During your initial meeting, Carmine will discuss pricing, barrel ownership and usage, contract and legal requirements, the type of wine you would like to make, and storage needs for your wine once you bottle it and take it home.
First, think about the kind of wine that you like to drink. Would you prefer a single grape or a blend? California blends can be standard blends such as Super Tuscan ( Cabernet, Merlot, and Sangiovese ) or you may want to make a custom blend. In any given season, there will be some grapes that are better than others. But you will not know this until the grapes come in and Carmine has seen and tasted them. He will discuss this with you and you will make the final decision about the wine you want to make right before crushing.
Crushing Your Grapes
Although you many want to imitate the classic I Love Lucy episode and foot-stomp the grapes, homemade wine making with Carmine has advanced beyond that! Crushing and de-stemming of grapes usually takes about an hour. You should have some family and friends to help with this phase of the wine making process when you run the crushing and de-stemming machine to get the 720 pounds of grapes macerated and into the vat. Now you will learn about yeasts and fermentation and prepare the jolt that will be added the next day to your macerate.
If you are using California grapes, this will take place in September/October, or in May for Chilean grapes. The harvest season and grape availability or the grapes that you are using will dictate the optimal time for crushing
One day after the grapes have been crushed, the fermentation jolt you prepared will be stirred into the grape macerate to initiate the fermentation process.
As with the crushing, you will definitely want to bring along your wine making team and/or friends and family. At this visit which takes place one week after the grapes were crushed, the grape pulp will be pressed to extract the residual juice that did not flow into the vat and you will pump the fermenting juice into your oak barrel.
After about three to four months, Carmine will call you to schedule your next visit with your wine. During the months since the wine was pumped into the barrel, it has been fermenting and settling. At this visit, you will pump the wine out of the barrel into a vat, clean out the sediment in the barrel using an automated high-pressure barrel washer, and pump the wine back into the barrel. You will also get another taste of your maturing but still very young wine.
About four to five months after racking, Carmine will contact you to schedule your final visit for this barrel of wine when you will bottle and take your wine home. Here again, you should bring your wine making team and/or family and friends. You will transfer your wine into 240 bottles and cork and cap the bottles. The bottles will be boxed and you and your wine making team will leave Westchester Homemade Wine Center with 20 cases of unlabeled bottles of your personal vintage!
By the time you bottle your wine, you should have created a name for your vintage. This could be a name you will use for all your subsequent wines, or you can change it for each one if you like. And you should be thinking about a label design. You can talk with Carmine about labeling options. And of course, you can consult your fellow homemade winemakers. If you are part of a group, each member of your group can have a different name for the vintage and customize their own label.
Tasting & Drinking
The fun continues! Your wine is still young and not quite ready for drinking when you take it home. After about four to five months in the bottle and with proper storage, it is time to begin sampling your wine. Open one bottle every few months and explore and follow the maturation of your wine! You will know when it is time to drink it! Our Wine Master, Carmine Corelli, believes that drinking wine is about relaxing and enjoying your wine with all your senses. OK, not hearing, although you can listen to the wine as your pour it.