For Christmas in 2008 my wife got me a beer and winemaking kit. I made a couple batches of beer and they were, well for a lack of a better word, “off.” I had this black raspberry Merlot wine kit and figured, “Well I got it, might as well give it a try.” Well what do you know, it came out really nice and we finished it off in no time (unlike the beer). So I scrapped beer making and got another wine kit to see if my first try wasn’t just a fluke. Once again, another palatable wine and now I think I’m onto something. I ordered a couple more kits, some extra carboys, and started really getting into this home winemaking endeavor.
It was after three years that my operation started to outgrow my 6 x 10 kitchen and 8 x 12 sunroom. I have plenty of outdoor space but not plenty of money. I started looking at these prefab storage sheds that you “rent to own” and found there were two popular options; metal and wood. Keeping in mind I needed a building in which I could easily install power, plumbing, insulation, wall coverings and flooring; wood was the easy decision. The wood buildings come with wall joists 24 inches on center and, because they are made of wood, installing the insulation and wallboard required just a staple gun. After looking around and considering my budget I settled on a 12 x 12 lofted barn-style shed.
Another beauty of a prefab building is when they deliver it they can park that baby almost anywhere. I picked a spot only a few feet from my well, which made it easy to dig a small trench and run the water and power lines to it through PVC pipe. I didn’t install hot water so in the winter when the water can be a little cooler I just fill a carboy the night before and let it warm up. I fully insulated my “winery,” put up some inexpensive wall paneling and some leftover wood flooring from work and voila!
I was fortunate to have a couple of things donated by a neighbor; a window air conditioner, stainless steel sink/table (while I got it for free, I found a lot on Craigslist) and desk for my computer. I had to spring for some wire metal racks for all my carboys. Then I swiped the deck chairs from the back patio that my wife and I never had time to use anyway and installed a flat screen TV with wireless Internet for, what else, watching winemaking videos. I also got a small heater for the winter which I leave set on 68 °F (20 °C). In the summer I leave the window a/c on at 76 °F (24 °C), and have noticed a much better consistency in my winemaking when the temperatures are not bouncing up and down. The loft is great to store my bottle boxes and other assorted extras.
I’ve named my home winery Crazy Cat Winery, which came about when I first started making labels for my wine. To make a long story short, we have 25 cats. Yes, I said 25. I looked at all the crazy cat photos I had and thought I must be one “crazy cat” and, well, there you go. Being retired from the Navy, I have plenty of time to make as much wine as I can, or as much as my wallet allows me. At times I have 10+ batches of wine going at the same time. Most of it comes from kits because I prefer the consistency and availability, but I also have a little vineyard where I planted some Suwannee grapes two years ago and last year some Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Regent and Barbera grapes to test what will do best in my soil.