For some reason, when I tell people that I make wine, they somehow think it's free; that it didn't cost me anything. This is similar to owning a pool. I've had conversations with people who don't own pools who think, "It's just water. Water is free". Ah, but the chemicals that keep the water clear aren't free. And the electricity to run the pump isn't free. And the inevitable parts that break every year that need to be replaced aren't free. And my hourly rate of having to skim the leaves, vacuum, add the chemicals, hook everything up, is not free.
In that same vein, homemade wine is not free to make. It requires an initial outlay of cash for the equipment. Then one has to purchase a kit or ingredients to make the wine. Then there are chemicals that need to be purchased to make sure the wine turns to alcohol, clears, and stabilizes. And just like a pool, there is always the need to replace broken equipment parts. Not to mention the cost of maintaining a certain degree of temperature in the room that the wine is being made. Time and labor over just cleaning and sanitizing bottles is enough to make most people not indulge in the hobby. Similar to how people come to visit and jump in the "free" pool, people like to partake in the "free" wine. Neither of which bothers me. I like to share. I'm just pointing out that it isn't free.
The reason I make wine is the same reason why I drink it. I find that every bottle of wine I have ever had is different. A new experience with every new bottle. No two bottles of wine are the same. Whether that's due to the pairings of the food that accompany the wine, or the outside elements like who you are sharing that bottle with, the taste is always different; the smell is different; the pairing it with different foods changes it's taste altogether. One can buy the same bottle, brand, year, etc. but, in my experience, every variable changes the experience so it's not the same. I love sharing a bottle of wine with someone and comparing notes on it.
With all the different options of wine there are, it always amazes me when people say they don't like wine. How do they know they don't like wine? I want to ask, "Have you tried every kind out there? Have you tried every year and every grape? [Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Petit Syrah, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Chablis, Chianti, OMG, the list goes on and on.] Or did you have Ruinite or Boone's Farm, throw up, and then decided you hate all wine????" I view all wine as being so different, that I can't even imagine ruling them ALL out. It's like saying, "I hate all fruit." Really? Have you tried every single one? I know that some wine can taste really awful. Did you know that an actual tasting note of wine can be things like dirt? Even tar is a taste in wine and there is nothing wrong with it. If one's first experience with wine is tasting those flavors then I can see why someone would be turned off. But my point is, not all wine tastes the same.
I am not a sommelier by any means. But my favorite wine is a wine from California. It's called Rosenblum Kathy Cuvee's 2005 Viognier (pronounced vee-on-yay). This wine tastes like apricots, pineapples, and lychee nuts all wrapped up in a full body and has a long finish, which means the taste lingers even after swallowing. It's happiness in liquid form. The first time I had it was at the Mall of America at the Napa Valley Grille Restaurant. Upon getting home, I ordered a case of it. I just recently found a place in New Jersey that had 9 bottles left, bought them all and had them shipped to my house. Seriously, this is the best wine for under $20 a bottle. And it must be 2005. I have a case of 2006 that I ordered by mistake but it isn't the same. Every year the grapes change due to climate and other conditions so 2006 is not as good as the 2005, but still quite enjoyable. Rosenblum has 2008 out now but I haven't tried it yet. There's something gluttonous about making 120 bottles of wine and going to the package store and buying a bottle. So I'll be waiting a while to try the 2008.
In making wine, it's the ultimate experience, because not only have I made it myself, but it's the intrigue of how it will turn out. Also, the joy of having others taste it. They find different things in it that my palate may not have picked up on. Every bottle is an adventure and is something to be shared. Plus, unlike all the other self-medicating options there are out there, I like the way a nice glass of wine makes me feel. Relaxed and at home. Brad Garrett's character Robert Barone on an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond , while sitting back and enjoying a glass of wine, he said "Ahhhh. Wine. It makes you comfortable with your own body." I love that.
OK, so here are some of the wines I made this time around:
To the right is a picture of the Blueberry wine I made. The verdict is still out on whether it's any good or not. I'm letting it age in the bottle for a while to see if it gets smoother. Right now it's a little rough around the edges. It might be perfect for summer.
I also made Port this time around. This is a picture of my regular Port and Chocolate Port. This is best for the winter months. It's
stronger than wine so the intent is to sip it like brandy. I asked Rachel to draw me a picture of what "warmth" meant to her. Being winter, she drew her cat, Swiffur, by the fireplace. That became my label for this warm and cozy treat. They are both full bodied, sweet and served as a dessert wine or after dinner drink. My port will warm the cockles of any one's heart. This won't be ready until next fall. Just in time for Christmas.
Also pictured are some port pipes. Not pot pipes. Port pipes. Port is served room temperature, not cold. In olden times, men would drink brandy and port from pipes such as the ones in the pictures so they could warm it up. The idea is to pour the port in the barrel and then warm the barrel up with one's hand. The heat from your hand warms the alcohol and lets is "breathe". It makes it a more soothing and enjoyable experience. Once warm, one sips through the mouthpiece. I have several port pipes as collector pieces. Mostly, they just sit in a cabinet on display. But I have been known to break them out at the end of a dinner party to let my friends enjoy the experience.
Next is my peach wine that I call Opici (pronounced o-peach-ee and pictured on the right in the picture). This one is my own recipe and I have never shared the recipe with anyone. One of those things I'll take to the grave. Usually when someone hears the word peach, they conjure up "sweet". Typically peach wines are sweet. But not mine. I have mastered the art of making a peach wine that is dry. Hard to imagine, I know. But ask anyone that has tried my Opici and they will tell you, it's good. Every time I make wine I make Opici because I have it down to a science now and know how it will turn out. It's an old standby, should all the other wine turn to undrinkable vats of yack. (And it has happened. Add all that waste to the cost!) But Opici I can make with my eyes blindfolded and is drinkable every time.
The other bottle in this picture (on the left in the picture) is my attempt to recreate Rosenblum's Kathy's Cuvee Viognier. This wine was made from a kit that I bought. A kit is simply buying the grape concentrate already stomped and pressed and it comes with all the chemicals and ingredients needed to make the wine. I'm not hopeful that it will match my expectations, but will know more come the summer after it ages in the bottle for a few months. I'm warning you all now. If this kit turns out like Rosenblum's, I'm becoming a full blown wino. (As if you're not thinking that I am already.)
Unlike the above, where the grape juice is pre-packaged and comes in a kit, the picture to the right is of my OWN Cuvee. (Cuvee is the type of yeast I used to turn
the sugar to alcohol) This wine gave me some trouble but I'm hoping it was worth it. Upon first tastings, it's full bodied, almost like an ice wine (Ice wine is where they take grapes and upon the first frost, they squeeze the layer of juice that is between the skin of the grape and meaty part of the grape, where there is a thin layer of juice. Usually this only produces 1-2 droplets of juice. Therefore, ice wine can be very expensive. It is typically very sweet and is a dessert wine.) Anyway, back to my Cuvee, it tastes right now like lychee nut and pineapple. Quite yummy but will know more in a few months after it ages a bit more.
Would you like to know what 120 bottles of homemade wine looks like and where does one store it? You store it in the wine cellar, of course. Ok, so it's not quite a wine cellar, like one would have in Tuscany. But it is a cellar and it does have a sign on the basement door that reads "Wine Cellar". Close enough. The temperature in my basement is perfect for wine. It never gets hot down there and it never gets too cold. My house was built on a ledge (hence Ledge-yard!) so the rock keeps it nice and cool. Wine needs to lay flat to keep the cork moist so I had to buy a rack. This is what it looks like in my basement.
My Kaneclusion: In moderation, they are finding that wine has health benefits. So I'm taking that seriously and I'm stocking up. For those of you that don't drink wine, you don't know what you're missing.
I think Benjamin Franklin said it best:
Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.
I believe that. And I'm following in Jesus' footsteps by turning water into wine. If you're not religious, then here's a little known fact that may (or may not) interest you. Johnny Depp has a tattoo* that reads "Wino Forever". Many have looked like Johnny Depp to me after drinking wine. Now tell me you don't like wine!
(*This same tattoo once read 'Winona Forever'!)
OK, for a little bit of Irish for St. Paddy's Day AND wine, here's a song for you. And I hope none of you end up like this this week!!!!