My fascination with wine started in the early 70s when I was about 16 years old. The family elders in South Jersey made wine in small batches for personal enjoyment. I would go over on Sunday after church for a typical Italian dinner, served at noon, complete with gravy and macaroni.
In broken English, Ignazio would say, “Hey Louie, you want a glass of wine?”
I’d say, “Sure!” It fascinated me that someone could make their own wine.
I found Ignazio’s wine cellar mesmerizing - it was murky, dusty and dark, as you can imagine. Back then you did not add yeast to the wine, you relied on whatever wild yeast was around. You fermented the wine in an old oak barrel, which usually had a lot of wild yeast in it – but that method is considered taboo today. I never got to see how Ignazio worked his magic making wine, but the impression home crafted wine left on me never faded.
A few years passed and an uncle actually gave me a recipe, on a napkin, for traditional Italian red table wine, we called it Politically Incorrect Red wine. As luck would have it, Ignazio’s old press and crusher came into my possession. Then my buddy and I got to talking one day and it turned out that one of his relatives had taught him the basics, so we decided to take a stab at it. What could go wrong?! Well, for starters, we didn’t just want to make a small 5-gallon jug, the first time we tried it we went all in and made a full barrel, which is about 275 bottles. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. But we had fun!
We set up the equipment in the basement of my house in Jersey and passed grapes through the window into the crusher. We had no idea the mess it would make to create a barrel of wine. We didn’t anticipate the fruit fly invasion that we attracted either. After about 7-10 days the sugar was gone and it started to become wine, but it wasn’t ready – it’s not full-bodied that earlier on. Back then the rule of thumb was to taste it at Christmas and it’s ready by Easter. But our patience got the best of us and we tasted it every day. Talk about a bad idea! It was the worst barrel of wine we ever tasted. This is because each time we opened the barrel to taste it we let air into the barrel. And air is the enemy of wine – they don’t mix at all!
Our next barrels, we knew we couldn't mess with, and finally the dark liquid started to look and taste like wine. We learned a lot from those early experiences. Over the years, we talked to a lot of people in the industry. They were always willing to help and give advice. Over the years, our wine got better.
In 2013, we began making wine on a professional level. We don’t use the old equipment anymore. We’ve made a substantial investment in state-of-the-art stainless steel equipment in order to produce the highest quality wine.
We have been perfecting our craft over the past five years and we are excited about growing our winemaking venture. And about sharing our passion for wine – and the fruits of our labor - with family and friends – old and new!