Wine Making on the Road

In 2011 my wife and I sold our home and moved into a fifth wheel trailer as full time RVers. We now travel all over the country. However, I did not want to quit being an amateur wine maker. Home wine making is a fairly simple process but when you live in a fifth wheel trailer there are some unique problems.

DSCN3726The first is the lack of space. I have read several blogs that described dozens of 6-gallon carboys of wine in various stages of fermentation, or how it can be challenging to make wine in a small apartment. In our trailer there is no space to set aside for wine making so it is important to maintain a minimum of equipment and supplies.  I have one primary fermenter, one six-gallon glass carboy, two-one gallon glass jugs, and a small plastic container of chemicals, racking tube, corks, and reference books.

The second is a matter of temperature and timing. It is much DSCN3728easier in a home to have a location with a consistent temperature. I try to start my wines when the outside temperature is appropriate for the primary fermentation. Even in the south it is often quite cool at night when it is warm during the day. I often have to put my primary fermenter in front of our electric fireplace to warm the must after a cold night. If it is too warm outside we have to run the air conditioning to keep the must from getting too warm and killing the yeast. Because it normally takes more than a month to complete a batch of wine and we are often moving from to another location during the wine making process. I make sure I can complete the primary fermentation prior to a move, then rack the wine into the secondary (glass carboy or jug).  I store the Wine Making OTR-3secondary Wine Making OTR-4container on the floor of our truck, then drive to the next location. I then store the secondary in the trailer, out of the way. If we move again before the wine has cleared, I rack the wine before the move and repeat the process.

The third is having a stable platform for clearing the wine. No matter how well braced it is, our trailer always has some movement. To get the last few particles out of the wine, I always rack the wine through a filter before bottling.

DSCN3730I use a hand corker when bottling (no room for anything bigger). Our “wine cellar” is the floor of my closet, so I am limited to four cases of wine/empty bottles. On occasion I will make a kit of six gallons (30 bottles), but more often will do one gallon batches. When I am making from a kit and have to stir the must with my drill to drive off the gases, I move to the picnic table to avoid making a mess in our small kitchen.

We used to have a patch of raspberry bushes in our backyard and raspberry wine was always a staple. I would often get fresh fruit from local farms when it was in season. Now that we are on the road, I often buy packages of frozen berries to make wine in small batches. One of my favorite DSCN4517inexpensive wines is a concord grape wine made from Welch’s Grape Juice. E.C Kraus has the recipe on their website.

Because I am from Michigan and love lighthouses, I name all of my wines after lighthouses on the Michigan shore of the Great Lakes, such as Copper Harbor Concord or Rock Harbor Riesling. I found a lighthouse label that I can run through a printer with six labels to a page and use that on all of my wines.

Wine making “on the road” can be a challenge, but is still an enjoyable hobby.

About Michigan Traveler

Bob and his wife, Pat, are fulltime RVers. They sold their home in Michigan in June, 2011 and now travel the country, living on the road. Home is Where You Park It!
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