Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Long Term Home Wine Storage

Once in a Blue MoonMy son is becoming quite the collector of wine. Personally, if I part with cash to purchase a bottle of wine I like to enjoy that wine sometime in the not too distant future. Nick (my son), on the other hand likes to have some wine that he imbibes and other wine that goes onto the shelf to enjoy (hopefully) in the distant future. This brings us to our topic for today . . . storing wine.

Wine storage does not have to be expensive but it does need to be done properly.

Three elements can affect the future well being of your wine collection. These three things are air, heat and light. Wine will rust (I mean oxidize) if exposed to air.

Minimizing air contact is accomplish by purchasing wine which has been corked with high quality cork and then by laying the wine on its side to keep the cork moist. Corks which dry out (caused by the wine bottle being stored vertically) will allow air to pass through.

Red wines are typically bottled in dark green bottles and many whites are bottled in cobalt blue or dark amber bottles. These bottles reduce the amount of ultraviolet light that the wine is exposed to. Ultraviolet light can break down the structure of the wine. Heat can also potentially damage wines.

So, to reduce the chance of environmental damage to your wine, follow these suggestions:

1. Purchase wine with quality closures and store corked bottles on their sides.

2. Purchase wines which are bottled in darker colored glass and store your wines where it is generally dark.

3. Store your wines in a cool place (not too warm, not too cold).

This cool location for wine storage is best if the temperature remains fairly constant and there is a reasonable amount of humidity (too dry and corks will suffer). A good temperature range for basement storage is from a minimum of about 40 degrees (F) to as high as 65-70 degrees. Most homes will not maintain a constant temperature but if the changes in temperature are gradual this type of storage will suffice.

A more expensive way to approach wine storage is creating an area which is both temperature and humidity controlled but in some locations this could be the only alternative for long term wine storage.

BlueStem Winery operates as a licensed and bonded Iowa winery and also operates a retail store selling beer brewing supplies, homebrew ingredients, homebrewing equipment, winemaking supplies, wine making ingredients, equipment for home winemaking, WinExpert wine kits and and also ingredient kits for making wine from Cellar Craft.

Have the perfect place to store your wine but have no wine? Let us show you the how to's of home wine making. If you want an easy way to get started in this hobby, let us help you decide on either a WinExpert ingredient kit or a Cellar Craft wine kit and with a little bit of patience you can have your wine storage full and still have wine to enjoy. Prefer a cold one? Bluestem also can help you with home brewing supplies and home brew ingredients and can help set you up with brewing equipment to get started on another fulfilling hobby. Cheers!

Friday, January 25, 2008

To Samsung or NOT to Samsung!

Andy at The Big Bald Blog got me revved up about Samsung again. His blog article yesterday about his vacuum cleaner experiences with Sears (where not to buy anything that SUCKS because it won't). You can read Andy's blog for his slant on vacuum cleaners . . . my experience is with over-the-range microwave ovens.

Yes, I know, this blog is supposed to be about BlueStem Winery, selling home brewing supplies and making wine but my tag line also says that I sometimes rant and rave about things that make me angry (or make me feel good). Today it is angry!

Apparently Samsung feels that before you purchase one of their over-the-counter microwave ovens you should read the warranty so that you know that if you install the oven and it does not work that you are responsible for paying the bill to install it, remove it and then reinstall another one. Apparently I did not understand that because Samsung makes junk and then sells junk this somehow becomes my problem.

I guess if you are big enough you obtain a license to dump on your customers at will. I operate a small winemaking supplies and homebrew ingredients store and we also retail our own label Iowa wines. If one of my customers bought something that was defective, even though they opened it in the process of finding out that it was defective, I would take responsibility for the item sold and replace it or refund the money. No cost to my customer!

We (my wife and I) bought a Samsung over-the-counter microwave oven with the thought that it would work at least for a reasonable amount of time. Silly me! It didn't work long enough to heat up one slice of cold pizza. In fact, we never were able to use it at all. But . . . we paid $268 (plus sales tax of $19) to Lowe's and then paid $140 to have the microwave installed. This was a fairly major job as we had to disassemble part of our kitchen cupboards to get the thing in. So, we are now in this for a total of $427. Before I forget, Samsung treated us like crap, Lowe's treated us with a tremendous amount of respect.

Never fear, the goods are under warranty. This means that Samsung will repair, replace or refund. Well, it turns out that there isn't a Samsung repair facility within a hundred miles so that takes out option 1. Option 2 was replacement. Now why on God's green earth would I want to replace this Samsung beauty with another one of their pieces of junk. Remember, it cost me $140 to put it in. Now I get to pay another $80 to remove the bad one plus another $140 to put in the replacement. We took Option 3. Not because it was a good option but because I was sick and tired of dealing with the morons at Samsung Customer Service. Do me a favor! Ship these peoples jobs off to some non-English speaking place. I couldn't have been near as mad if I had not been able to understood what they were trying to tell me as they were screwing me over!

So, we now have a new microwave oven. The total damages were zero as regards to the microwave. We paid $268 and we got back $268. But . . . we are out the $19 sales tax, the $140 for install, the $80 to remove, about $6 postage because we had to mail in the cord for the defective microwave (like I was going to fix it myself or something!) and another $20 plus gas to haul the damn thing to the landfill and dispose of it. That little Samsung gem didn't heat up even one bowl of soup and it cost me $265 plus fuel to the landfill and a whole bunch of frustration.

Thinking of buying a microwave? I think you know what my advice is. In case you don't, let me remind you that SAMSUNG SUCKS! Maybe they should start making the vacuum cleaners that Andy needs. After all, if they can make a microwave that SUCKS making a vacuum cleaner should be a piece of cake!

Looking for a great deal on some beginning wine making equipment to begin a home winemaking hobby or some homebrewing supplies to continue your beer brewing hobby? We can help you and when you call with a problem, you won't get the crap that Samsung hands out from their customer service department in New Jersey. You get to talk to me. No lies, no excuses, no problems! If it is broke we will fix it. If FedEx breaks it we will replace it (not meant to be a slam against FedEx as they do a marvelous job handling my shipping needs).

In addition to homebrew supplies and brewing equipment BlueStem Winery is a retailer for WinExpert wine kits and for Cellar Craft wine kits. Both WinExpert and Cellar Craft ingredient kits make world class wines and it is a great hobby. Where else can you spend so little (a maximum of $4 per bottle) and have a wine that is truly first rate to drink and share with your friends. Lots of friends! The more wine you make the more friends you will have! It works the same way if you are buying beer brewing supplies . . . just more friends.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Procrastinator? Then Making Wine is Your Hobby!

Super-Tuscan Rosso FortissimoWhen a couple comes into our store and I start talking with them about making wine as a new hobby, I usually tell them that women make better winemaking hobbyists then men because there are only two simple rules: Keep your equipment clean and read and follow directions. Women are better at both!

Another attribute that makes helps when wine making is the ability to procrastinate! The great thing about wine is that if it is good today, it will be better tomorrow. This statement is for the most part true but during the very initial stages in the winemaking process you do have to stay on schedule in the addition of the various additives and moving the wine to a clean vessel when necessary. Once the process is a few weeks on its way the calendar becomes more flexible and you can go through the various stages with quite a bit of variance in the timing of the winemaking steps. In fact, I have delayed bottling wines for up to two years but for a very good reason. Wine that is stored in bulk ages about 50% faster then which which has been bottled. Here is a time when dallying is a good thing!

BlueStem Winery carries both WinExpert wine kits and Cellar Craft wine ingredient kits and both make superb (even world class!) wine. We have had customers make various kinds of kit wines which they declare are the best they have ever had.

One of our special wine kits this year is one Cellar Craft's Limited Edition kits, the Super-Tuscan Rosso Fortissimo Reserve Cuvee. This kit provides twice the amount of Tuscan Sangiovese juice than Cellar Craft's Showcase Rosso Fortissimo. The crushed grape pack is 30% larger at 2.6 liters and the crushed grapes have been upgraded to Walla Walla Appellation Quality grapes.

This Rosso Fortissimo is truly special and would be a great way to start your wine making hobby.

In addition to the WinExpert wine ingredient kits and the Cellar Craft wine kits we carry, BlueStem Winery also carries its own line of homebrew ingredients kits known as BlueStems Best. BlueStem carries a complete line of wine making equipment, winemaking ingredients, and wine making supplies plus all of the homebrew supplies, home brewing ingredients and beer brewing equipment you need for these great hobbies.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Remembering (those who rescued) Dad!

For several months now I have been writing sometimes daily blog articles about making wine an selling home brew supplies here at BlueStem Winery. Occasionally I would write about some other event or life experience that didn't relate to wine making supplies or beer brewing equipment and the other day I wrote a short blog article about my Dad and just a little, little bit about his experiences as a soldier with Battery Chicago of the 60th Coast Artillery on Corregidor Island in the Philippines prior to World War II and his subsequent imprisonment in several Japanese POW camps in the Philippines (Cabanatuan, Bilibid, Palawan) and then his transfer by hellship (the Canadian Inventor) in 1944 to Moji, Japan and then on to Nagoya Camp No. 3 at Funatsu, Japan for the remainder of the war.

Several months ago I started making up my own brewing ingredients kits at BlueStem Winery and I started to name a few of them after experiences my Dad had during the war. But, I digress! There is a story to tell before I get to naming a beer!

When my father was released from captivity he was transported by train to Nagoya harbor on the east coast of Japan. After a short medical examination he was issued a new set of clothing (to replace the rags he had worn for the last 3-1/2 years) and taken by U.S. Navy barge out into the harbor and taken aboard the British destroyer HMS Wizard (pictured above).

The Brits promptly had the ex-POWs throw their new clothes over the side. Dad was not happy! But . . . the Brits then deloused their new charges and collected extra clothing from the crew to outfit the newly freed POWs. Then it was off to the mess! Dad said they started eating breakfast in the morning and were still eating breakfast well into the evening.

Anyway, I knew that Dad had been aboard the Wizard for a short trip from Nagoya to Tokyo and when I wrote a brief article for Roger Mansell's website about Japanese POW camps, little did I know how small the world really is.

Not too long after Roger published my photos and information about Dad I received an e-mail from England. A member of the HMS Wizard Reunion Society had found the article and had read them at a meeting of the Society. It seems that a lady who attended the meeting wanted to correspond but did not have e-mail and so they had contacted Roger who provided my e-mail address and contact was made. I have been corresponding with Adeline Medford from Wales ever since. Ady's husband was a crewman on the Wizard the day they picked my Dad up off the coast of Japan!

So, my first beer brewing ingredients kit was named Morrison Hill Pale Ale (after the hill on Middleside on Corregidor where my father's battery was stationed) and I then wrote to Ady and asked for the help of the Wizard in naming the second beer. Although Ady reports that some of the ideas were a bit bawdy, the final decision was to name the brewing ingredients kit HMS Wizard Magic Circle Mild Ale.

So, in a fit of excitement over the naming of my beer, I wrote to Ady and told her that I was going to send enough ingredients to England for everyone to have a beer at the next meeting.

Soon I received a package from Ady with a Wizard silk necktie and a certificate naming me as an honorary member of the Wizard Reunion Society. Before this all could go to my head, Ady told me that she thought the the honor had little to do with the service of my Dad or her husband but more to do with free beer!

So, while I remembered by Dad in my blog article the other day, today I remember the brave crew of the very small British warship H.M.S. Wizard and all they did in the service of their country and in the rescue of my Dad from the shores of Japan. Cheers, mates!

BlueStem Winery is a full-service winemaking equipment and homebrewing supplies store located in Parkersburg, Iowa. While we are purveyors of home winemaking and homebrew supplies and both WinExpert and Cellar Craft wine kits we also are busy wine making, too! Our own label BlueStem wines are about to become 3 with the soon to be released Number 2 (Red Crescent) and Number 3 (Dark Side) to join our first issue Once in a Blue Moon. Blue Moon is a Riesling dessert wine, Red Crescent is a Cabernet Franc dessert wine and Dark Side is a Chilean Montepulciano.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Remembering Dad

It is slow at BlueStem Winery today which isn't really unusual for a Thursday afternoon in January! My normal blog writing consists of writing about our home brewing supplies and wine making equipment business here in Parkersburg, Iowa and trying to get as many links from my blog back to my website as is humanly possible without being too redundant. To be honest, that really gets kind of boring.

It has been almost 66 years since my father (Holger Larsen Holm) left the family farm in Grundy County, Iowa (in February 1942) and went to Fort Des Moines to take his army physical and then come home to await his call to active duty. That never happened! The coming home part, that is. After taking his physical he was put on a troop train bound for San Francisco and soon was aboard the USS Republic on his way to the Philippine Islands.

I have bumped into (well, figuratively anyway) several bloggers from the Philippines while blogging around on EntreCard and it just reminded me again of Dad. To make a very long story short, Dad wound up stationed on the tiny fortress island of Corregidor in the mouth of Manila Bay, served with Battery Chicago of the 60th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft), was awarded three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts in about a 30 day period of time in late April and early May of 1942 prior to the surrender of Corregidor.

He then was imprisoned for about 3-1/2 years at Cabanatuan, Bilibid and Palawan POW camps in the Philippines and was transported by hellship (the Canadian Inventor) in mid-1944 to Mogi, Japan and then on to Nagoya Camp No. 3 at Funatsu, Japan. Links are provided to articles about Cabantuan and Bilibid. Dad was lucky enough to be sent away from Palawan prior to the murder of the POWs remaining there. A link is provided for reading about this atrocity by the Japanese, too. A special link is provided for information about Nagoya Camp No. 3 including information I provided to Roger Mansell who maintains this site about Japanese POW camps.

You know, wine making is my job. Selling homebrewing supplies, brewing ingredients, and beer brewing equipment is something I also do. Teaching people about home winemaking using either Cellar Craft or WinExpert wine kits is fun . . . but, that whole thing pales in importance when I think about the sacrifices my father (and his whole generation) made by bringing the Germans, Italians and Japanese to their knees during World War II.

Somehow, talking about WinExpert kits, Cellar Craft wine kits, winemaking supplies and home brew supplies just is not too significant in comparison. Dad has been gone since 1995 but he always was and always will be my hero. He won 4 very distinguished medals for bravery in combat and won 2 medals for being wounded and he never fired a shot himself! He was a lineman who repaired the wires in the communication equipment so that the anti-aircraft batteries would fire in unison. If what had happened to Dad had happened to me, I would have hated the Japanese for the rest of my life. Dad never felt that way. In fact, my brother's son lives on Okinawa (he is a civilian employee of the US Air Force there but had been stationed there previously with the Marines) and is married to a lovely Japanese girl. So, Dad, if you are watching . . . it has been 12 years . . . and I still think of you every day.