So you truly enjoy winemaking? You’ve been making it for years or maybe have just made a couple of kits. What’s next? Where might you learn more or gain even a higher appreciation of your hobby? You may want to consider a winemaking club. Making wine is fun whether you like to make it alone or with friends. Getting involved with a dedicated group of home winemakers, however, can have some real advantages beyond better wine. For starters, it’s a good excuse to have a set time each month for getting together with like-minded people and talk about wine. Meetings are also a great opportunity to taste and evaluate wines — your own, those of fellow club members as well as commercial wines. Clubs can also be a great way to share in the cost of ingredients or equipment if you want to order in bulk. They are also an opportunity to try out some roles and responsibilities that you might not have in your everyday life; perhaps you’ve never organized an event, or you’ve never served on a board of directors — a home winemaking club gives you the chance to try on a different hat . . . all under the guise of making wine.
But how do you get started? For a number of years I searched for a local winemaking club to become a member of. Here in the Hudson Valley of New York, there were little to no options. One opportunity I have is we have a local beer brewing and winemaking supply store – Pantano's Wine Grapes and Home Brew Shop. I have known the owner, Jerry, for a number of years. He started up, with the suggestion of some of his patrons, a home brewing club. This has gone well and grown over the years. During one visit to the store for some supplies, I noticed a sign up sheet for anyone interested in a home winemaking club. I was excited, to say the least! I asked Jerry about it; and like the home brew club, a number of patrons on the winemaking side had expressed interest in a winemaking club. Well after talking to Jerry for a while, he asked if I would help out in getting the club off the ground. Jerry knows that I have a set of certain skills (not the same ones as Liam Neeson), but strong organizational skills. Based on what I envisioned for a winemaking club, I built a basic schedule for the year and utilized the sign up sheets that Jerry had to build an email group. I got this, along with a basic “welcome” note out to the over thirty sign-ups via email. Jerry was nice enough to provide the venue for the club. His store has a very large room on the side that works perfectly for large gatherings. His brew club makes use of it as well.
We had our first, very informal, meeting at the end of January. In total, there were ten people in attendance — not bad. The group varied from home winemakers that had been making wines successfully for a number of years to those that planned to start their first kit. Those that were new to winemaking very quickly began to ask questions regarding some of their concerns. Those with more experience, were very happy to provide some insight into their efforts; hoping to answer the questions. This discussion went on for a couple of hours. We had some snacks and of course some wine to taste. We talked about future meetings and most everyone seemed very interested.