As an amateur winemaker from the Upper Hudson Valley in New York, I am continually inspired by my wife’s encouragement. “As patient as a winemaker’s wife.” (You can quote me on that.) Each year I have to make at least 52 gallons of wine since I give away almost a gallon a week.
My fulltime job is as a college lecturer on criminal justice and I can fit in my hobby between work and the grandkids.
Starting as a successful homebrewer, I got the urge to use the same equipment to make wine. Two years later, I won a gold medal in the WineMaker Magazine International Amateur Wine Competition. Ten years later, I had 15 awards for contests big and small (and had a few batches that were real learning experiences.) Lately I’ve been studying for the certification as a specialist of wine through the Society of Wine Educators and the tests are no joke.
At my house, we like to crush and press grapes by hand (or foot) since it’s just one more reason for a party. Every year my wife and I travel to a couple of wine regions in the U.S. and Europe and arrange to meet with winemakers, and I hope to encourage you through this blog to do the same. We are frequently at wine tastings and sometimes conduct our own. There is a promising future for grape varieties from the University of Minnesota that we grow in the upstate New York region and we enthusiastically help our friends in their vineyards. I also think that home winemakers who aren’t using grapes from the Southern Hemisphere in the spring are missing an opportunity to use their equipment twice a year.
I can be reached on Twitter at @Garagist.
My interest in winemaking began quite by chance in 2008 when I was a semi-reluctant recipient of some excess concord juice following an impromptu harvest at a local home vineyard. Instead of letting it go to waste, I ran out to a local winemaking supply shop and purchased a couple of demijohns. I called the local home vineyard owner and asked for the instructions on how to make wine from his grapes. I followed his instruction and after a number of months my family, friends and I drank some palatable wine. Coming from an environmental engineering background, the biological and chemical processes intrigued me and I started doing research through the Internet and everything I could get my hands on to read. I tried my hand at some kit wines. They were fine, but I wanted more involvement and control of my end product than they would allow.
From here this 40-something year old family man had the bright idea to start a home vineyard. Living in the Hudson Valley of New York, this required a lot of forethought and backbreaking work. Being very focused and sometimes hardheaded, in 2010 the beginnings of Profaci home vineyard was born. With its last plantings (at least for now) in 2013, it is made up of 120 vines comprised of 6 varieties of hybrid and native wine grapes and two of table grapes. Over the past few years of vineyard management and winemaking I have learned a number of things. One of the most important is that there is always more to learn. I believe one of the best ways to learn is hands-on. Nothing is more true about the worlds of viticulture and enology. I want to share my experiences with other cold-climate home winegrowers. I hope you find it useful and helpful in becoming successful at this rewarding hobby. Thoughts, comments, feedback? Let's Talk! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Peak is a partner at The Beverage People Inc. in Santa Rosa, California and the author of WineMaker's "Techniques" column. He was the former General Manager at Vinquiry, a company that provides analytical services to the wine industry. In his blog, "Bob's World of Wine," Bob writes about anything wine-related that comes to mind — from his own home winemaking adventures, topics that come across his desk at work, and commercial wine events that intersect with home winemaking.
Wes Hagen received his viticultural and winemaking training from the University of California at Davis extension program. He is the Vineyard Manager and Winemaker for Clos Pepe Vineyards in Santa Barbara County, California, where he grows Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for a variety of wineries including his own. Wes’ Pinot Noir was recently ranked as one of the top 30 Pinots in California by Wine Spectator. Wes also covers the world of backyard vineyards for WineMaker magazine writing our “Backyard Vines” column every issue since 2000. He kicked off his “Backyard Vines” blog for winemakermag.com in September 2008 featuring his insights on growing great grapes and making great wine from homegrown grapes.
Nestled in a small craftsman house, just five minutes from downtown San Diego, there is a vineyard. Not a large, picturesque, commercial vineyard, nor yet a moderate sized, productive, charming vineyard: it is an urban vineyard, which means peculiar.
Tending this urban vineyard is me, a married, reluctantly aging soccer player, kept in shape by a three year old, self proclaimed superhero. The existence of the vineyard in our front yard is most certainly due to a shared appreciation for wine with my amazingly accommodating wife…although bribery with some spa days may have helped tip the scales. To keep all of this going, and to pay for those spa days, a day job in software development and process efficiency for a medical device company is necessary. Someone has to pay for the most expensive wine we may or may not ever drink!
Undaunted by a complete lack of knowledge, and armed with some excellent books and the internet, my urban vineyard was born. Now in this second year, nothing has changed. Questions are rampant while confident answers are scarce, all with winemaking still to learn. Despite this, the vines are thriving so something is going right. It may have an unlikely manager, it may be tiny, it may be urban, and it may be peculiar but, to me, it is still a vineyard.