RJ Spagnol"s – Winery Series Old Vines Zinfandel

March 1, 2009

Last week, I went down to my cellar to store some bottles of mead when I discovered about 8 bottles of Red Zinfandel that I had started in October of 2005. It was a pleasant surprise as I had thought all of that batch had been consumed. I could hardly wait to open a bottle and try it. When I did, I discovered a very delightful wine that was typical of a good Zinfandel.

I decided I should start another Zinfandel for the purposes of aging for at least a few years before drinking. The other day, I was in a local wine making supply shop that had RJ Spagnol’s Classic Cellar Winery Series Old Vine Zinfandel wine kit. I noted that this kit won a Gold Medal at the 2007 WineMaker Magazine competition. At $115.00, it was a bit more expensive than the kits I normally purchase, but it also came with 5 1/2 pounds of crushed Zinfandel grape skins.

As well, the kit contains 18 litres of juice, so that the home winemaker only needs to add 5 litres of water to it. In other words, a premium kit. If done correctly, this wine should have good ageability.

As with all RJ Spagnol’s kits, good quality packaging, instructions and ingredients. In addition to the yeast, sulfite, potassium sorbate and fining agents, the kit included oak chips which I added to the juice prior to pitching the yeast.

Dealing with the grape skins was a bit sticky. They came in a plastic jug type of container with a screw top. The skins are transferred to a straining bag which is then tied off and left in the primary fermenter with the juice. The skins contain a concentration of sugar – before I added the skins, the Specific Gravity of the juice (after the 5 l of water was added and the juice stirred well) was 1.084. After adding the grape skins and again stirring well, then waiting about half an hour to allow it all to mix together with a follow up stirring, the Specific Gravity increased to 1.096.

This brings up a problem I have with some of the wine kit instructions that call for Bentonite to be added before any fermentation has taken place. This particular kit advises to add the Bentonite directly to 4 l of warm water in the primary fermenter before the juice is added. Then, the instructions call for taking a Specific Gravity reading of the juice. It seems to me that the presence of bentonite will increase the Specific Gravity. I’ve never experimented with this – it just seems too obvious.

I did not add the bentonite to my juice. Because I don’t mind bulk aging the wine for some time, I’m not in a hurry for it to clear like others might be if they want to bottle the wine in 42 days. I’ll likely bulk age this wine for at least six months before bottling it; perhaps longer depending on what I’m doing in six months from now. I may use the bentonite at some point if the wine shows it needs some extra help.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this kit turns out!

Tasting Notes

To be added.


  1. Lynda Spetifore on January 25, 2013 at 4:34 am

    Hello… my husband has been making your wine kits for years… however the last 2 batches have had to be thrown out…
    The first one ( a Chardonnay ) was made in late spring and literally blew the corks out of the bottle.
    After some research we thought that we had not been careful enough in our preparation of the sterilizing or perhaps my husband had inadvertently moved the demi while it was in the fermentation process… In any event we threw out 30 bottles of wine… bought a new kit and started all over… we were very careful in the whole process… the schedule was followed to a tee. the wine was clear and corked up beautifully … three months later we tried a glass and the same thing it is not fermented properly … it actually fizzes when poured in a glass… I would like someone to advise us what could possibly be wrong thank you Lynda Spetifore

    • Tom Young on June 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      It sounds like you did not properly degass the wine. If not properly degassesd you will not get rid of the CO2 this will cause your corks to blow & wine be fizzy.

    • john on June 25, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Linda, you bottled too soon. Fermentation was not complete and finished in bottle.

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