My first encounter with wine was when my Aunt Mary, took her nieces and nephews to California. We were in San Francisco and the adults were drinking red dry wine and, at age 12, I asked for a sip. The other kids did as well, but when they took a sip they spit it out. I “acted” as though it was delicious and never stopped thinking that way.
My Aunt Mary, who just turned 80, made homemade wine for many years. She just recently gave me her original winemaking book, written in 1965 — 10 cents a gallon to make wine back then. While in college and home for the holidays Aunt Mary would ask us to help her bottle wine (not difficult to ask a college student who loved wine).
My career path put me into hotel management in Houston. Later, I moved to Oklahoma City, Shreveport, Louisiana, and Wichita, Kansas working for Hilton Inns. Finally, I was offered the opportunity to open the first Residence Inn in Sunnyvale, California as Director of Sales and Marketing. I think I went to every winery in the area taking advantage of their tastings and dinners. I then moved to Riverside and managed a small inn in Corona where I explored all the wineries in that area as well. Over the years I would get invitations to the special harvest parties from the wineries in Sonoma. From California I went to Nashville and opened the first Clubhouse Inn. Then it was on to Kansas City and finally ending up in Dallas where I have put on several wine tasting events for charity. I have had the opportunity to experience gourmet dinners, wine tastings, and fine restaurants all over the world.
In 1999 I decided to retire from the industry. I had always wanted to live on the lake so I moved to Lake Eufaula in northeastern Oklahoma — a little over an hour drive from Tulsa. My first trip to the local liquor store was a total disappointment. That’s when I began researching on the Internet and reading articles from WineMaker on how to make wine.
I have almost always used wine kits since I began home winemaking. I currently have Concord grapes in my yard but I’m still working to master that. I believe that nothing compares to the quality of the winemaking kits. In 2007, I went to a hotel reunion in Kansas City. Our former corporate food and beverage director — who is very difficult to please when it comes to wine — actually smiled when he tasted my wines. He couldn’t believe it only took six weeks to make them. Even my 80-year-old aunt, who made wine, smiles when she tastes my wine and truly can’t believe the quality of the kits. (I couldn’t possibly do all the work she did, and many times it didn’t come out too good).
I remember making my first batch of wine in my spare bedroom — a cheaper red wine — fearful that it might not turn out well. While changing bottles one day it tipped over and hit the white wall of my guest room. It was at that moment that I began to wonder if it was all really worth it. I could have bought several bottles of fine wines with all the money I spent on the equipment. But instead of giving up I continued to read articles, attend seminars and buy better kits. I later began entering contests in Arkansas and finally last year entered the WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition. I remember my nephew, Greg, saying to a group of people at a wine tasting locally, “I know a lot of people who are home winemakers, but my aunt’s wine tastes like you purchased it from the wine store.” That comment was worth everything to me!