Pictured below is what might become the 2007 vintage from the WineMinisty Cellar. No kidding. While I have done my fair share of CONSUMING wine over the years, I have never actually MADE any wine. I’ve left the winemaking to the winemakers. And even now I am under no illusion that I am a “wine maker.” But I am a sucker. Let me explain…
My friend Charley has been making wine for many years. He buys the fresh juice from a local source (it’s actually juice from California), does some kind of voodoo chemistry in his basement, and several months later ends up with wine. Lots of it. And it’s actually drinkable. That was a surprise to me. And this part is all well and good. I even told Charley that I’d love to join him sometime in his winemaking adventures. Here is where the “sucker” part is about to come in…
It’s harvest time for the grapes, and the juice arrived this past week. And it has to be purchased and fermented right away, otherwise… well, vinegar comes to mind. Charley presented me with a printout from the webpage of the juice supplier showing me all of the available varietals. “What do you want to get?” I thought for a moment, and thinking the process is innocent enough, particularly since it will all happen in Charley’s basement, I gave it a thumbs-up and looked down the list. Cabernet Saugivnon. Pinot Noir. Syrah. Merlot. Zinfandel. On and on the list went. I’m hooked now. “I’m interested in the Cab and the Syrah. What do you think, Charley?” Here it comes…
Charley said, “I like the reds, but it doesn’t matter much to me. Whatever they have in stock when you get there will be fine.”
You know those screeching brake sounds you hear in the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons? That sound went through my brain. Turns out Charley is going to be out of town for two weeks. Right when the grape juice is here. But if I want to get the juice, he’s got the bottles. Oh, and here are the directions… No, I can’t just purchase the juice and wait for Master Winemaker Charley to return. The fermentation must begin. The stinky, yeasty, musty, messy (and did I mention stinky?) fermentation. He’ll be back by the time we have to get to the next step.
So here it is… The 2007 wines from the WineMinistry Cellar:
This is the 2007 Pinot Noir (left) and the 2007 Barbera-Alicante Blend. About 7 gallons of each. GALLONS.
This is the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s in a bigger bottle. There are 8 gallons of this bad boy. GALLONS.
They are bubbling away doing their primary fermentation. Yeast is aiding the process. And making things smell really, well… stinky.
Did I mention that Charley is out of town?
In total we’ve got about 22 GALLONS of grape juice that is now turning into wine. We’ll lose some as we go through the whole process, draining the clear wine off the must and sediment (that’s why there are extra jugs fermenting along side the big bottles — to be able to make full bottles after we remove the sediment). If things go as planned, we’ll end up with more than 100 bottles of wine! Or 100 bottles of vinegar. We’ll see!
I’ve never done this before, but it is a total kick in the pants. And watch out — if this stuff is even remotely drinkable, I am certain I will be hooked on this gig. I won’t even begin to reflect on the metaphors and theological overtones in winemaking — it’s fertile territory! Especially “fertile” right now… it stinks! But it’s actually that pleasant “stink” of the cellar room at Zaca Mesa during their winemaking process. But they’ve got a cool winery. All I have is a bathroom next to the wine cellar in my basement. And until I taste this stuff, I’ll not kid myself about being a “winemaker.” For now I’ll stick with “sucker.”