Archive for the Uncategorized Category

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”


Summer Meetings in Pasadena

Cellarmasters will be leaving the comforts of the Home Beer Wine and Cheesemaking Shop for the summer months to the Old Oak Winery space in Pasadena. Dave Lustig and Paul Overholt have extended the invitation to have the club meet at their place and we’ll take them up on it. But we will be back at the Shop on September 5th ready for harvest themed meetings and events onsite.

July and August meetings will be on the first Saturdays and will include a potluck lunch instead of potluck dinner but will otherwise look like a normal meeting with topics, guests and the food prize. So plan on coming out to the wilds of Pasadena on July 6 and August 3.

We have already confirmed our Yeast Etc. seminar on Saturday June 29th conducted by Scottlabs. This is an expanded version of the one hour evening presentations of years past that will incorporate yeast, ML, enzymes and whatever else Michael Jones feels like expounding about. It’s always fun, informative and will allow for advance planning for the upcoming harvest.

While July may feature our pre-bottling clinic (pending), August 3rd will showcase Tercero Wines and its owner Larry Schaffer. Tercero specializes in Rhone varietals and the tasting room is in Los Olivos. The website is



Postscript on the Post-Crush Clinic

Talk about being a victim of your own success! There were almost 20 members and probably more than 70 samples to be tested at the Shop last Thursday night. It seems to your incoming President that we should plan on a Saturday next year for another clinic with a more relaxed feel with pizzas brought in for lunch. Our testers didn’t get up from their stations for 3+ hours that I observed.

Our deepest thanks to Jennifer and Rich Swank and Gregg Smith for bringing their lab equipment setups to perform the pH, TA, SO2 and ML test strip results for the shocking low low price of $5 for one sample and $2 for each additional sample. Andy Coradeschi came in with dualing pH meters and his palate to backup the woefully outnumbered testers. Thanks to all of you especially Gregg since I think it was your idea in the first place!

So – if they are up to it again – shall we have a Saturday clinic next year closer to bottling time for any last minute adjustments? Another post-crush clinic on a December Saturday or  a different time altogether? Does anyone else have the equipment and/or lab experience to help us out next time? Clearly, there is a demand and a need for this kind of information about our young wines. I know I feel better about the status of my 2012 class and hope everyone has the same comfort of knowing where they are as we head into winter.

Thanks again to everyone who came out and we’ll see you all at the January 3rd meeting when the Gold Medal winners from our recent competition will pour and tell as they receive their medals. Bring your casseroles for the potluck contest and let’s kickoff 2013 off right.

Post Crush Clinic!

Check out the info here: Cellarmasters Post Crush Clinic 2012

2012 Competition Results!

Here are the Results from the competition! Thank you all for your interest and entries in this year’s competition. We ended up with 321 entries from 25 states! The medals and judging sheets will be mailed in the beginning of January!

Hope to see all your entries again in next years competition!


2012 Competition Results

Get your data sheets for the Yeast Etc. seminar here!

The handouts from last year’s Cellarmasters meeting with guest speaker Michael Jones from ScottLabs are available in advance of the June 29th Yeast Etc seminar. Print them out and bring your questions as we get a jump on the 2013 winemaking season.

ScottLab – Alcoholic Fermentation

ScottLab – Timing of Malolactic Fermentation

ScottLab – YAN and Yeast Nutrient levels


Dues Can Now Be Paid Online

We’ve got the appropriate shopping cart plug-in installed and it’s been tested. So if you want to get the jump on paying your 2013 Club Dues, you can go to our new membership page and pay there with Paypal or your credit card. You do not have to be a Paypal member to pay online.

Please note – because of the way the cart works, you may get some messages pertaining to the upcoming 2012 Amateur Winemaking Competition. Just answer those questions pertaining to membership and you’ll be fine.

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