In April of 1998, I married my best friend Cheryl. With this marriage I gained a son, Craig, and daughter, Tabitha. By this time, both of them were already young teens. Shortly after the marriage began we purchased our first home, which came with its own little vineyard. Well okay, so it wasn’t a real vineyard as much as it was just one vine (I did some research, and my best guess is that it is an Isabella vine, a cultivar derived from the grape species Vitis labrusca). Yes indeed, in reality we were the owners of a single grapevine — but it was a single vine that blessed us abundantly each year.
As time went on each year, I picked all the grapes I could at harvest time and made grape jelly. Lots of grape jelly. It was nothing to have 30 or 40 12-ounce (355-mL) jars full of that sticky sweet purple stuff children loved and I hated. I’m not real sure why I don’t like grape jelly other than maybe as a child that was the only jelly we ever had. And I had more than my share of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches growing up. After doing this several years in a row, I called it quits on the grape jelly and decided to just leave the grapes to the birds because I didn’t know what else to do with them.
One day my wife and daughter were talking about the grapevine and my daughter asked why I was no longer making jelly with them. When her mother explained my viewpoint on grape jelly, my daughter then made an off-hand comment about making wine with them. By the end of their conversation, the two of them had come to an agreement that I would not be able to make wine with them. The exact reason why this was their belief was never made known to me and I didn’t push for it either. Maybe it was actually a plot to get me to try to make it. Either way, all I knew for sure was the two closest women in my life said I couldn’t make wine from grapes. So, of course I had to prove them wrong.
I began by searching the Internet for information on how to make wine at home. Sure, I could have just taken a jug, added grapejuice, sugar, and yeast and then strapped a balloon on top and waited 30 days. But I wanted to make a really good wine. Not only to prove to others that I could do it but to prove it to myself as well.
In 2010 I made my first wine. To me it seemed kind of flat and lacking something, but what? That is what I needed to find out. This was the icing on the cake that fired my craze for winemaking. I continued to research home winemaking as I still do today so that each year I can make a better wine from my single vine than the previous vintage (harvest usually yields just enough juice for one gallon/4 L of wine).
One thing that I have learned for sure is just how important it is to make sure your sweetness, acid, and alcohol all come together in balance to create a perfect harmony. This, with a whole lot of patience, I consider to be the two major ingredients to home winemaking.
Over the years I have made 30-something batches of wine including apple, apricot, blackberry, strawberry, maple, and even root beer to name a few. And each year I continue to make a batch from my one-vine vineyard too. I still consider myself a novice when it comes to winemaking but I have definitely made a large improvement since that first batch six years ago. It is a really good feeling when someone pulls the cork on a bottle of wine that you made and tells you how good it is.