If life gives you grapes … make wine
September 20, 2012
Red’s Red, a Carson City wine made from grapes that can withstand cool-to-cold climates, is bottled and ready in its 2011 incarnation for Red and the gang — almost.Red Metcalf and his son, Tom, with wives and friends spent last weekend up to their elbows in wine making. Some picked the 2012 Frontenac grapes and some bottled the 2011 version from the same vines in the elder Metcalf’s spacious back yard. Wine lovers in on the work and play day enjoyed some barrel-tasting during the bottling process.“Boy, it’s good,” said Tom Metcalf, a senior project executive with the Northern Nevada office of the Gilbane Building Co. in Carson City.“I think it is better than the ’09 and ’10,” he said after the fledgling wine making operation completed its third and most productive bottling project and party to date.But despite the barrel tasting, the 2011 bottled wine now must go unopened for at least six months to avoid problems from what wine makers call bottle shock. That’s why it is almost, but not quite, ready. Red Metcalf, a retired high-rise building supervisor, and his wife, JoAn, enjoy hosting each September’s grape harvest, the accompanying grape stomp and the bottling of the previous year’s vintage.Red, whose given name is Norman, doesn’t look upon himself as a wine connoisseur. He partakes only occasionally. He credits his son with getting the project going a few years back.“Actually, Tom was the one that said, ‘Dad, we ought to plant grapes back there,’” said the namesake for Red’s Red.Red said there was a large area behind the home, but no back yard, when he purchased the west side house a few years ago. So he landscaped a small portion and put in a pond, but heeded his son’s suggestion to put in vines behind the pond.An image of the back yard and pond now graces the label of Red’s Red, but much more is involved in the entire process than meets the eye via that label. Considerable time had to pass after planting 128 vines before the Metcalfs and their friends could enjoy wine.“You don’t pick until the third year, so it was 2009,” Tom said. That year and in 2010, the vines produced sufficient grapes to allow fewer than 100 bottles each year, he added.He thought the 2011 grapes should produce more than 300 bottles. “We should have 360,” he said as this year’s bottling began.The 2011 version, on advice of folks helping the Metcalfs with their burgeoning project, is the first to be clarified with egg whites. And this is the first year the Metcalfs are recycling bottles.The Frontenac grape, they said, is recommended by growers in the region and the University of Minnesota as a good red for colder climates.Listening to Red and JoAn, as well as Tom and his spouse, Rhonda, a visitor gets the feeling Red is involved in working on the vines and Tom dotes on the wine making process. Both, however, know the entire drill.The younger wine maker delights in showing visitors the process as he points out 58 gallons of 2011 wine in an oak barrel and the balance of 74 gallons for that year in glass jugs called carboys.Meanwhile, nearby were 97 gallons of 2012 Frontenac grapes that recently had been crushed and made into must, a gooey purple mixture, so the primary fermentation process could start for next year’s bottling.Intervening before then will come use of a large potato masher for yeast, the racking process and renting of a press for the ongoing steps toward the final product.Next year, said Tom, he expects the process will yield a bit less wine than the 2011 harvest did. But the goal will be a bit higher alcohol content and more flavor. Helping with the picking over the weekend were senior bowlers who are friends of the Metcalfs, as well as a couple of fellows who enjoy the process as much as the Metcalfs. They are Mike Hautekeet, a Ph.D pharmacist from Mike’s Pharmacy, and Russ Fiddyment, a construction manager.The Metcalfs said they also get advice and help from folks at Buffalo Creek Ranch near Genoa, where grapes are grown in significantly larger quantities. In addition, they credited Just Brew It, a Carson City home brewing and wine making outlet, with additional help.After several years of growing grapes and three years making Red’s Red, Tom Metcalf pronounced the first two vintages “not bad” if you let the wine breathe before having a glass.And he looks forward with anticipation to the third and fourth years’ results. But don’t think the builder and his father are looking to build a business as vintners and wine makers. It’s just great fun with friends, he insists, so going commercial isn’t in the cards. “Never,” he said, repeating himself in case someone doubted his conviction.