Anaheim, as you may know, started as a wine community. In 1857, a German company of about 50 members bought 1186 acres of unoccupied land for the purpose of making vineyards as well as homes for themselves. The first permanent house, called the “Mother Colony House,” pictured here, was built in 1857 and still stands on West Street, just north of Lincoln Avenue, in what will soon be “Founders Park.”
A few days ago, Jane Newell, Heritage Services Manager of the Anaheim Public Library called. She explained that behind the Mother Colony House is a grape vine arbor, supporting six “Mission Grape” vines – Vitis vinifera, the same type of grape grown by the original German settlers of Anaheim. The original vines are long gone, but these six are going strong. Don Dobmeier, of the Orange County Historical Commission, has been carefully tending the vines since planting them 1991. Jane told us that Don figured the grapes were ripe and “wouldn’t it be nice if someone could make traditional “Anaheim Wine” out of them.” Being students of fermentation, we volunteered.
So at noon on Monday, we met Jane and Don behind the house, and started the harvest. Barbara performed a quick “field check” of the sugar content of the grapes. The clusters of grapes were heavy, and beautifully red. In a few short, hot, dusty hours, we carried away several five-gallon buckets of sweet, ripe Mission grapes.
Back at home came “the crush.” With expert help from Darin and Ryan, we spent the next few hours breaking open the grapes and separating stems, until we filled our primary fermenter (a six-gallon pail). Barbara once again checked the sugar content, as well as the acid levels (acid is really important; low-acid wines don’t last long, are flat and unbalanced, and short on thirst-quenching power) and the pH. After some minor adjustments, the “must,” as it’s now called, was ready. After about 24 hours, we’ll add the all-important yeast, and let the fermentation begin!
We’ll be posting updates on our experiment in wine making as fermentation progresses. Many thanks to Jane and Don!