We are having a Grape Day!!! How about you?

Hi All,

Syrah Grapes
Syrah Grapes

We just wanted to let you know about some happenings at the Miller residence.  Some of you may already know this, but Lisa and I are in the heavy planning stages of opening an Urban Winery here in San Diego. Lisa and I always talked about “retiring” into the wine business and now is the time to get that ball rolling!!!

Unlike a traditional winery estate which has rows upon rows of grapes growing, an Urban winery is built in either an industrial park or your local strip mall far away from the vineyards.  This is similar to micro-breweries; they are not in the middle of grain fields or hop fields.  The best ingredients are sourced and trucked in.  This whole concept raises the eyebrows of many, but a chef typically doesn’t raise his own cows or grows his carrots.

So we want to bring the whole wine making process to the people. We want to let them experience the process, be part of the process, taste the results and just have a good time!

I have been busy over the last few months meeting other vintners in the area and throughout CA, OR and WA, helping them out, listening and learning. I have spent countless hours reading textbooks, how-to books, blogs and videos about how to make and market wine. I have learned zoning, layout, licensing and legal stuff.  Everyone I have met has been extremely helpful and I personally think that wine people tend to be very nice. After a few glasses of wine isn’t everything a little nicer?

Making wine is easy right? You just grab some grapes, throw in some yeast, let it ferment and voila! you have wine.

Well, it isn’t quite that easy. It is actually a whole lot of hard work and even more fun. Fun to make, fun to drink and fun to hang out with friends and family.

Grape delivery at Curds and Wine
Grape delivery at Curds and Wine

A month ago, Lisa and I had a hands on wine making class at a little store called Curds and Wine on Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego,  and we are currently making wine out of 300 pounds of grapes. We have about 150 pounds of Sagiovese grapes (the primary type of grape in Italian Chianti), 75 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon and 75 pounds of Pinot Noir in three different batches currently maturing.  This will yield about 100 bottles of wine when completed and should be ready to drink in about 18 months from now.

A few weeks ago , I was helping a local winemaker crush 36,000 pounds (18 tons) of grapes and happened to mention that I was making wine out of my 300 pounds of grapes. He looked at me with eyes that read “seriously?” and said, “You have to make a barrel or two to be a real winemaker”.

So that’s what we are doing right now in our garage and you all are invited to come over, check it out or lend a hand!

1000 future bottles of wine
1000 future bottles of wine

I was able to source 2500 pounds of Sonoma Syrah grapes and thanks to Kevin Gunning’s truck, I was able to get them home last Sunday evening.  Lisa and I busted our butts and worked till past mid-night crushing and destemming the grapes.  Monday night we pitched in the yeast and nutrients. But now we have two full bins of grapes happily fermenting away.

Every 6 hours we take the wine’s temperature, measure the sugar level and mix up the whole mess with a long stainless steel paddle.  This is called “punching down the cap”. As the grapes ferment, tremendous amounts of heat and carbon dioxide are released causing the skins to rise to the surface creating a “cap” which you have to keep wet. If you have never seen this it’s quite interesting and if you have never punched down, well, you are just missing out on the finer points in life IMHO.

At the end of fermentation, the yeast has converted all of the sugar into alcohol.  Our grapes started off at 27% sugar and were slightly dehydrated which will yield a “big” red wine, full bodied and high alcohol.

The whole fermentation process will take about a week and on Monday October 20th we will be pressing the grapes.  While pressing we will bucket the fermented grapes into a wine press to separate the juice from the solids. This will take about 8 hours and I will be starting about noon.  Everyone is invited to stop by to watch, help or learn. We would love to see you, so please stop by. Just let me know if you need our address.

The plans for the Urban Winery are coming along and we are currently toying with the name KoiZen Cellars, what do you think? Would you believe the name Darius is already taken by a Napa winery called Dariush? Oh well.

Lisa and I have been talking a lot about the vibe of the winery and we want to create a place that is relaxed, casual and most of all not pretentious. A place where people come to hang out, have a glass of wine, talk and just plain old socialize.  You know– face to face.  We want wine to be approachable and want to offer a lot of educating, tasting and hands on activities.

We are still looking for the ideal location and if you have any ideas or leads, please let us know. Also if you have any cool ideas, please let us know and we hope to see you soon.


Darius and Lisa