Tuesday, September 27, 2011

City Forage Wine

I love learning by doing. It's the best way for me to understand the complexity of any activity. This is part of why I grow my own veggies and herbs in a community garden plot. It's not the same as farming, by any stretch of the imagination, but it grounds my thinking about farming in a reality. So I was excited to take part in making a true city wine over the past year. A friend has a cherry plum tree in his backyard (for SF folks, it's in the foggy Richmond district), and usually lets the birds claim the harvest. But last year there were other plans for the fruit. An hour's labor gleaned two paper shopping bags full to the brim with cherry plums (about 3.5 pounds). To these were added two pounds of cherries (store bought) and a pound of blackberries gleaned from the Presidio (a large urban park/wilds in San Francisco), along with yeast, sugar and water. A year later we have two cases of what we call 'Captain's Red', a dry, light, almost rose, very drinkable (if a little acidic) wine made largely from the neglected fruits of the city.

If you've ever tried home winemaking, you'll know I'm leaving a lot out about the process. This is mostly because I was the assistant winemaker, or more accurately, an bystander observing, once we got past the harvest part. But its also because, from an urban ag perspective, the big lesson was not about the winemaking process, but about how so little (mostly one tree, on one day's harvest) can make so much. With that knowledge I see the city landscape a little differently now.
[Fermentation bubbles - for a couple months it bubbled like crazy]
[Cleaned, recycled wine bottles drying in the window on bottling day]
[Bottling the wine - the carboy is just out of frame to the left]

[Corking the bottles with a corking device, rented from Brewcraft on Clement St]
[The finished product, ready for a label, and for drinking at bottling day lunch]

The wine recipe came from Making Wild Wines and Meads by Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling, advice and equipment from Brewcraft, and the talented winemaker credit goes to Michel Fuller.