Cracking open a cold beer is likely the image that comes to mind of how first responders decompress after a long, tough shift or “tour”. Think again! Blue Bulls Wine Company (https://www.facebook.com/bluebulls
wine/) is made with pride by friends and public servants in Union City, New Jersey. The word bull is police jargon. Radio transmissions of, “I got a crime, send me a bull,” are a request for a detective. And, yes, their play-on-words in the wine company’s name means exactly what you might suspect.
Wine enthusiasts and police detectives David Chasmer and David Dunlay founded the hobby group in 2011. Chasmer gifted Dunlay a how-to winemaking book for Christmas, which led to a conversation in their patrol car that sparked the idea. Soon, and with limited resources, their dream became a reality. Fortunately, Chasmer’s elderly Italian next-door neighbor had been making wine in his backyard for years and taught them the basics.
“Initially, we expected great results. The first batch didn’t come out quite as good as we had hoped,” laughed Dunlay. “It actually came out pretty bad. We were embarrassed to give it to people, so we drank most of it ourselves.” The process was more difficult than they anticipated. “You have to be ready for that next step in the process at any given moment,” said Dunlay.
“We try to give ourselves a window of a week for each step where we don’t plan anything,” said Chasmer. “This way, as soon as we get the call, we can head to [Dunlay’s] house and start the next step.”
Thankfully, the following year yielded more favorable results. Firefighter Dave Rogers joined the law enforcement duo in the second year. The new trio had a discussion on what was done the year prior and what had to be done in order to correct it. “It sounded fun and was something I had always wanted to try,” said Rogers. “We pretty much ironed it all out, because the product we produced in the second year exceeded my expectation.”
Scheduling is among the most challenging aspects of their production cycle, given the nature of their careers. “We have rotational schedules as civil servants,” explained Rogers. “You can imagine how hard it is to get us all together on the same day at the same time.” On the date I visited with the trio, two additional members [Mike Walker and Chris D’Angelo] were absent due to work.
Chasing The Grape
The “chasing the grape” process begins by sampling every grape possible to find the best. “Once we find what we like, we bring our choices to the other guys in the group; we all vote on which grapes are best overall,” explained Rogers. “After the decision is made, grapes are purchased and brought home.” Three years ago they made a major investment in a motorized crusher-destemmer, this was previously done by hand. The entire process takes about ten months, which is “an investment in money, time, and friendship,” according to Rogers.
Chasmer added: “It’s not about just making the wine, it’s about camaraderie, brotherhood, and family.”
“We’re all cops and firemen in New Jersey. It helps us cope, allowing us a way to create something amazing,” summarized Dunlay.