With fermentation roaring, I needed a plan for pressing the juice off the grape skins. Originally, Mr. B mentioned that he made some calls and thought someone had a wine press in Houston I could use. Then, he suggested possibly meeting me in Austin to give me a press to borrow. But with schedules tight, about five days before pressing I had no clear plans for obtaining a wine press.
By the way, several people have asked me about crushing versus pressing in the wine-making process. They are two very different things. Here is one method of crushing grapes from I Love Lucy. If you read my post called Getting the Party Started, you may remember that after destemming, I used a “metal rod-crusher-device-thing” to crush the grapes — not quite as fun as Lucy’s experience, but effective and more practical. Anyway, crushing happens before fermentation, and pressing happens after fermentation (with red wine). Red wine juice is fermented with the skins. Then, the winemaker can choose whether to keep the juice on the skins for a period of time or go ahead and press the juice off the skins.
Back to my predicament…the need to press was imminent (I did not plan on doing extended maceration for my first wine). Fermentation began to slow and the cap (wine skins and stuff) got thinner. Once the cap falls, it is time to press. Side note: you can also use a hydrometer to determine the specific gravity of the liquid; this will tell you how much sugar the yeast has turned into alcohol. I had such a difficult time getting an adequate sample to use for the hydrometer reading. So, I just ended up gauging things on the cap and quantity of bubbles.
Getting the Press
The weekend before I needed to press, I needed to find a press. Mr. B made some calls and sent me a name and phone number. This led me to a phone call with Mr. K out in the Houston suburbs. He had a traditional basket press I could borrow! Yehaw! And, I could come get it that day.
So, on a Saturday (yay, no traffic), I jumped in the car to pick up the press. Next thing I knew, I was driving down this gorgeous tree-lined drive alongside a vineyard in the greater Houston area. Say what?! Mr. K and his wife, Mrs. M, have an amazing place (watch this for proof). We loaded up the press, and then Mr. K and Mrs. M invited me to sip Blanc du Bois (an American hybrid variety) with them on their porch. It was one of those times in your life when you think, “How did I get here?! This moment is too perfect.” The only thing missing was my husband who happened to be working that day.
I loved chatting about wine with Mr. K and Mrs. M, but eventually, I had to head back to central Houston. With the borrowed press loaded up, I went home. Two days before pressing, I was ready!