I returned to Napa after a week's hiatus from Winedom this weekend, happy to find harvest in full swing and the roads populated by those weekend warriors who make wine purely for the fun of it.
I’m talking about the hordes of home winemakers, those hearty souls who pick their grapes in tidy boxes and pile them in the backs of pickup trucks and occasionally a station wagon.
It’s anyone’s guess how much homemade wine is produced and consumed each year, though one suspects that U.S. wine consumption figures would be higher if one could estimate how many cases these weekend vintners produce and consume annually.
Some travel long distances for harvest. Some crush and ferment their grapes in their garages. Many have cute and catchy names, such as the Valley Girls, a group of Napa women who reside in the Browns Valley area. One year they produced Bad Hair-Day Cuvee, followed by a vintage dubbed Desperate Housewines.
While the vast majority of home winemakers have no aspirations other than producing a drinkable wine absent any weird microbial intrusions, some have grander visions.
Virtually every winemaker I know of in the United States (as opposed to Europe) started out as a home winemaker and later turned pro.
These days more and more weekend warriors are making this change. Some go from one homemade wine to a commercial cuvée in a year or two, and thanks to do-it-yourself crush facilities such as Bin to Bottle, Crushpad and Custom Crush, anyone can make wine and, with enough chutzpah, try to find a narrow crease in the market to sell their wines.
Those who make that giant leap are like someone going from sandlot football straight to the NFL.
Who knows? Maybe the next super-ultra-cult wine creation is fermenting away in a basement near you.
Ashley Potter — LA, — September 11, 2007 1:08am ET
Bob Brack — Canada — September 11, 2007 12:54pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — September 11, 2007 3:10pm ET
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