I wish I owned a vineyard, or a winery, or really anything in the wine industry. But I don’t. I have a day job…a desk job. The next best thing is being able to make wine at home or in a boutique. So that is exactly what I do every year towards the end of summer or early fall. Since 2010 I’ve been a wine club member at Water 2 Wine, a little boutique winery here in Houston, and since 2011 I’ve been making small batches of wine there annually. Each batch of wine makes ~28 bottles of wine, and they make great Christmas and birthday gifts, if you can part with the bottles. I tend to hoard a few myself.
It’s quite effortless actually. During the first wine making visit, the staff (hi, Glen!) helps us through wine tasting to carefully select which wine we want to make each year, advises how much water to add to the grape juice, when and how to add yeast or other additives (such as wood chips for red wines), they check specific gravity, seal, then cart off the bucket to the store room to be tended by them for the next 3 months.
While the wine batch is going through its transformation, I get to design the label, which might be my favorite part of the process. In the past five years and seven batches of wine, I’ve kept a common theme with my labels, only changing their colors and center image. Maenad Cellars is my pet name for the wine we make, an unspoken nod to ancient Greek mythology and my fanatic love for the beverage. We’ve typically alternated between red and white wines over the years. The first year we made three batches: Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc. I designed the labels with maenads on Greek or Roman pottery. The second year we made a batch of Liebfraumilch, and I designed the label with an oil painting of a maenad. The third year we made a batch of Chardonnay, designed with a marble statue of Bacchus. Last year we made a batch of Tempranillo, designed with an image of Bacchus in mosaic tile. And this year we just finished making and bottling a batch of Pinot Grigio, designed with a Roman coin of Diva Faustina, but this time I added a watermarked background image of her temple in Rome.
Bottling is more hands-on and requires at least two people. Again, the staff is well prepared for the bottling. They have everything printed, sanitized, and laid out in an assembly line. They guide us through siphoning the wine from the bucket into the bottles, corking, labeling, and foiling. The whole process takes less than an hour. I do wish it took longer because I enjoy it so much. White wines are ready to drink and require no further aging, but red wines are advised to age another six months before drinking. They do have these cute little magnetic discs for speed aging if needed.
So that’s it! Lazy wine making at its best! Wonder what we will make next year…