California Grapes- Our Primitivo!


So.... this has been a really fun project so far, involving Asheville Brewers Supply, Asheville Bacchus, and Eagles Nest Winery & Vineyard. Our friend, Tom Mincarelli, is an award-winning winemaker (both locally and internationally) as well as the man behind Eagles Nest. Through Mincarelli's networks, we were able to line up delivery of several lugs of various varietals for a few lucky folks. Varietals included Barbera, Primitivo, Cab Sauv, and Merlot. We are hoping to expand upon this next year and bring in a larger supply for more of our customers.

Anyway, on a somewhat dreary drizzly Sunday---Sept. 27, 2015---we all convened at Eagles Nest in Black Mountain, NC for a good old fashioned grape crush. Actually, Eagles Nest has a high-end Italian crusher-destemmer, so the work was quick.
I (Tedd) purchased 3 lugs of Primitivo, a grape related to Zinfandel. Each lug was 36 pounds. The stats on the grapes were as such:  Brix/26.5   Sp. Gravity/1.114  pH/3.58  TA/.60%

After the crush, we all socialized a bit with some tasty hors d'oeuvres and vino. It was marvelous, even though this author was spectacularly hungover after the French Broad River Festival the evening before. Post-crush and social, I took the buckets of primitivo down to our friends at Whistle Hop Brewing in Fairview, where they let me store them for a 5-day cold maceration period (this was to extract full flavor and color). Each day, we punched down the skins.

After the maceration period, I took the buckets home and placed them in my basement, where they sit at a steady 65F. For the yeast, I opted for the Lalvin RC-212, a great choice for full bodied reds. Zinfandel is sometimes a bit thin on its own and needs to be blended with something for additional depth. Because the lug of petit syrah I had ordered burned up on the vine, I'm doing this as straight Primitivo; therefore, I think I can use the yeast to achieve the characteristics I'm looking for. The yeast accentuates fruit and berry, also providing some spice and pepper notes- perfect for Primitivo. It also gets great color and flavor extraction and helps stabilize the tannins. 

After 9 days of relatively cool fermentation, my Brix was at 7.5 (1.030 SG), giving an approximate abv of 10.5%. I decided to press so that subsequent fermentation would use up and scrub out the oxygen that would be introduced. It was an immaculate day with nice temperate weather and no rain! I apologize in advance that this website automatically rotates these pics. Very annoying.

It took two pressings to do all of the grapes. When finished, I combined the two pomace cakes in the press and did a final pressing.


All in all, I ended up with 9 gallons of delicious (yes, I drank some!) Primitivo that is again happily fermenting away. Tonight, I will check the gravity and tomorrow I will likely be adding malolactic bacteria to the fermenters. We'll keep you posted as this progresses. Frankly, we're fired up for next grape season. Also, we do rent out the press you see pictured.

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  • Theodore Clevenger
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