Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Cellarmasters in the News

A bunch has been written about our latest Wine Competition. Catch up on the news here:

“Battle Of The Home Winemakers” in the Somm Journal. READ IT HERE

Eve’s Wine 101. READ IT HERE

The Simi Valley Acorn. READ IT HERE

Avoiding Stuck and Sluggish Fermentations

Michael Jones from Scott Labs notes about Fermentations Issues.

Fermentation Problem Prevention

Yeast Nutrients

A great recap of a UC Davis seminar on Yeast Nutrients.

Grape Lecture

Watch this interesting Silverlight embedded video (Microsoft Silverlight will automatically be downloaded to view if you dont have it.) where a French oenology professor from Stellenbosch University discusses how to get your grapes to mature earlier, avoiding the cool weather and end-of-season shutdown.


pH Meters

FOR WINE GEEKS ONLY – pH Meters   (Word doc)

MLF scorecard from ScottLabs

Thank you to Sigrid who has sent the MLF scorecard slide from her excellent presentation at the Yeast Etc. seminar. We’ll have other downloadables as they are submitted to us.

Thanks to everyone who attended and especially to Michael Jones and Sigrid Gertsen-Briand for making the drive down from Monterey. Salud!


Origin Myths of Cellarmasters

Every great organization and religion has its unique creation story. Cellarmasters has one as well.

Our newsletters have covered since the first meeting in January 1974 before the club had its name chosen. By the second meeting, Cellarmasters was the name and we have been up and running ever since.

Through luck and good management, the newsletters have survived and are being digitized and will be posted up on the website for educational and entertainment purposes. The world of home winemaking has changed tremendously over the 40 years of Cellarmasters. Look at the early newsletters at grapes available and their prices. Do you know about the IRS forms? What activities did these people plan and enjoy at the original shop and elsewhere?

Read and enjoy the history of your Cellarmasters Home Winemaking Club under the Newsletter Archives tab. As the original tag line used to go, “In Vino Veritas”


Andy’s Corner: Barrel Topping

Should I top my barrels regularly?

The short answer is: No. Only top when you open the barrel, for instance when you sample or rack.

But, but, but won’t the wine be ruined by the air in the headspace if I don’t top regularly?

No, there is no oxygen in the headspace that forms in a sealed barrel.

“The ullage that develops over the wine as liquid escapes through the wood is not a source of spoilage. It contains no oxygen. 

“Thus, filling the ullage space (topping) is necessary only when air enters the barrel during wine sampling or racking.

Only with very long aging, as in brandy, is it likely that the ullage will become sufficiently large that the wood above the space will dry. During drying, shrinkage of the wood will permit the ingress of oxygen. Even here, this is most likely to be between, rather than through, the staves.”

Ron S. Jackson
Wine science: principles, practice, perception

This concept, that the head space above the wine in the barrel, is not “air” and does not contain oxygen and does not spoil the wine,  an be a tough one to wrap your head around.

Here’s how it works…

Liquid wicks its way out of the barrels through the staves by the force of capillary action, the same way water wicks its way up to the leaves on top of the tallest trees.

In a barrel sealed by a bung this wicking action creates a forceful vacuum, which, at first, compresses the barrel itself. After the barrel is compressed to its maximum extent, air is then drawn into the barrel and into the wine by the force of the vacuum. Once this vacuum is formed, air is drawn into the barrel at a constant rate, regardless of the level of the wine inside the barrel.

The air that is drawn into the barrel percolates through the wine in a process called “micro-oxygenation.” (Micro-ox does all sorts of beneficial things to yourbwine, which is a whole ‘nother topic in itself.)

During this micro-ox process all the oxygen in this incoming air is bound-up bythe wine and/or the SO2 in the wine, which leaves only the non-bound, non-oxygen, gases remaining to form the headspace in the barrel.

Therefore, the headspace in a sealed barrel contains no oxygen and does not cause wine spoilage. In fact, when you top, you introduce air/oxygen into the headspace.

So when you do open a barrel for sampling/racking, make sure you top up the barrel to the very tip-top of the bunghole such that wine spills out when you insert the bung. That way you know there is no air/oxygen remaining from when you opened the barrel.


Our 2011 Holiday Cellar-bration was another terrific event. Thanks to Jill Crudup and the Cellar-bration committee for all their hard work!


'Gallery' Post | By on January 23, 2012

Ask Dave – Making Mead

Hi Dave,
I am in the process of making my first mead. I used
honey and water to make a 23 Brix batch (adding
only about a teaspone of Super Super Food). So
far, after 2 1/2 days, the yeast has reduced the Brix
by only 3; it’s down to about 20 Brix now. That’s a
lot slower than I’m used to with plain sugar. Is this
pace of fermentation normal for mead? I’m using
Cote de Blancs for my yeast.
– John Weisickle

Hi John!
Meads are known for slow and steady fermentation, so
just kick back and wait. Some stronger meads can take
*months* to go dry, even with a more aggressive yeast
than C