When October comes around with its welcomed chill and variegated pallet, I delve into my most cherished family tradition – making wine. If you are of Italian extraction as I am you don’t have to delve too deeply into the past to find a forebear who made wine. For me it was my grandfather.
This is my 37th year of wine making and each and every year has brought a unique satisfaction. My friend and I whom I started making wine with all those years ago now make it separately but still exchange notes and bottles throughout the year. And yes, lament the fact of the ever increasing price of California grapes. When we started, the price for a 42-lb case was $12; today for a 36-lb. case the price is $40. Together, there were times we made 100 gallons; now, we each make separately about 25.
Throughout the years we have accumulated a wealth of experience and a more discerning palate. We have tinkered and tweaked our recipes to produce a most enjoyable wine every year. And it’s absolutely all pure, fermented grape juice, no additives. As a result it has a short life span: from December to May. It peaks in March but by that time more than half of the stash of bottles has been dispensed as welcomed Christmas or birthday gifts to friends and family.
When I see someone take that first sip of the new wine and exclaim how wonderful it is, it makes the painstaking job of making it all worthwhile. But it also reminds me of my grandfather in his wine cellar. Myself and my two older cousins would look on while pilfering small bunches of grapes to eat. We’d watch him turn the crank of his grape crusher until he was finished with the first step in the process. He’d clean his equipment and we’d help; then he would pour us kids a small glass from the vintage of the year before. It sure didn’t taste like the wine I make now. It had a much rougher edge to it. It wasn’t as smooth or had hints of cherry or blackberry notes like the Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve made in the past and am making this year. No his was a heartier fare to enjoy after a hard day’s work, contributing to the building of this great country.
I’m sorry I never had the opportunity to clink glasses of my wine with my grandfather, he would have been very proud that I had kept up the tradition as I am of him for handing it down to me. Salud, grandpa.