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.

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.