By Sandi Harrington
Four years ago, Melissa Padgett of Astoria started making her own wine as she couldn’t tolerate the oak used in store-bought wine. “And I tend to like my wine a little bit sweeter than what you can buy,” she added.
Melissa makes wine out of apples, pears, grapes, watermelon, and teas such as orange spice and licorice. She even plans on making a dandelion wine. “You can make wine out of anything,” Melissa said, “but the basic recipe is the same.”
While with Melissa, I learned there are five stages in winemaking: Harvesting, Crushing, Fermentation, Clarification, and Bottling and Aging. Melissa’s most recent batch, in the fermentation stage, is called Tropical Dragon’s Blood, a wine containing melon, strawberry, peach, mango, and pineapple.
Melissa puts in a crushed Campden tablet to kill any wild yeast and bacteria. Before she adds packaged yeast 24 hours later, Melissa measures the specific gravity of the sugar syrup using a refractor. Her original measurement was 1.110 and the brix was 28, which determines the alcohol content. “These (numbers) will come down as the yeast eats the sugar,” Melissa said.
Then twenty-four hours after she puts her yeast in, Melissa will take another measurement and a final reading after fermentation is completed to determine the actual alcohol content.
Once the yeast has done its job, Melissa pours the wine into jugs called carboys, then does a “back sweetening” where she adds more sugar syrup until she gets the sweetness level she desires. For Melissa, this is seven cups of sugar syrup per gallon. She uses five cups for dry wines.
According to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Melissa and her husband can legally make 200 gallons of wine per year because they have two or more people in their household over age 21. A single person 21 and over is allowed to make 100 gallons per year.
Although you cannot sell the wine, Melissa confirms that it’s more of a fun hobby. Melissa states, “But it’s a hobby that scares a lot of people because people think…I can’t do that. But it’s actually pretty easy.”
Melissa has several jugs of wine which she plans to have ready for the holidays: Chocolate banana, chocolate mint, orange spice, pumpkin spice, and even a peppermint wine.
I sampled some of Melissa’s finished wine and can honestly say they were wonderful. Thanks, Melissa, for introducing me to this fascinating art.