/L if one tablet is dissolved in 5 gallons of wine must). Potassium Metabisulphite powder is much stronger than the tablet form and only 1/4 teaspoon of powder added to one gallon of wine must provides 195mg/L of SO2 (or 39mg/L if the 1/4 teaspoon is added to 5 gallons of must).

The purpose of using potassium (or sodium) metabisulphites in wine is threefold: First, it creates an environment where yeasts which were present on your fruit (wild yeasts) cannot survive; second, it helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria which can spoil your wine; and third, it acts as a preservative so that your wine will have a longer shelf life. In addition, sulfites can also be used for sanitizing your equipment, corks, and bottles.

Commercial wine kits typically come with lower dosages of sulphites because the juice used has been pasteurized prior to packaging. However, if you are planning to age your wine for a considerable length of time, it is a good idea to add additional Campden or metabisulphite powder to your wine prior to bottling.

Crush Campden tablets with a pair of spoons (or a mortar and pestle if you have one), dissolve the powder by stirring into warm water. Add a little wine and stir again. If lumps appear, stir until they disappear and pour this liquid into your empty bucket or carboy and then rack your wine on top of the sulphite mixture.

If making wine from backyard fruit it is definitely a good idea to use one Campden tablet per gallon of wine must to clean your wine must. Crush your Campden tablets and dissolve in warm water prior to adding to your juice. Stir and wait 24 hours prior to adding the appropriate yeast to begin your wine fermentation.

Potassium Metabisulphite powder works best for sterilizing your winemaking equipment and your wine bottles because, as described previously, it is much stronger than the Campden tablets. Add one teaspoon of Potassium Metabisulphite powder to a quart of water and use this as your final rinse for your wine making equipment and for your wine bottles.

Campden tablets (in vials of 50 or 100) along with Potassium Metabisulphite powder are available on our website at! BlueStem Winery stocks winemaking equipment, supplies, ingredients along with both WinExpert and Cellar Craft wine ingredient kits. We also stock all of the equipment, supplies, ingredients and our own line of ingredient kits called BlueStem's Best for the homebrew enthusiast. Whether homebrewing beer or making your own homemade wine, BlueStem has the items you need for a successful hobby.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Soaking Corks for Easier Insertion.

Some sources suggest that home winemakers insert corks into their wine bottles dry. This is the procedure used by commercial wineries but they have corking machinery which makes it much easier to do this.

BlueStem Winery suggests (see other blog entries) that corks be soaked for approximately 30 minutes completely submerged in a sulphite solution or in a no-rinse cleansing solution prior to corking your wine bottles.

Inserting a cork dry will cause stress to the cork and may damage it enough as to no longer be an effective seal. Soaking your corks will give them more pliability which will make insertion easier and it also will help prevent bacteria growth.

Still having trouble with cork insertion? Try putting a drop of glycerine on your corking device and add another drop after approximately a dozen cork insertions. Glycerine will make both insertion and removal easier and it can be obtained both at your winemaking supply store or at a drug store. Make sure that you thoroughly clean your corking device when finished as glycerine left behind will become sticky and it will become a magnet for dust, etc. and a home for bacteria growth.

We're on the web at with products for the home winemaker including winemaking equipment, supplies, ingredients and ingredient kits from WinExpert and Cellar Craft. We offer all the free advice on making wine that you want (and maybe some that you don't!). If you brew beer, too, we also stock a complete line of supplies, equipment, ingredients and ingredient kits for the home brewer. E-mail us at if you have any questions on getting started with making wine at home or on learning to brew your own homebrew.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

To Use or NOT to Use (Synthetic Corks, that is!)

While many tout the advantages of synthetic corks, the home winemaker should realize that there are inherent problems with using a synthetic cork to seal your wine.

If using a synthetic cork, the first visible sign that you have a problem may occur only a few short weeks after bottling. When a synthetic cork is inserted into a bottle the pressure which develops in the headspace between the wine and the bottom of the cork can be about double that when using a natural cork. This first sign will take the form of corks coming back out of bottles. An early form of this problem is that when you insert the cork into the bottle it will pop partially back out of the bottle because of the pressure built up underneath the cork.

A sidebar to this excess pressure problem is that when this pressure is doubled between the cork and the wine you have also increased the amount of oxygen between the cork and wine and this will result in a greater chance of oxidation occuring in your wine.

BlueStem Winery recommends that you continue to use corks made of natural cork product. If you want to dress up your bottle it is easy to apply a shrink capsule (these are available in many, many colors and in two sizes on our website at after corking your wine or you can use bottle wax (available in at least a half dozen different colors on our website) to decorate your bottle and as a secondary oxygen barrier. BlueStem Winery has several dessert wines that we make and the bottles that we use have what is called a "bartop" cork finish. This type bottle is larger in diameter (same cork size) and the shrink capsules do not work with these so what we do is countersink the cork about 1/8 inch deeper than normal and place a small amount of colored bottle wax into this depression. It covers the end of the cork (we use silver a lot) and makes the bottles stand out when lying flat in a wine rack.

We are interested in your feedback. If you have a topic that you would like us to address please e-mail us at or at and we will post your question and our answer on this blog or on our website newsletter. Your questions can be about home winemaking (equipment, supplies, ingredients, procedures or ingredient kits) or we will also respond to questions about home brewing equipment, supplies, ingredients, procedures or beer making ingredient kits.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Like Sweet Wine? Here's the How To!

Whether you are making a wine ingredient kit such as the ones we sell from WinExpert or Cellar Craft or whether you are making a wine from fruit, we get questions about how and when to sweeten wine.

Commercial wines vinted by wineries (plus a few wine ingredient kits) and intended to be finished as a sweet wine sometimes have the fermentation process stopped by the winemaker and the sweetness of the wine derives from residual sugars remaining in the wine.

Most times, however, wines (commercial wines and wine ingredient kits for home winemakers) are fermented completely dry or to very close to completely dry and then are sweetened post-fermetation.

Is the procedure of stopping a fermentation early (the wine is not yet dry) a practice that you should attempt on a batch of homemade wine from fruit or a purchased wine ingredient kit? We consider this way of making sweet wine an advanced winemaking technique and really do recommend against this unless you have developed the expertise to make sweet wine this way or unless the ingredient kit you purchased is intended to be made this way.

Our recommendation is that your wine be fermented to dry or to virtually dry. The wine should then be treated with a preservative (sodium metabisulphite or potassium metabisulphite) and a yeast stabilizer (potassium sorbate) and then sweetened to taste.

You can sweeten your wine in two ways. You can purchase a commercial sweetener (such as WinExpert's Wine Conditioner) or you can make your own sugar syrup by heating two cups of sugar and one cup of water in a saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved. This sugar syrup can then be gradually added to your wine (add, stir, taste) and repeat until you reach the desired sweetness level.

Have questions about sweetening wine? You can e-mail your questions to me at or to Visit us on the web at for a complete line of winemaking and home brewing equipment, supplies, ingredients and ingredient kits. We offer prompt, friendly service and are always willing to take the time to help with any questions or concerns.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bad Business on the Internet

This post has absolutely nothing to do with wine. It has to do with the risk you run when you do business with less than reputable companies on the web (and on eBay).

This is all about a company in Elkton, Virginia that sells parts for Mustangs and Fords. My guess is this company is not the star member of the Elkton Chamber of Commerce! After reading absolutely tons of information (all bad!) about these folks it is a wonder that these folks have any business whatsoever!

We purchased a relatively cheap part for a Mustang we own (a pair of motor mounts). Like I said, they were cheap and they were cheaply made. But my complaint is not about the product, it is about the way we were treated!

Five days after purchase (on eBay) we had not heard a peep from them. Payment had been made immediately after the purchase was made and this was acknowledged by the seller. I e-mailed to ask about the part. I forgot that my e-mail was done on my work computer and so they did not have a record of my purchase. A rather curt e-mail informed me that I did not exist as a customer of theirs. I e-mailed back what my name was and was then informed that I had received an autoreply after purchase and had also received notice of pending delivery from UPS. Neither of these events had happened and I was then informed that I had too many filters on my e-mail. Not so as we operate a business and I receive e-mails from everyone--most of which I would not get!

John (if this guy is an owner he sure doesn't believe in the customer being right--ever) then said he would contact UPS and have the shipment returned to them. Well, the item was already on the truck and was delivered to us about 3 hours later. But, John decided that negative feedback was in order (I am now the worst of the worst on eBay). This was our first negative feedback after over 5,000 eBay sales (maybe we should just sell, not buy!). Then, to top it off, he files a non-paying bidder notice with eBay (like I don't have enough proof that this is a lie!) and requests his eBay commissions to be refunded. I guess business is so good in Elkton, Virginia that he doesn't need to sell on eBay. We have now turned him in for fraud, filed two complaints with the Western Virginia Better Business Bureau and another with the Chamber of Commerce.

Now, today, he opens fraudulent websites (at least 3 of them) using names very similar to our website name and using my personal name and is attempting to re-direct traffic away from our website.

Contemplating doing business with anyone selling Mustang or Ford parts in Elkton, Virginia? Do a little web research and see what everyone has to say about this company--they will be easy to find as Elkton is a burg of about 2,000. After reading the information out there I find it hard to believe that anyone would want to do business with these people! Do a search and find a myriad of similar experiences related by others out there. It only took me a few minutes to find a pile of them!

We are legitimate and we are on the web at with a complete line of wine and beer making supplies and unlike others, we treat our customers with respect.

Do what you can to stop this sort of web business--patronize other businesses.

To Do or Not To Do ~ Rehydrating Yeast

When making wine at home from a wine ingredient kit such as WinExpert or Cellar Craft the instructions usually tell you to prepare the ingredients and to sprinkle the yeast on top of the must prior to covering. Sometimes the instructions will also tell you to wait 24 hours prior to sprinkling the yeast.

However, when reading texts (or the back of the wine yeast packet) they will often recommend that you rehydrate the yeast prior to pitching it into your wine must. This generates quite a few questions from both home winemakers and home brewers.

The simple answer is that the more yeast cells that can be delivered into your must or wort, the better the chance that your wine or beer will get off to a successful start.

The not-so-simple answer is that rehydrating the yeast is not as simple as adding water and pitching it into your fermenting bucket. There are many factors involved in the rehydration of yeast including: using the correct amount of water (the Lalvin people suggest that you add the yeast to water weighing 10 times the weight of the yeast) and having the water at a very precise temperature (the range suggested is that the water be between 104 and 109 degrees Fahrenheit). Without going into a long description, the yeast hydration will fail if the water is either too cold or too hot.

Now the easy part--just sprinkle the yeast. Although you will have fewer yeast cells at the start (hence a slightly slower start) they will reproduce rapidly and without all the possible wrong turns that can occur with rehydration. How much yeast do you need? We use one packet for a batch of yeast (anywhere from one gallon to six gallons). Here at BlueStem Winery we start 50 gallon batches with 30 grams (equivalent to 6 packets of Red Star yeast) of yeast and we do not rehydrate--we sprinkle!

If you are looking for a prompt, friendly, reputable and reliable source for your wine making supplies or your home brewing ingredients we would appreciate your consideration. We are on the web at with a complete line of winemaking equipment, supplies, and ingredients and we also have a complete line of home beer making equipment, supplies, and ingredients for the home brewing enthusiast. We put together our own line of home brew ingredient kits (called BlueStem's Best) and we sell three lines of winemaking ingredient kits including those from Cellar Craft (we stock most of the Showcase line, a few if their dessert wine kits and several of their Premium 6-week 16 liter kits from their Regional Classics and Global Series lines), those from WinExpert (we stock about 80% of the wine kits available from WinExpert including from their Selection Original, Selection International, Selection Estate, Island Mist, Vintner's Reserve and World Vineyard series wine kits) plus we have our own brand of fruit wine kits with or without the necessary winemaking equipment for 3, 5 or 6 gallon batches of your favorite fruit wine.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cellar Craft Showcase Gewurztraminer-Riesling

Cellar Craft Today we are looking at Cellar Craft International's Showcase Gewurztraminer-Riesling wine. The grapes for this award winning wine are again from the Yakima Valley in Washington State.

The peach and melon undertones from the Riesling grapes meld perfectly with the spice, mango, grapefruit and lychee flavors of the Gewurztraminer.

This wine is absolutely elegant with a hint of sweetness coming from the Riesling flavor reserve pack which accompanies this wine. This full-bodied white wine can be enjoyed young or you can age this wine to let its rich flavors develop even more. Enjoy this wine just slightly chilled!

Hey! We're on the web at and we have a complete line of home wine making equipment, home winemaking supplies, wine making ingredient kits (Cellar Craft and WinExpert) plus all the winemaking ingredients necessary to make your own recipes from backyard fruit.

Anything else? You bet! We also have our store chock full of homebrewing ingredients, supplies, equipment and our very own BlueStem's Best home brew ingredient kits. These kits come complete with all the ingredients necessary (even the beer bottle caps) for you to make a five gallon batch of homemade beer. The best part is that it tastes as good or better as the upscale craft brews you purchase for much more in the store.

We want to put in a plug for our website people! We had a very bad experience with our first website builder and host provider out of Clear Lake, Iowa. After fighting a never ending battle to get things done on our site we finally contacted Impact Marketing out of Waterloo, Iowa to assist us in building our present website. In a few words, Impact Marketing has been everything to us that our first website provider was not! Thinking of building a website? I very strongly recommend that you contact Andy at You can also visit Andy's blog (there is information about our own website on Andy's blog) at

Another subject of great importance to me is racing and in particular racing Ford Mustangs. We are regulars at our local track (Cedar Falls Raceway) and also are known to frequent Cordova and Byron, Illinois on occasion to race and we make an annual trek to the World Ford Challenge whether it is in Indianapolis, Joliet or East St. Louis. We own several Mustangs (plus several other Fords) and we race a few of these at the track. We recently purchased parts on the internet from a company that thinks they are a big time Ford parts supplier (located in Elkton, Virginia). They won't be hard to find (Elkton is only about 2,000 people). We were treated to a shipment of low quality merchandise, excessive shipping expense and when we had the gall to ask the status of our purchase we were treated to a tirade of e-mail abuse. We have filed a complaint against the Ford aftermarket parts supplier with both the Better Business Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce. Buying Ford parts in Virginia? Beware of this one!!