The Wine Experience.

The experience. Isn’t that what we live for?

I have been drinking wine at the dinner table since I was a teenager. It wasn’t an experience to get drunk and it definitely wasn’t more than a glass with dinner. Wine in my family flows more like a babbling brook than from a 25.4 fluid ounce bottle. Wine is an experience. Some of our most intimate stories are shared around half empty wine glasses.

So when we get the chance to share a bottle of wine with friends or someone we love, it becomes more than just a Chianti or Pinot Noir. It becomes a story. A memory. An experience.

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Our spread of goods brought down from Arthur Avenu in the Bronx, NY.

This is exactly the kind of memories Lou Sodano has been creating at his business, The Wine Experience, since 1998. My father has been making wine with his friends for many years now. I have memories of bottling and sealing wine in the warehouse, of cases and cases of wine in our coat closet, and opening premature bottles of wine out of pure excitement to taste the years blend.

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My cousin enjoying old wine while making new wine!

The wine in our family is opened and shared quite frequently. Making our own wine became a a yearly tradition that continues to quench our thirst at every holiday and late night around our kitchen island. We pair our wine with some of our favorite Italian “snacks” – (no one should ever eat as much prosciutto as I do…)

This weeks Italian goodies came from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Take a trip to Arthur Ave and you’ll have the perfect Italian antipasto to pair with your favorite bottle of red.

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Bocconcini is your mozzarella dream come true and the perfect snack while making our wine.

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“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”

― Paulo Coelho

This past week we pressed the already crushed and de-stemmed grapes. The process is just how you’d expect, but without the I Love Lucy version of grape stomping in your bare feet – which (in all fairness) seems fun yet undrinkable. Instead the grapes are put through a large machine that almost looks like a corkscrew – how fitting!

First, as a group, you pick your blend of grapes. The grapes are shipped from the West Coast – ‘wine’ not drink the best of the best? (sorry for the pun – I couldn’t resist)

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Crates upon crates of grapes stack up and wait for their turn to be put through the crushing and destemming process.

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Next is crushing and de-stemming. The crushed grapes then ferment in large tubs. It’s literally a jacuzzi of wine bubbling and fermenting away. Lou explained to me that the grapes bubble up and each day they give it a stir and flatten out the grapes like icing on a cake. This process of turning the grapes happens each day.

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The red barrel is where the grapes ferment.

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After the grapes sit for 1 week, brewing and bubbling away, we put the grapes through the press and into their oak barrels. Now, this is the exciting part because we’re just one step closer to the aging process. At this moment we’ve basically made grape juice (yay – go us!) The juice from the grapes run through the strainer, into tubes, and straight into wine heaven’s gate – oak barrels.

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After all the “wine” is pressed from the grapes, the skin of the grapes is the only bit left standing. One of our winemakers took the grape skins home to use as compost for his garden.

Lou Sodano and his team are there through every step in the process. It really is The (ultimate) Wine Experience and truly a game of patience. If you’re expecting to drink your wine right then and there, think again. The wine ages for 9 months in the oak barrels. But that’s the best part. The wait. The pride. The taste. It’s about as authentic as your grandmother’s Sunday sauce.

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Dust collecting on one of our homemade bottles from 5 years ago.

So in the meantime, we’ll drink the past years bottles from the coat closet and wait patiently until our wine ages.

“Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.”

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