If you're still looking for a big wine idea for 2013—something that will change the way you look at and appreciate wine—try making your own.
Harvest 2013 (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) is still eight months away, leaving you plenty of time to map your strategy, create a budget, assemble a winemaking team and source your grapes.
Of the many ways to study and understand wine, none can top the experience of making your own. While there's no guarantee your wine will be anything special (although some of mine were), choosing which grapes to use (I've tried Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay) and at what level of ripeness to pick them, examining your fermentation technique options, selecting a barrel, deciding how long to leave your wine in that barrel, and so on will give you a far greater understanding of what's involved in making good, or even great, wine.
A few of the lessons I learned when making my own wine: A carboy of Sauvignon Blanc was destroyed when a forklift backed into it (lesson: Storage location is key); a vintage of Merlot turned to vinegar (lesson: Pay close attention when topping off a barrel).
Sonoma's Crushpad used to make it easy for wine lovers to make their own wine, as my colleague James Molesworth did (unfortunately, that business model proved to be unsustainable). Crushpad's Bordeaux operation, however, is still going strong, though you won't get much hands-on experience with your wine if you're based here in the States. If you live near New York or Chicago, City Winery offers make-your-own wine programs.
But you can learn much more by managing the entire process yourself. For less than $5,000, you can buy a half-ton or so of grapes, a barrel, about 300 bottles and corks and some lab-testing equipment, which cover the basics—a half-ton of grapes will yield enough juice to fill a 60-gallon barrel, which will yield about 25 cases of wine; if you spend a total of 5 grand, that comes out to a little over $16 per bottle. But the price becomes incidental when compared to the satisfaction you'll get from your sweat equity, even if your wine is a bust.
Steve Order — Mass — February 8, 2013 3:14pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento, CA — February 9, 2013 9:42am ET
David Rossi — Napa, CA — February 10, 2013 8:16am ET
Karl Mark — Illinois — February 10, 2013 9:46pm ET
Ronald A Fazio Jr — Richmond va — February 11, 2013 4:31pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento, CA — February 12, 2013 9:15am ET
Erik Taylor — Littleton, CO USA — February 22, 2013 11:40am ET
Jamie Sherman — Sacramento — March 7, 2013 4:04pm ET
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