cousin john's wine fermentingCousin John, as you’ll remember from this post, is a purist. He makes wine, but spurning our carefully crafted and specially raised UC Davis yeasts, Cousin John uses whatever is floating in the air. In fact, Cousin John only uses au natural techniques and ingredients to make wine. He’s been known to wander the byways of Sonoma picking wild fruit for fermentation. I’ve even accused him, although I have no hard evidence, of trying to make wine out of roadkill. It’s only a matter of time.

So it’s been great fun to have Cousin John make some of his wine from our grapes using his Stone Age methods. Call it the ultimate control group. Since the Cabernet pressing, which Cousin John did with our old basket press, our two Cabernets have been fermenting side by side — ours in oak barrels, Cousin John’s in glass carboys.

This past weekend, it was time for Cousin John to do another racking of his wine, which made the perfect opportunity for a side-by-side tasting. So who is winning? Our college boy yeasts or Cousin John’s juvenile delinquent yeasts? The jury is still out, but both are tasting quite good. However, I still think a college education, even for wine, gives the edge.

Watching Cousin John rack wine the old fashioned way. With tubes, muscles and carboys. No, I’m not nostalgic for THOSE days.

“Terrier” is a unit of measure around here. After racking, Cousin John has two terriers of Cabernet. Appropriate.

Our first tasting was our Rose, the first Rose we’ve ever made.

The verdict: almost all the residual sugars are gone and it’s tasting very, very good.

Then we tapped our Cabernet from the barrels.

Compared with Cousin John’s, ours had fermented out more completely. And the oak of the barrel is adding interesting notes. John’s is still a tiny bit fizzy as residual yeast keeps struggling to the last. But the good fruit is holding up in both.

The verdicts on our other barrels are more mixed. Our predominantly Grenache blend and predominantly Mourvedre blends are tasting very good indeed. But last year’s Mourvedre, which is fermenting on its own, is troubling. Andy was ready to pour it out. It’s been reprieved at the last minute and will have a few more months to redeem itself.

All that “tasting” can really add up. So we took off on a hike to the redwoods to burn off the alcohol.

We saw some mushrooms that looked so toxic, even John, the ultimate forager, wasn’t tempted to pick them.

He concentrated instead on trying to determine what animal teeth marks we were seeing on some scattered bones.

Obviously, the thought that a large predator was hanging around, caused me not to get the above picture in very good focus.

But I later did get an in-focus picture of the stump of petrified redwood that John the Baptist found in the creek.

And I managed to do that “fuzzy water” photography technique.

All in all, a successful day of winemaking. I’d say we and our college boy yeasts are ahead at this point. But it’s probably not wise to bet against Cousin John.