For years, wine brands like Kesser, Joseph Zakon Winery, Farbrengen and Seloh have been a regular item on the Shabbos tables of frum Jews worldwide.
What is less known is that their creator, Joseph Zakon of Crown Heights, was the youngest person to start a bonded winery on the West End of Long Island in 1981.
These past few months, Zakon has been teaching tricks of the wine trade to his son’s classmates at Oholei Torah boys school in Crown Heights, at the urging of the teacher Rabbi Levi Feldman.
Although he’s marrying off a son this week, Zakon took the time to purchase California Special brand wine grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese from a local market.
He showed them a technique called Carbonic Maceration (whole grape berry fermentation) and gave each student a plastic 96 ounce container filled with grapes (stems were removed).
By loosely tightening the cap on the container, they allowed the carbon dioxide to escape during the natural process of fermentation. Fermentation was taking place within the whole berries and some juice that escaped from the grapes on the bottom of the containers pressed or bruised.
The students then had the opportunity to visit the Herzog winery, the largest kosher winery in the world, where, on a much larger scale, they could see their work being processed.
After approximately 30 days, the students emptied the grapes and fermenting juices from their plastic bottles into 5-gallon pails.
Zakon then came to their classroom with a modified home juicer (which does not allow the juicer to grind the seeds and skin of the grapes and prevents bitter flavors from the skins and seeds into the wine).
He explained that this juicer can be used for smaller quantities and is less back breaking then the traditional basket press. However the draw back was that he allowed the grape skins not to be pressed completely dry.
Approximately 30-40 days after the wine settled in the classroom, Zakon showed the young bochurim the process of racking the wines off the lees and sediment.
The wine they were racking from the top of the container was clean, but had not reached the brilliance one expects from bottled wine.
Joseph explained that for that to happen most efficiently, one can use a fining agent that will blend with the wine. Then as the wine settles this fining agent causes the more stubborn sediments to cling to the fining agent and settle to the bottom of the container.
For this wine, he used a raw egg white of a half egg per 5-gallons.
The students were again fortunate to visit the bottling winery where they experienced up close the speed and efficiency used to bottle wine and grape juice, for the many Jewish communities.
After many months of patiently waiting, the day finally arrived, and the students bottled their wine with the help of a water filter, a single bottle filler connected with plastic tubing, a single bottle corker, an electric hot water kettle, bottles, corks, and heat shrink seals.
And most importantly, they used a self-adhesive label that the children designed using a home computer. They called it “Yain Malchus.”
Zakon makes sure to note that although this was a thrilling experience for the students, they did not get to sip the wine, instead bringing it home to their parents to taste.
Zakon can be reached at [email protected]
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