Have you ever gotten to a point in a hobby where you need to reassess? Every new year deserves a new project of sorts and I find myself surrounded by a slowly growing quantity of winemaking equipment. And while I honestly don’t mind that there’s a grape press next to my nightstand, I think I’ve crossed the Rubicon with this wine hobby of mine. For 2019, my project will be to re-purpose the garage to house wine stuff. Currently, the space serves as a comfortable domicile for a large and varied population of arachnids, a couple of bikes, and the odd mouse.
Ideally, the space would be clean enough to store the winemaking equipment not in use with an emphasis on functional, not fancy. It will also need to be the area where I stage primary fermentation in several large, food-grade garbage cans. The goal being to process ~500 lbs. of grapes this coming fall.
- Picking barrels ~15
- Primary fermentation containers ~4
- Floor corker
- Wine press (small)
- Empty bottles ~10 cases
- Empty carboys
- Hold primary fermentation barrels off of the floor for easy racking
- Press wine off of the floor
- Store bottles in a clean area
- Lighting – to work at night
Now for those who only know me online, let me tell you a little about the garage. It’s old. It’s main attribute is that it has three walls that you can glimpse the occasional sunbeam through, a garage door that anyone with sense will refuse to stand near while in operation, and a leaky roof. One good California earthquake will probably do her under. There are, ostensibly, a couple of outlets where I could run electricity and light, which would be essential.
Time for inspiration.
I love looking at wine cellar photos. Here are a few images from the interwebs and you’ll notice that they meet my requirement, namely functional. None of this up-scale, million dollar hoity-toity architectural nonsense.
Well, maybe a little hoity-toity…
This first picture is of a wine cave from the Schramsberg Vineyard in Napa. The candles make the space look la-dee-da, but when you stop to dissect it, you realize that there are rows of bottles and some simple light fixtures. Done. And Done.
Next, is a functional area with bottling tables from a Mr. Longworth’s wine cellars near Cincinnati. Notice the rows of bottles lined in the background. I’m a little hesitant about this particular storage model. (I also don’t have thousands of bottles…)
Below we have cubby holes and boxes. Simple, straightforward setup.
More boxes and naked lightbulbs. This I can do!
Another couple of issues to contend with are that: 1) I’m in a rental, so no major infrastructure investments, and 2) I am, by nature, rather frugal, so no major financial investments. Keeping these two caveats in mind, here’s the shopping list…
- Bug bombs. Sorry, spiders. I’m okay with onesies and twosies, but the thousandsies? Yeah, not so much.
- Digital thermometer. Before getting too far into this project, I need to know what the garage conditions are like. Enter a tool that records temperatures over time and sends me the data. As a Ph.D., I love data! Any hobby that allows me to play with histograms gets extra cool nerd points.
Right now, I’m being realistic in that I’m unsure that the space will be suitable to store wine during fermentation in the garage. Our climate averages a stable 55F plus/minus 15 degrees. This may not seem cold to those living where there’s actually a thing called ‘weather’ and ‘seasons’, but wine yeast needs to be around 70F for healthy fermentation. We just don’t see those temperatures over a sustained period. Now, there are insulated wine fermentation vessels, but that’s a little above where my hobby is at the moment. One can dream… I can keep the primaries happy with an electric heating pad if necessary.
Then there is the off-chance that I will be able to store wine and/or bulk age in my new space – but will need to double check. Why am I optimistic? Several of the local boutique tasting rooms are just large warehouses with barrels stacked in them. The proprietors open very large industrial garage doors/loading bay areas and pour their wine for visitors on the spot. Whenever I’ve visited, these buildings don’t seem to be climate controlled. So, maybe our climate is temperate enough to store the wine outside? Regardless, the thermometer will be able to track and record temperatures and humidity over time to let me know what my micro-climate is up to. Fun!
- Low table. I already have one old coffee table that is the perfect height for the primary fermentation garbage cans. This allows for gravity racking. A second table would be ideal. Garage sale time.
- Shelving. Some no-fuss shelving for empty carboys. Preferably wire racks so that the spiders and dust fall through. Maybe some shelving for wine bottles. Haven’t decided, yet. Currently, my wine production isn’t large enough to require an overflow space apart from my wine cupboard. Put another way: My wine consumption rate outpaces my wine production rate. Still dreaming…
- Bottle Boxes. I can get these for free at the local liquor store. I’d like a variety of sizes, though, because right now I just have a hodge-podge of boxes to store all sorts of different bottles in the same box. Round holes/square pegs leads to boxes that can’t be stacked and end up falling apart. The easy fix is to get the correct boxes for the different bottle styles.
- Lights. Will need to run an industrial extension cord across the roof beams. The light will need to have an on/off switch. I’m leaning towards a flood lamp with a clamp.
Here’s to fun projects for 2019!
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