Winemaker Blog – Processing

After pressing the grapes the by-product is a dry "must" - the grape skins and rice hulls.

After pressing the grapes the by-product is a dry “must” – the grape skins and rice hulls.

Processing the Grapes: After a couple days battling bearings and starter capacitors, I had the destemmer ready to go. Wednesday, August 27th, we processed our Brianna grapes. The grape clusters are manually shoveled into the destemmer hopper. This machine spins the berries off of the stems, and simultaneously breaks the berry skin. An internal pump moves this mash of skins, pulp and seeds(now called MUST) thru a hose to the vertical bladder press.

The press squeezes the juice from the must, which we then pump to a tank. Our grapes fall into what is known as “slip-skin” varieties. During processing the skins slide whole off the pulp. These skins can then form nearly impenetrable walls inside the press, preventing the juice from getting out. So we use rice hulls in the press. Rice hulls are the seed coating left after rice is processed, and dumping adequate amounts in the press with the must forms channels that the juice can use to escape. It allows us to increase the juice yield. A typical juice yield from a ton of grapes is 150 gallons. We got a yield of about 168 gallons per ton using the rice hulls.


Winemaker Blog – Brianna Harvest

SteveBottleWelcome to our Winemaker Blog.  Train Wreck Winery winemaker, Steve Larson, will share the experiences of growing and harvesting grapes, and the process of making wines.  Please follow along, ask questions, and if you enjoy the story, please share with your friends!

BRIANNA HARVEST. We picked our Brianna grapes on Saturday August 23d. The timing of harvest is based on the chemistry of the grape, as well as when we can get help to harvest. In the grape, we’re looking at sugar levels, pH, and total acidity.

BriannaFor the Brianna, I focus on the sugar level (expressed in degree Brix). Brix is actually a measure of dissolved solids, but virtually 100% of dissolved solids in grapes consists of sugar in the form of sucrose. For Brianna grapes, we’re looking for 15-17 Brix. If the sugar gets higher, this grape can develop aromas we don’t want. “Foxiness” is a term used for one of those aromas that we don’t want. Some use the term “cat-pee” instead of foxiness. Either way, sounds like something we want to avoid.

We’d like the pH of the grapes to be 3.2 if possible; our grape juice ended up at pH 3.05, with a Brix of 15.5. So we liked the sugar level, and can deal with the low pH. We harvested about 4,500 pounds from our half acre of Brianna, which is double our yield from last year. This yield resulted from a better-than-usual fruit set at bloom, and our intentional leaving of more buds at pruning this spring.

Because of mechanical difficulties with our destemmer, we brought the grapes to the winery and put them in our walk-in freezer at 28 degrees. The cold temp, along with the judicious addition of sulfite, keeps the berries fresh until processing.

New Retailer

Train Wreck Winery welcomes Wild Prairie Primitives and Antiques in Forest City to our list of vendors! Stop in and meet Lori and check out all her treasures and pick up a bottle of our wine.

Grape Pickers Wanted!

Volunteers wanted copyHARVEST COMPLETE (9/29/14) – thanks for helping!  The grapes have started to turn color, and you know what that means. Yes! Drinking wine in the vineyard at 10 o’clock in the morning!

Woohoo! Harvest is soon upon us, and we are taking names for the picking crew. We will pick the red grapes and white grapes on two separate Saturdays (of course mother nature and ripening dependent). Last year we picked our Brianna on August 22nd; but we’d be surprised if it’s that early this year. FIRST COME BASIS!

There is something special about knowing the grapes you picked will be in the bottle of Train Wreck wines you enjoy later!

For your help we’ll give you a great wine harvest experience, free t-shirt, brunch and fun (oh, there is a little work involved too). If you’d like to sign up, email or message us with your phone number, or call the winery at 515.395.3376 and leave a message. Email: and please include “GRAPES” in the subject line.

New Retailer!

newretailerPlease join us in welcoming The Market (Algona, IA) as our latest retail friend.  Please let us know if you’d like your favorite wine store to carry Train Wreck Winery wines!

World Wine Championships – TWW Recognized!

The results are in from the World Wine Championships and Train Wreck Winery did exceptionally well!

2014 Best Iowa Rosé Wine
Train Wreck Winery 2012 “Orphan Train”, Iowa $13.95. Best Buy.
RATING: 90 points (Exceptional)
Copper salmon pink color. Aromas of warm apricot compote and buttery pralines with a silky, fruity medium-to-full body and a tangy sour cherry and blood orange accented finish. A delicious, appetizing rosé that dances to its own beat.



Train Wreck Winery 2012 “Caboose”, Iowa $13.95. Best Buy.
RATING: 89 points (Highly Recommended)
Golden yellow color. Attractive aromas of banana-nut bread, honeyed dried stone fruits, toasted meringue with a silky, fruity sweet medium-to-full body and a tangy white grape juice, apple sauce and pear tart finish. Very tasty and will be great with ice cream.



Train Wreck Winery 2012 “Gandy Dancer”, Iowa $13.95. Best Buy.
RATING: 88 points (Highly Recommended)
Interesting aromas of brewer’s yeast, clay, honeydew, and Asian pear are very sake-like with a crisp, dry-yet-fruity light body and a tangy, sweet tangerine, green apple, and Playdoh accented cider-like finish. Flavorful, fruity, and different.

Choo Choo Choose Me!

ChooseMeChoo Choo Choose Me is our delicious, off-dry cranberry wine made from fresh cranberries from Wisconsin.  You’re sure to love this bright and lively cranberry with with just the right amount of sweetness to balance the natural tart of the cranberry.

Internationally Recognized Wines!

finger lakesWe’re proud to announce two more of our wines earned distinction in a recent wine competition. The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition judges wines from across the world, and this year our Orphan Train earned a Silver Medal and Caboose earned a Bronze Medal. Please join us in congratulating our winemaker, Steve!

Orphan Train Earns Gold Medal at Competition!

Orphan Train WineTrain Wreck Winery is proud to announce Orphan Train and Gandy Dancer received recognition at the 2014 Consumer Wine Awards in Lodi, California. The goals of the Consumer Wine Awards are to provide wineries an opportunity to showcase their wines with other wines from around the world to independent, sophisticated wine consumers.

This year Train Wreck Winery went up against a lot of well-known and amazing wineries and came away with a Gold Medal for Orphan Train. Orphan Train is a semi-sweet blush wine made from Frontenac Gris (gree) grapes and has tropical and peach flavors.

Our Gandy Dancer earned a Bronze Medal and is a semi-sweet white wine made with Seyval Blanc grapes and is a delicious wine with notes of pineapple, stone fruit and lovely fruity aromas.

Join us in wishing our winemaker congratulations for another successful competition and we hope you continue to enjoy our wines.

You can find Train Wreck Winery wines at these fine retailers and at the winery.