Almost five years ago, I made my first vintage of a Super-Teaneck. I was so excited when I made the wine, pressing my own grapes adding selected yeast, racking it, refining it in oak and storing it, hoping for a miracle. Over the years, I have opened bottles here and there with mixed results. This weekend as part of a larger celebration, I decided to check on my handiwork. I must say, everytime I try my own wine – made with a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon – I have renewed respect for winemakers. Sadly as with so many things, the idea of my wine is better than the realty. In fact, yesterday, I decided to get rid of all the remaining bottles.
I will try again this fall, perhaps with white wine. We shall see. I like getting my hands dirty and understanding all of the processes of making wine first hand as opposed to reading or writing about it. I must say, I also have a new desire for better storage conditions for all of my wine and especially that which I make. It didn’t ruin the holiday though.
Check out these photos of the Hudson River in all it’s glory.
I love the Hudson. I think it’s one of the world’s great rivers.
I did get to see the fireworks last night in very good company.
I’m suffering from that sindrome da rientro probelm after the holidays. I’m sure I am not alone.
Shocking but true, the wine I made three years ago using a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon is actually drinkable. There really is something to be said about aging wines to let the tannins soften and the alcohol diminish. I was pleasantly surprised this evening when I opened a bottle.
My wine label, I Due Gatti,, has only come out with two vintages thus far. I still have many bottles and there is a risk that some people will be getting it for Christmas…
My wine making adventures are New Jersey based, thanks to Corrado’s, using California grapes which are trucked in and then stored. Obviously these are not optimal conditions but I must say I am pleasantly surprised. I’ll be taking orders should anyone have to have this blend for their cellar .
Tonight, I get to see Bruce Springsteen do his thing in his “Hometown”. I am so excited that I can’t think about anything else. Tomorrow I hope to be more coherent and interesting. Today though, I’m just a Jersey Girl excited to hear all her favorite songs. Can you believe he’s 60??? I guess it’s the new 40….or 30.
I think I may toast him with a Super-Teaneck…to complement the New Jersey theme.
I began making my own wine a few years ago. While I had a great time during the entire exercise, the results have been less than stellar. With enthusiasm, I bought grapes, crushed them, let them macerate for a time, added yeast for fermentation assistance, racked and bottled my wine. I went through this exercise for three years running and have many bottles of so-so wine.
My wines, from my I Due Gatti label, apparently are not the only bad homemade wine. Many people have told me this but no one has been more convincing than David Lecomte, the winemaker at City Winery. In the midst of an interview with David for another website, we began to speak about the difficulty of making wine in such small quantities. He gently reminded me that with a very small quantities, everything is dependent on when you do each step. If you are off by one or two days with anything, it can totally change your product and in some cases, ruin it. Blending from different barrels would smooth defects out and help to correct imbalances or make stylistic changes. With my limited amount of wine, I of course, had no recourse to do any of that. Relieved, I think I may not give up home-winemaking but may begin to take part in larger productions at a facility under the careful and intelligent eye of a wine maker.
City Winery is a very appealing place to have dinner as well as a drink. I went to a dinner last month hosted by Maslow 6. I wrote about one of the wine makers and his wines, Olivier Cousin, in another post but I didn’t mention the food. We had a long involved menu but what I remember most clearly were the short ribs. Delicious. Music is a very big part of the draw at City Winery as well. Many artists perform on their super technological stage.
My favorite musician, Bruce Springsteen, was on The Daily Show last night, playing a song from his new album Working on a Dream and speaking with Jon Stewart. I adore Jon Stewart and he usually has me in stitches but yesterday he seemed like a star struck Jersey guy. I can well understand. As a Jersey girl, Bruce has the same effect on me. Even if I was from Diamante in Calabria, he would have that effect on me.
Today as we all know is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Ever mindful of historical significance, our President-elect nominated his choice for Secretary of Veterans Affairs today. Watching the press conference, I was moved thinking how far we had all come from that fateful day. My great uncle Murray was one of the few survivors of Pearl Harbor and his military service was one of the most important aspects of his life. His license plate underscored this and read Pearl Harbor Survivor. Murray is no longer with us but I wanted to raise a glass to him today with a wine from the United States. I was looking for a wine from Hawaii but instead was fortunate to try a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon made on Staten Island by Robert Rispoli. This Russian River Cabernet was pretty good for a homemade wine. Much better than my latest vintages of I Due Gatti. Rispoli has a wine school, Vino Divino, where you can take classes and make your own wine.
I met Rispoli at a beautiful event, Winter in Tuscany, at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Staten Island. Staten Island has the largest percentage of residents of Italian ancestry of any county in the United States, according to the 2006 US Census. The center is very active in promoting Italian initiatives together with its cultural sponsor the Fitzgerald Foundation of Florence. Earlier this year they held a film series and are now opening a Tuscan garden and villa modeled after a famous Florentine garden – the Villa Gamberaia. The garden will also house a one-acre vineyard and will host numerous cultural events and festivals.
Tonight’s party was a fun event with a Pinocchio theme. I went to Collodi to see the Pinocchio park early in my Italian life. It was beautiful and magical even as an adult.
On my way back home, I stopped by the holiday party for the Three Parks Dems, a group on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for whom I volunteered earlier this fall. The event ended with a rousing gospel version of America the Beautiful and me feeling warm, fuzzy and patriotic.
There are numerous secrets to winemaking that escape me in this early novice stage. One of the most baffling is how to get the corks into the bottle and have them level. With a hand corker, I have found this nearly impossible. I recently bought a bottle of wine in a store that I am sure had also been hand corked. It was more professional looking than mine but still not perfect. I wonder if anyone has an tips on how to perfect corking without buying a large piece of equipment. If so, please chime in anytime.
I embarked on a mini-winemaking adventure three years ago. I bought grapes in New Jersey from a local purveyor, Corrados, although they get them from California so our collective carbon footprint is not small. I press, rack, and filter the grapes with help from my family. I use cultured yeast and mature the wine in glass containers for a brief period before putting it into my mini barrique. I decided to try my latest vintage again today. It is a blend of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. Highly alcoholic with too much harsh tannin, this wine wouldn’t even get an 82 on a good day. I think it needs some Merlot to round it out or perhaps I shouldn’t have put it in the barrel at all. I haven’t quite got the hang of this yet but I have hopes for the future. Christmas is around the corner and perhaps I can palm off a few bottles as a recycled gift, watch out Italian wine guy. In Italy, we used to have a recycled gift party after Christmas where we played tombola or bingo. It was quite the rage for many years followed by hours of card playing. I truly miss Italy these days. I haven’t been in almost 5 months, one of the longest periods I have been away in the last 20 years. Today I have been thinking a lot about a dear old friend who is no longer with us and I wanted to share her picture. This is Francesca, a true tuscan, she lived in the Mugello, a beautiful part of Tuscany between Florence and Bologna, more or less. She would have hated this wine and laughed at my attempts to make it but she would have been supportive in any event. She also would have made me a beautiful label for the wine bottles. She was a true artist. I met her in 1991 and spent countless hours with her, Stefano and their kids in her beautiful family home.
Today’s rainy November weather really reminds me of that area of Tuscany, chestnuts, sangiovese and old friends. Mostly, I miss Francesca.
I wrote a post sometime in the Spring about my adventures in winemaking, from buying grapes to pressing them and corking the bottles. I am now drinking a couple of bottles of my first vintage, a Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend which I dubbed a Super-Teaneck. The Italian Wine Guy sweetly commented that the name is just as silly as some of the wines they have in his neck of the woods, Super Texans I think they were called…
In any event, I have been sipping a bit of this first vintage from I Due Gatti, the name of my little winery. They are terrible. I have higher hopes for my second vintage but I do have a lot of this first vintage in the basement. Hard to know what to do with it. I met a number of people at a conference this year in New Orleans who said they have never had good homemade wines. Perhaps it is the yeast that I used, a cultured yeast not an ambient one that has made all the difference. I was very interested in the article that Jancis Robinson wrote on her website a few days ago regarding yeast and their strong impact on wines, often making different varietals seem too homogenous. Dr. Vino mentioned it in his “Daily Dose” earlier this week. Thanks for pointing that out. I had missed the article. Whether it be the yeast or the overripe grapes from California, the storage of the grapes before I pressed them, insufficient or inaccurate racking, a too small oak barrel for aging, something just missed the mark. The whole experience has been enlightening but I confess the wine leaves much too be desired.
It’s my first vintage. I’m calling it a Super-Teaneck. Teaneck is where my parent’s porch and my cellar are located. It’s a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. IMy best guess and I confess it is a real approximation is that the wine is 51% Sangiovese and 49% Cabernet Sauvignon. I bottled the wine today with my bottling machine and corker. Unfortunately, I used too much wood. My small (26 lit) barrel is made of new American oak. Italians would say that my Super-Teaneck tastes like a “vino da falegname” or a carpenter’s wine. I hope the wine will improve with age. If it doesn’t many friends will be receiving Christmas presents of cooking wine. My winery is called I Due Gatti. I must say that through this process, I have gained even more respect for wine makers and all of the small nuances that make the difference between “Two buck chuck” and a fine wine as well as all the wines in between.
I began my wine making odyssey last year by buying grapes at Corrado’s – a paradise for home winemakers in Clifton, New Jersey, www.corradosmarket.com. Corrado’s sells grapes and juice. They also sell everything under the sun that you might need to make wine. Last year I bought grapes and hand pressed them. This year I was too late and had to buy pressed juice. The grapes are shipped in from California.
I go to Corrado’s about once every three weeks. I am endlessly forgetting to buy something I need for my wine – yeast, potassium metabisulphite, bottles, corks, labels, capsules. I am now the proud owner of a press, a filter machine to rack the wine, a bottler and a corker. Next year I might spring for the de-stemmer. These are the most expensive bottles of cooking wine that I have ever made but I do recommend a little home-wine making for all. I love Corrado’s because it is filled with Italians who miss the old country even though they have been here for 40 years. Max, a lovely Sicilian, always helps me to find what I am looking for and often dissuades me from buying the latest and most expensive equipment. His approach is a more organic one, although like many Italians he wouldn’t define it as such. He doesn’t believe in all the filtering and yeast. For my second vintage, I have followed his advice. I will be bottling again in about three weeks. I look forward to my next trip to Corrado’s.
There are a number of places where you can make your own wines in the Tri-State area. The few that I know about include MYO WINE in Elmsford, New York. www.myowine.com. I made wine there last year with a wine group. The events are fun and if you get a group together you can buy a barrel. This summer another place to make and bottle your own wine is expected to open in New York City. It’s called Citywinery. Check it out, www.citywinery.com. In Connecticut, M&M Family of Wine has a school of wine making located in Hartford. I met the owner at a trade show at Mohegan Sun last fall. He was very personable and seemed to be very knowledgeable.