RJ Spagnols – La Batalla RQ 2016


Inside the box ($140 CDN):
  • bag of grape juice (16 liters – 4.23 gallons)
  • 1 bag of dried grape skins (9 oz)
  • 1.5 oz american heavy toast (7g per finished gallon) 
  • bentonite
  • potassium metabisulfite
  • potassium sorbate (not used)
  • chitosan (~50mL)
  • kieselsol (~10mL)
  • yeast (Lalvin EC-1118 – substituted)
About the Wine: 

Spainish Tempranillo, Grenache & Cabernet Sauvignon

“This ruby-colored blend of Spainish Tempranillo, Grenache & Cabernet Sauvignon reflects the brightly colored red wines enjoyed throughout this cheerful festival. Rich on the nose and palate, it features black currant, raspberry, sweet spices and dried fruit.”  From the RJ Spagnols RQ2016 Handout



Pitch Date: April 16, 2016

  • 6 gallons
  • OG: 1.094
  • Ambient temperature: 67.5 F
Changes made:
  • Fermented in my 8.5 gallon stainless steel brew kettle with a bazooka screen and placed on lid.
  • Added campden to the 7 liters of water added.
  • Added 1 tsp of wine tannin powder
  • Yeast #1: 1 rehydrated packet of Lalvin Bourgovin RC-212
  • Yeast #2: 1/2 non-rehydrated packet of Lalvin BM 4×4
  • Yeast #3: 1/2 non-rehydrated packet of Lalvin EC-1118
48 hours post pitch
  • Wine temperature 2 days post pitch: 78.5 F  (+11.0 F)
  • 1 tsp wyeast beer/wine nutrient for a double dose
  • 1/2 tsp DAP for a full dose
  • Did not detect much (if any) Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) this time around.  I wonder if the extra oxygen is helping the fermentation since the pot lid doesn’t seal (unlike a carboy under airlock)
Day 7
  • SG: 0.095
  • Racked to a 6 gal carboy a on day 10
Day 14 – April 30, 2016
  • Rack to 6 gallon carboy
  • -Degas-
  • Add potassium metabisulfite package
  • -Stir-
  • Add kieselsol
  • -Stir 1 minute-
  • Add chitosan
  • -Stir & Airlock-
Bulk Aging Timeline

4 Months – Aug 15, 2016 – Add 1/4 tsp potassium metabisulfite to 5 gallon carboy.

8 Months – Dec 22, 2016 – Add 1/4 tsp potassium metabisulfite & bottled.  Nothing added.  Solid oak and tannins.


Final Gravity Reading

0.994 SG

1 Year Tasting Notes
April 15, 2017

Coming Soon!



Audience Score

RJ Spagnols Winery Series Super Tuscan 2015

Inside the box ($150 CDN):
  • bag of grape juice (16 litres)
  • 2 crushed grape pack (2 litres total)
  • 3.4 oz medium toast oak chips (16g/gallon) 
  • (RJS says 1 bag is american and the other french)
  • bentonite (30 grams)
  • potassium metabisulfite (4.8 grams)
  • 2x potassium sorbate (not used)
  • pectinase (1.5 grams)
  • chitosan (~50mL)
  • kieselsol (~10mL)
  • yeast (Lalvin EC-1118 – substituted BM 4×4)


Next time I’ll ferment in a bucket with the skins/oak chips in a muslin bag.  Or posibly use two carboys and combine the results into a single topped up 5 gallon (19L) carboy.


Pitch Date: November 21, 2015

Lalvin BM 4×4

  • 6 gallons
  • OG: 1.111 – measured after stirring in grape pack
  • Added 1 tsp wyeast beer/wine nutrient for a double dose
  • Added 2 tsp powdered wine tannin (made from chestnut tree).
Day 2 (48h post pitch)
  • Light Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) detected
  • Added 1/2 tsp wyeast beer/wine nutrient for a single dose
  • 1/4 tsp DAP for a half dose
Day 3
  • Light Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) detected
  • Added 1/4 tsp wyeast beer/wine nutrient for a quarter dose
  • 1/8 tsp DAP for a quarter dose
Day 4
  • Light Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) detected
  • Added 1/4 tsp wyeast beer/wine nutrient for a quarter dose
  • 1/8 tsp DAP for a quarter dose (was really -just- over 1/8th tsp)

No further Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) present

Day 18
Added pectinase, kieselsol, chitosan into the primary fermenter.  Unorthodox but the final step will be the last before a 6-9 month bulk age.
Day 22

Racked, degassed (45 mins, drill stir), kmeta added.  

Rack 3 gallons to bulk age (carboy topped is around 3.5).  

Rack 1 gallon to a jug with 6g med french cubes and 6g french light(untoasted) cubes.

Commence long term bulk aging. 

Tasting Notes (at 3 week racking):

-Aroma: sour cherry, plum, leather

-Taste: plum, med oak, black cherry

Full body, med to med+ tannins.  Quite promising.


Bulk Aging Timeline

6 Months – Add 1/8 tsp potassium metabisulfite to 3 gallon carboy.

12 Months – Add 1/8 tsp potassium metabisulfite & bottled.  Nothing added.


Final Gravity Reading

0.993 SG


15 Month Tasting Notes
March 1 2017


Coming Soon!

Tasting Notes:

-Aroma: ___

-Taste: ___



Audience Score

Winexpert Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel 2015

I’ll be reviewing and comparing three different Lalvin yeasts using this kit.  The goal is to compare the taste and aromatic differences between Lalvin BM 4×4 vs RC-212 vs EC-1118.  Fermentation Temperature: 70F


Inside the box ($140 CDN):
  • bag of grape juice (16 litres)
  • crushed grape pack (2 litres)
  • oak cubes (french medium – 60 grams)
  • bentonite (15 grams)
  • potassium metabisulfite (4 grams)
  • potassium sorbate (5.5 grams – not used)
  • chitosan (150mL x2)
  • yeast (Lalvin EC-1118)


Pitch Date: October 24, 2015

Lalvin BM 4×4

Lalvin RC-212

Lalvin EC-1118

  • 4.5 gallons
  • OG: 1.084 – likely higher from grape pack
  • .75 gallons
  • .75 gallons
Day 2
  • Added 1/2 tsp wyeast beer nutrient.  Full Dose
  • Light Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) detected
  • Added 1/8 tsp wyeast beer nutrient
  • Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) detected
  • Added 1/8 tsp wyeast beer nutrient
  • Light Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) detected
Day 3
  • Added 1 tsp wyeast beer nutrient.  Double Dose
  • Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) detected
 –  –
Day 4
  • Added 1/4 tsp wyeast beer nutrient. (Half Dose)
  • Reduced Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) detected
  •  Most CO2 by far, wine is very fizzy compared to the other 2 yeasts.
Day 8
Move to Secondary & Taste Test


  • blueberry
  • blackberry
  • plum jam


  • dark plum
  • ripe dark berries
  • light sulfur (should off gas)
  • light heat


  • #1 pick



  • dark cherry
  • blueberry


  • non-descript dark red berry
  • light sulfur (should off gas)


  • #2 pick
  • thinner body than BM 4×4
  • would use in a pinot noir or lighter red wine


  • dark cherry
  • mild blackberry


  • mild strawberry
  • red berries




  • #3 pick
  • least aromatic
  • lightest body
Day 14
Degas / Sulphite / Fine
Day 21
  • Bottle an unoaked sample 
  • Rack to 3 gallon carboy
  • add 35g oak cubes
  • add 1/8 tsp k-meta
  •  Bottle an unoaked sample
  •  Bottle an unoaked sample


oak the leftover gallon with 10g medium french oak cubes


This was racked off the oak after 3 weeks into a fresh 3g carboy for the rest of the bulk age.  (Should have left them in)


combine leftover rc-212 with the ec-1118.  
(should be about a gallon) 


French Oak Cubes (rate 10g/gallon):

2 grams light
3 grams medium
5 grams heavy

Tasting Notes for the un-oaked bottles 1 month after bottling
This yeast certainly takes over and imposes it’s own flabour profile.  Currently overwhelming and I wouldn’t use it again.

Preferred the rc-212 & ec-1118 blend

Bulk Aging Timeline

4 Months – Feb 24, 2016 – Add 1/8 tsp kmeta to 3 gallon carboy.

7 Months – May 24, 2016 – Add 1/8 tsp kmeta to 3 gallon carboy.

8 Months – June 24, 2016 – Bottled and added 1/8 tsp kmeta. (needed the carboy, should have really bottled at last addition)

12 Months – Oct 24, 2016 – Drink.

Tasting Notes from the BM4x4:

-Aroma: berry, oak

-Taste: berry, cherry, concentrate juice

Personal Rating: 2/5

Audience Score

Winexpert World Vineyard Washington Riesling 2015

Since my first kit of RJ Spagnols Aglianico 2015 tastes very good at 2 months (should be excellent with age), I figure it’s time to start on a white wine.  I’ve chosen an off-dry Riesling with juice coming from Washington, USA.  Of course I’ll be tweaking the kit.  It’s what I do (or can’t not do)


Inside the box ($75 CDN):
  • bag of grape juice (10 litres)
  • f-pack (juice concentrate to sweeten – 1 litre)
  • bentonite (10 grams)
  • potassium metabisulfite (4 grams)
  • potassium sorbate (5.5 grams)
  • isinglass (45 mL / 1.5 oz)
  • yeast (Lalvin EC-1118)
  • instructions


This will be a split batch to try two different yeasts.  One fermenter will receive Lalvin ICV D-47 and the other Lalvin QA23.  Each will receive a 1/2 tsp dose of Wyeast yeast nutrient blend on day 1 and a 1/2 tsp dose on day 3.  I will try and ferment these around 65F.  Since there is an F-Pack (this wine is off-dry) I cannot skip the potassium sorbate addition as I do with wine that is fermented dry.


Pitch Date: August 15, 2015

Lalvin ICV D-47

Lalvin QA23

  • OG: 1.097
  • Activity at 15 hours (zero foam / krausen)
  • Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) detected on day 4.  Added 1/2 tsp nutrient and swirled carboy well.  Gone in 1.5 days after that.
  • Some foam on day 6


  • OG: 1.097
  • Activity at 8 hours (zero foam / krausen)
  • Added 1/4 tsp nutrient as routine.
Day 11
  • Gravity: 1.08 (medium sweet – wouldn’t be upset if it hovered around here)
  • Colour: medium gold hay.  cloudy like milk.
  • Aroma: honey, honeydew, light mineral
  • Taste: very much like aroma with some pear.  slight syrup but not bad at all
  • Gravity: 0.992 (extra dry – will sorbate and f-pack)
  • Colour: pale straw, slight greenish tinge.  half as cloudy as D-47.
  • Aroma: light grapefruit, light mineral
  • Taste: tart, lemon, orange zest, thinner than D-47


Week 2
  • Gravity: 1.03 (off dry – preferred over 1.08)
  • Will measure again when stabilizing since it’s already extra dry.
Week 3
  • Final Gravity: 1.00 (off dry)
  • Degassed
  • Topped up with purchased off dry riesling
  • Added 2 grams of K-Meta
  • Already preferred over the purchased top off wine
  • Added 1/2 isinglass package
  • Final Gravity: 0.992 (extra dry, before f-pack – after approx 1.005)
  • Degassed
  • Topped up with medium sweet riesling
  • Added 2 grams of K-Meta
  • Added 2.75 grams K-Sorbate
  • Added 1/2 of the f-pack
  • Added 1/2 isinglass package
Bottled on Week 7
(includes a 9 day cold stabilization – some crystals dropped out)
 Tasting Notes
( 3 months old – 1 month of that spent bottled)
  • –coming soon–

The aroma on this version is much better than the flavours.  While it has a medium body the finish was a touch warm even though ferm temps stayed below 70.  Try for 65F or less next time.  I perfer the wine D47 made. 

Aroma: pineapple, lemon, white peach

Taste: mild peach, mild orange

Food: pork cutlets, shrimp

Sweetness: dry to off-dry

What I’d pay per bottle: $8


Audience Score

RJ Spagnols Aglianico 2015

We’re all about good wine for a great price here, so what better way is there to get the price of wine down than to make your own?  I visited my local brew-your-own wine shop and chose one of their premium boxed kits.


Inside the box ($140 CDN):
  • bag of grape juice (16 litres)
  • assorted additives & stabilizers
  • oak chips (3.5 oz medium toast french)
  • dried grape skins (125g)
  • yeast (Lalvin EC-1118)
  • instructions


What makes this kit a premium kit besides the price?  The fact that you get more grape juice and therefore need to add less water to reach your target volume.  There are other factors such as varietal, grape skins, oak chips etc… but I believe the type of concentrate plays a big factor.  You’ll need some equiptment listed in the instructions but it’s fairly inexpensive and lasts decades if treated properly.  If you’re not looking to put in the elbow grease, the brew-it-yourself shops can do it for you (for a small fee) and then you come back in about 2 months to bottle it up and take it home.


As a 3rd year beer homebrewer (all-grain) I figure that the manufacturer of this kit wants to make it easy for the masses to produce palatable wine, but since I can never leave well enough alone, I’ve made the following (warranty breaking) tweaks to my kit:


Alteration #1: Replace the provided yeast with one that’s designed only for red wines (Lalvin RC-212 Bourgovin) and instead of sprinkling the yeast on the must (grape juice) I re-hydrated it in 95F water for 15 minutes.  This allows the yeast to wake up in a mild environment and not be shocked by diving into sugary juice while dry and thereby killing off a percentage of cells.  Substituting yeast is a huge change and can really make or break your wine.  Yeast plays a huge factor in fermentation and thus your end result.  Extra 3/4 tsp nutrient added on day 3.


Alteration #2: You’re supposed to add water so your kit reaches 6 US gallons (23L).  I added less, so the kit is now 5.5 US gallons (20.8L).  This will make a stronger and fuller overall wine.  My specific gravity (SG) reading: 1.097


Alteration #3: When I pitched the yeast, I also added 3/4 tsp of Wyeast Nutrient Blend.  This yeast is a bit weaker than the monster that is EC-1118 so this should help it out.  The airlock was ripping in under 20 hours so I’m pleased with the minimal lag time.


Alteration #4: The kit says to ferment the wine in primary for 2 weeks.  I’m probably going to sample it at 3 and likely leave it for 4.  I like oak and tannins.  These will both fade with age so a little more is better at this stage.


Alteration #5: There’s a good chance I’ll bulk condition this wine in secondary for more than the recommended 1 month.  Target 4 months. 


Pro-Tip: Manage your fermentation temperature based on the advice of the yeast strain’s manufacturer.  The yeast I used has a range of 68F-86F.  Ambient temperature: 67F.  Wine temperature: 74F on day 2 (high krausen for homebrewers).  Fermentation being an exothermic process raised the temperature +7F.  The temperature will calm down around day 4 so you may need to keep the carboy in a warmer area of the house.



This is what you’ll end up with 1 day after assembly: 



 Watch on YouTube 


Pitch Date: June 7, 2015

3 Days Old:

  • Add 3/4 tsp yeast nutrient (added to boiled water first).


1 Month Old: 

  • OG 1.097 -> 0.998 SG.  
  • Tastes very rich.  
  • Glad I used the RC-212, diluted less and left it on the oak and skins an extra two weeks.  
  • Rack wine to brew kettle.
  • Add potassium sulphite (skip potassium sorbate)
  • Degas it with a whip (this took almost 40 minutes with a drill mounted whip.  Had to use a fast drill to get the co2 to foam out)
  • Mix in clearing agents
  • Rack to smaller 5 US Gal (19L) carboy [remember this kit is supposed to make 6 US Gal, but I made 5.5 and you lose wine to yeast, skins and oak]. 
  • Top off to neck of carboy with similar wine (I used a whole 750mL bottle)


2 Months Old: 

  • SG 0.998 -> 0.996 FG.  13.2% ABV
  • Colour: Deep rich purple.  No legs
  • Aroma: Cherry (youngish), bluberry, mild oak/vanilla
  • Taste: Extra dry.  Aroma better than taste.  Full bodied.  Very mild heat.  Good lingering grippy tannins.  Mildly tangy finish.
  • Very good potential.  Interested in how it ages.  Wouldn’t guess it was homemade.
  • An extra oz of 50/50 medium/heavy oak cubes in secondary wouldn’t be a bad thing.
  • No detectable co2 in suspension (degassing successful)


2.5 Months Old: 

  • Begin cold stabilization for 2 weeks in fridge


3 Months Old: 

  • Add 1/4 tsp dissolved potassium meta 
  • Rack to bottling bucket
  • Test for residual co2 and degas if needed
  • Bottle


6 Months Old: 

  • First taste test


Thoughts & Notes for next time:

  • Primary for 2 weeks (instead for 4 to help avoid any excess grape skin breakdown)
  • Chips in primary are important for reds.
  • Oak for 2-3 months in topped secondary if needed.  Suspend a weighted mesh bag of cubes.
  • Skip fining agents for reds and just cold stabilize for 2 weeks.
  • Chips release their oak essense in 4-5 days fully by 7.  Add 1oz per week, stir and taste.
  • Cubes are better for bulk aging.  Remember this is the second oak addition start slow (1-2oz per 6gal)
  • I would make this to a full 6Gal (23L) next time or 5.75gal depending on must.
  • Nutrients on Day 2 (1 tsp – full dose) and day 4 (3/4 tsp)


Audience Score

American Yeast Comparison: WLP001 vs US-05 vs WLP090 vs Conan

Experiment Date: October 2015

White Labs: WLP090 San Diego Super

Will use in future batches where a more malt forward profile is required.  Rye Pale Ales, RIS, Stouts, Some mellow ales.  Middle of the road, less hop presence than WLP001, maltier, had the most head.


White Labs: WLP001 California Ale

Will use in future batches where hops are featured.  IPA, Pales, Blonde.  Needs whirlfloc more that WLP090.  Very clean, no yeast or malt character.  Bright and slightly fruity.


Safale US-05

Will not use in future batches if liquid is available.  Not as clean as WLP001 with more malty and more body.  Was overall lacking and much darker than others.


The Yeast Bay: Vermont Ale (Conan)

Will not use in future batches.  Overpowering and makes itself a big part of the recipe.  Peachy, malty, full mouthfeel, lingering finish.  The yeast works faster than the others.



Recipe Used for an American Blonde Ale (4 gallon batch):

100% Pale Malt (2 Row)
Centennial [11.60 %] – Boil 10.0 min for 20 IBU
2oz Centennial [11.60 %] – Hopstand for 45 min
2oz Simcoe [13.00 %] – Hopstand for 45 min

SG 1.043 (~4.4%) 
20 IBU


White Labs: WLP090 San Diego Super
The Yeast Bay: Vermont Ale (Conan)
White Labs: WLP001 California Ale
Safale US-05 


Video of Fermentation

Watch on YouTube

Audience Score

Beer Malt Taste Test

After a handful of odd recipes, I’ve decided to taste test a bunch of malted barley in order to get a sense of what each style contributes to a finished recipe.  Below are my results.  More to come!  Have an addition?  Please leave a comment!



1 oz of crushed grain in 250ml 150 degF water for 10 minutes.


Base Malts
Malt (Maltster) Grain Characteristics Rating out of 3
( OiO aka Gilbertson & Page )
grassy, hay
Pale Ale Malt
( Weyermann )
light malt, slight nut, touch of grass
Overall: light sweet malt
Golden Promise
( Thomas Fawcett )

Between 2-Row


Pale Ale Malt ( Weyermann )

Vienna (Weyermann)

straw, light toast




Light Malts
Malt (Maltster) Grain Characteristics Rating out of 3
Munich 10 malty, no grass, golden hay ♥♥
Aromatic medium done white toast ♥♥
Melanoidin barley soup, very plain, flat
Honey honey, butterscotch, bit fruity
Victory woody, nutty (hazel/walnut) ♥♥
Carabelge (Weyermann)
light leather, malty
CaraHell (Weyermann)
8.1 – 11.8L
malty v.light chocolate, tangy, c15-20 like



Crystal / Caramel Malts
Malt (Maltster) Grain Characteristics Rating out of 3
Caravienne 20 light-med caramel, slightly sweet ♥♥♥
Caramel 20 darker than Caravienne 20, med-dark caramel, nutty ♥♥♥
Crystal 40 solid medium caramel ♥♥♥
Crystal 60 toffee, sweet dark-med caramel, light tannins ♥♥♥
Caramel Munich 60 (Briess) sweet malty caramel, slight coffee ♥♥
Crystal 90 molasses ♥♥
Crystal 120 burnt raisins, dark toffee, light coffee ♥♥



Roasted Malts
Malt (Maltster) Grain Characteristics Rating out of 3
Special B weak coffee, slight toffee, raisin ♥♥
Brown mocha ♥♥
Pale Chocolate medium astringency, old coffee, burnt toffee ♥♥
Chocolate bitter dark chocolate, coffee
Roasted Barley tar, ultra roasted coffee, guinness like
Black Patent burnt plastic, ashy .5


Malt (Maltster) Grain Characteristics Rating out of 3
Rye (Weyermann) watered down whiskey ♥♥




Audience Score

How to keep fruit flies out of your airlock

A common issue I’ve seen in homebrew forums is regarding fruit flies getting into the airlock.  Most airlocks have caps with tiny holes to let gas escape but large enough to let fruit flies in (then they drown in the sanitizer)  


I’d prefer they not get in at all so here’s my air lock hack:  Simply twist a napkin around the top portion of the cap! 



Audience Score

Make Your Own Hard Cider

In a nutshell: making decent homemade hard cider is very possible!!!

Here’s the story:


When going to restaurants and pubs, I occasionally find myself ordering hard cider. BlackThorn and Strongbow are personal favourites as I find Perrys too mild for my tastes.

It doesn’t take a wine connoisseur’s palette to quickly realize that Hard Cider is 99.9999% apple juice (or fresh pressed sweet apple cider)

Me being the guy who can’t leave well enough alone, I decide to make some and share the experience with everyone here … good or bad result.

First begin by sanitizing everything that will come into contact with the juice. I used boiling water but you can also use a home brewing sanitizer.

Begin with 1 gallon of Preservative Free sweet apple cider or juice. The only additive allowed here is ascorbic acid (vitamin c). I used 70% cider and topped off with canned apple juice.




Using a hydrometer, take a Specific Gravity reading (SG) so you can tell the amount of sugar in your juice and thus the alcohol potential in your final product. My reading was 1.043 which should yield a final product of around 4.5%. Add sugar if you need to, I went without.


Re-hydrate 1/2 pkg of wine champagne yeast (Lalvin EC-1118) in 3 oz of lukewarm water for 10 minutes.


Pitch the yeast into your 1 Gallon primary fermentation vessel (glass carboy in my case). Plug with a bung/stopper and install the airlock which allows gasses out but not in. Put it in a cool corner of your basement and add time.

Day 0 – 3 Hours after adding yeast: 1 bubble through the airlock every 60 seconds
Day 1 – 1 bubble through the airlock every 5 seconds
Day 2 – 1 bubble through the airlock every 3 seconds
Day 3 – 1 bubble through the airlock every 3 seconds
Day 4 – 1 bubble through the airlock every 3 seconds
Day 5 – 1 bubble through the airlock every 5 seconds
Day 6 – 1 bubble through the airlock every 11 seconds
Day 7 – 1 bubble through the airlock every 22 seconds
Day 8 – 1 bubble through the airlock every 30 seconds
Day 9 – 1 bubble through the airlock every 40 seconds
Specific Gravity is now 1.001 ( Very Dry )

Add 1/2 tsp. of sugar per 500ml bottle and fill with your cider (at this point it’s called still cider and can be bottled as-is without the sugar which will induce bottle carbonation) and store at room temperature for 2.5 weeks. After that, put it in the fridge for a few days. Enjoy.

Final Notes:

–Next time I would use Ale Yeast for beer and hope it doesn’t turn out as dry.

–When pouring, I first add 2 tsp of white sugar to the pint glass to back sweeten.

–From juice to pint glass takes 5 weeks (conditioning time included)

Audience Score