So you’ve got some tasting under your belt, you’ve toured Napa, Sonoma, and maybe even a Euro region or two. Even your home has taken on a wine country feel. I’m willing to bet at some point you have thought to yourself or talked with your friends and loved ones about how nice it would be to make your own wine, live the lifestyle, and enjoy la vita dolce (the sweet life).
Its only natural to have these feelings. In fact, it is inside the souls and genetics of many of us. Think about it, most if not all of our ancestors, regardless of nationality, made wine. They made it to enjoy, to share, and most of all to help celebrate their lives and the bounty of their harvests.
Now, in our commercialized societies we have little interaction with our agrarian roots. I think this is where the desire to make wine starts to come from. We drink the wine and can often taste the “place” it came from. We can taste the hard work that went into turning mother nature’s efforts into the finished product. Our own desires to accomplish something similar start to burn bright.
On a daily basis we stay ultra busy. We tweet, text, email, and more. We rarely get to stop and smell the roses. Many times we can reflect on a day and wonder what if anything was truly accomplished or created??? With wine and other agricultural products we are at the mercy of nature. We must wait for the grapes to grow, for the wine to age, and for the open bottle to “breathe”. We need this waiting. It reminds us to slow down, to savor, and to strive to create something.
Why not give wine making a try? You can get a feel for it in almost any location these days. Many wine schools have opened up to help quench the desires of aspiring wine markers.
Of course, a wine school will often only give you a small taste (no pun intended), but not the full experience. They usually source the grapes, crush the grapes, do the lab work, and more. Your job is to watch, participate a bit in various parts of the process, and design your label.
If you are like me then you will want more. Next stop would be a home wine making center. Walk in a bit before the season (early August) and talk with the people there. They can explain the process and the equipment you’ll need to get started. Don’t buy it all in the first vintage though! Start out small, but leave yourself room to grow. That means not investing in the crusher/destemmer, the press, and expensive barrels. Instead, focus on the basics like glass demijons or carboys (to age/store), a hand corker, and some inexpensive hoses to siphon with. You’ll also want a good funnel, a 6 gallon bucket, and various basic wine making chemicals and cleaners. Oh and start saving your empty wine bottles!
As each vintage passes you can add more equipment, start aging in barrels, and talking all your friends into coming over to help during crush and bottling. Home wine making becomes a lifestyle in itself and offers many reasons to get together with others to celebrate your own bounty.
If you still can’t get enough then I suggest hooking up with a small, family run winery and offer to lend a helping hand. In the beginning you will probably only be invited to the most labor intensive portions of the wine making process. Think long, hot days harvesting bunch after bunch of grapes, hosing down equipment, or climbing inside huge tanks to scoop out the grape skins after primary fermentation. It is hard work, yet deeply satisfying to my soul and probably to many others as well.
I’ve done all of the above and must say it is a great way to see if you really enjoy the wine making lifestyle or just want to slap your name on a bottle. There is nothing wrong with the later by the way. Whatever floats your boat, just have fun!