Truer words were never scratched into wood. And is there not a little old wine-maker hidden inside each of us who enjoys drinking the fermented grape? The Captain and I think of it sometimes, and we enjoy watching our friends up the hill in San Maurizio labor and worry over first their grapes, then their juice, then their fermentation, and finally their bottling. But having watched the intensity of the labor that goes into producing wine (and, co-incidentally, not having any grapes) we limit our ‘wine-making’ to either helping our cousins pick their grapes, or bottling wine we’ve bought in bulk.
We are wine spoiled living in Italy much of the year. It’s no secret that Italy is the source of some of the finest wines in the world. And if your taste runs to the more prosaic vintages, you can satisfy your thirst for a pittance. We are accustomed to paying +/- E2 a liter ($2.60) for our table plonk.
It’s always a rude awakening to price wine in the U.S., to the point that it kind of takes the fun out of shopping for it. What a pleasant surprise, then, to discover Wine Canyon, one of Gold Canyon’s newest stores. No, Wine Canyon is not a liquor or wine store, per se. Rather, it is a place where you can buy wine ‘juice’ and make your own wine. I know! We’d never heard of such a thing either.
According to proprietor Loren Kensrud, the idea started up in Canada, a country definitely not famous for its fine wines, but full, evidently, of frustrated vintners. It’s pretty simple, really, and looks like loads of fun.
You buy a box of grape juice, which has been tested for appropriate sugar and acid content before being packaged. Your box will produce 6 gallons (30 bottles) of wine, as a rule. The ‘wine juice’ comes from vineyards all over the world – Australia, France, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand, California and, of course, Italy.
Each of these boxes is a different wine – there’s no shortage of choices, no matter what your taste. Calling it ‘grape juice’ makes it sound like the wine will taste home-made in the worst sense of the phrase (I’m thinking of the dandelion ‘wine’ my father and I once made – undrinkable!). But these juices are the true varietals from their regions and make ‘real’ wines, such as Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, Barolo, Chianti, etc., etc.
You mix your juice with the provided agents (yeast, benonite, potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulphite) and let it stew in a bucket for a while. Then you put it into big glass bottle and let it ferment for four to eight weeks, depending on the wine. The kits contain only one-third to one-fifth the amount of sulfites that are present in commercial wine, which is good news for the headache-prone.
After that you make an appointment to come back and bottle your wine. The hardest part for most people, according to Mr. Kensrud, is that you must let your wine sit for anywhere from one to six months or more after you take home the bottles. That’s all there is to it.
Then there’s the fun of designing your own label which will surely impress your friends.
What does it cost? Probably somewhere in the $4 – $8 range per bottle, depending on the kind of wine you make. Mr. Kensrud gave us a taste of a couple of wines, including a delicious Brunello, a wine that is available at Liquor Land for $35 – $100 a bottle, and we thought it was excellent. Making your wine this way may not have quite the charm of a visit to a vineyard in Piemonte, but it’s certainly more interesting and a lot more fun than going to Liquor Land. Maybe next year? Stay tuned.