If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if I wanted to make my own wine, I could’ve made a competing bid for Robert Mondavi Winery.
The answer, of course, is always "yes." I’d love to make my own wine. But I never could get around to it—one, I’ve got a day job and, two, I live in New York City.
But I recently unearthed a way to make my own wine while successfully dealing with those issues. Using a custom crush facility in California that buys grapes for hundreds of private customers, I can get access to a supply of quality grapes, and then have them vinified and aged according to my specifications.
It’s a little bit of winemaking via telephone (so I guess I know how Michel Rolland feels now) but it’s the best I can do.
The custom crush facility also bottles and labels the wine for me, and lo and behold, my inner marketing machine already has a label design in mind. Go figure. [Note: Because of the potential for a conflict of interest, the wine will not be commercialized, and will only be for consumption by family and friends.]
So, off I go, on my first ever winemaking foray. It will be a Syrah, sourced from Santa Barbara fruit from this year’s harvest. I’m aiming to make a more restrained style of wine—fruit, yes—but not all fruit. I want some structure that will support moderate (3 to 5 years) aging, and I want a wine that will do well either by itself or with food.
As the process moves along, I’ll let you know what I decide to do, from when the grapes get picked, to how it’s vinified and aged. And I’m sure I’ll wrestle with a few issues along the way. Right off the bat. for instance, am I asking a California vineyard to do too much by reining itself in so that I can get the style of wine I like? Have I already begun making a manipulated wine, instead of just letting the vineyard speak for itself?
But for a lover of Côte-Rôtie to be working with California fruit, this should be interesting either way ...