The holidays are now long past and with all the gifts put in their proper places and the wrapping paper trashed; it is time for reflection. My father, now deceased, used to always say, “Give me something homemade for Christmas.” Of course this rarely happened, but during the holiday season I still think about him making that statement.
For the last couple of years I have ventured into something that would have made my father proud; I make own wine. Working from kits, I have yet to make it by collecting the grapes and crushing them and then going through the fermentation process. With the kits, the grape juice, or must as it is called, is prepackaged with all the necessary yeast and additives to make a nice bottle of whatever kind of wine one may desire. It is still a process and the fermentation still takes place over a period of time, and is an excellent way to begin making wine and learning about the whole procedure.
Wine kits are readily available online or at several places within the Fredericksburg Richmond area. My first experience with making wine from a kit was a success, albeit not without much worry. Several kits later, I am now seasoned and find pleasure in every part of making the wine, not to mention the finished product. I have recently started a batch of Italian Borolo wine, and while it will not win any awards, I look forward to bottling it and upon aging, enjoying the fruit of my labors. When people come into our house it is quite a conversation piece to see the air lock perking on top of the container where the wine is in fermentation. Perking occurs when carbon dioxide is released through an air lock as a result of yeast interacting with the natural sugars in the must.
My next step in this grand scheme of wine production is to actually make some wine in which I crush the grapes myself. All the reading one can do is advantageous, but there is nothing like knowing people who have done it already. To this end I have joined a group in central Virginia called the Central Virginia Winemakers. Meeting monthly, there is a presentation about making wine accompanied by tasting the homemade wine that members have made as well as the food people bring (which is to die for). This along with the emails that come almost daily provide information concerning every part of the process of the making of wine from growing the grapes (several members have vineyards) to the process of making the wine itself. Within this group are also several people who have wine presses that often used for group pressings when someone finds where grapes can be bought at a discount to group members.
The only requirement for this association is a passion for wine and that the wine brought to meetings must be homemade. There is everyone from beginners to people who make many different kinds each year so the conversation is always educational as well as entertaining. As often happens, someone usually brings some homemade stout or ale to be enjoyed by all. At a recent meeting, the host brought out some stout that had been aging for two years and several of us enjoyed it with some good cigars on their back deck.
With this kind of support, one has a definite advantage in making their own wine, not to mention the camaraderie of individuals who share a similar passion. Hopefully, this fall I will venture out into making some wine by harvesting grapes and pressing them. As when I first started with a kit, I am sure it will be with much concern for the finished product. . My only regret is that my father will not be around to taste something I made myself.
To contact Central Virginia Winemakers send an email to CentralVirginiaWinemakers@yahoogroups.com.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Kenneth D. (Jerry) Richards who always liked gifts that were homemade.