John Gizzi and Diann Greco, the American Wine Society–certified wine judges at Make Wine With Us, teach wine aficionados to create their own wines using grapes harvested in Californian and Chilean vineyards. At the start of the nine-month process (California grapes in the fall, Chile grapes in the spring), winemakers-to-be assemble with fellow enthusiasts to learn the intricacies of the trade. Patrons learn to crush and destem grapes in a machine called a crusher-destemmer, named after the device's favorite Germanic metal band. Following the crushing process, a hydraulic press forces juice into barrels, where it shall remain until the conclusion of its sweet, sweet metamorphosis.
When wine awakens from its hibernation, patrons remove suspended yeast cells and skin particles though a process called racking. At the end of the nine-month period, newly minted winemakers lean on family and friends to fill, cork, and custom-label the finished product. Budding vintners then tote home their vintages to share with family, friends, and robot butlers with built-in carafes.
TThe professional, knowledgeable staff at Vintner’s Circle share their love of the wine lifestyle with hands-on wine classes that teach guests, family, and friends how to bottle wines, distinguish between different varietals, or pair wine with cheese. The shop’s unique winemaking courses take aspiring vintners through the accessible four-step process, which begins with choosing wine juices from a selection of more than 50 internationally sourced varieties. Participants then fill more than two dozen bottles with their own vintage. They can emblazon these bottles with custom-designed labels and colorful tops. Vintner's Circle also stocks a variety of gifts for weddings, holidays, and other special occasions, as well as wine accessories and gifts for wine lovers to enjoy year-round. Wine-education classes, corporate events, and team-building events are also on offer.
True to its name, Just Grapes Lounge focuses on wines, with more than 30 vintages poured by the glass and 18 more varieties sequestered on a reserve bottle list. Microbrews, champagnes, and ports round out the lounge's full bar, complementing a Mediterranean-tinged tapas menu. Small plates, ranging from hummus and crostini to stuffed baked clams, are ideal for smothering appetites or boosting a tiny table's self-esteem. Three styles of rustic pizza artfully pair tomatoes with cheese, whereas molten fondue, served in a bread bowl, comes in varieties including gorgonzola and double-cream brie.
At Thirst Lounge, glasses of draft beer and wine complement a menu of American pub food and Latin American favorites. Dishes range from beef sliders to mofongo, a Costa Rican specialty featuring fried plantains. Cubano sandwiches and buffalo wings pair particularly well with a pint of beer, whereas pepperoni or barbecue-chicken pizzas make for good coasters for the glass.
When Joan Schaming and Ronald Williams opened Balic of Clinton in 2004, they wanted to make sure their clientele understood the importance of sampling wines before they commit to a bottle. In their shop, they hold daily tastings of their rotating selection of reds, whites, dessert wines, and specialty potables, which they recommend to pair with selections from their inventory of gourmet foods and chocolates.
Whether culled from California's Napa Valley region in the fall or from Chile and Argentina in the spring, every bundle of red and white grapes winds up beneath a patron's stomping feet. Eight months later—after a pressing session and half-hour racking—each red, white, or rosé batch makes the transition from barrel to bottle. Clients then fill, cork, seal, and adorn the bottle with their own label before gently kissing it to remove any curses. For visitors more eager to imbibe wine than concoct it, The WineMakers Cellar accommodates guests with dinners and wine and cheese pairings in its bistro. Handcrafted wine continues to flow at cooking demonstrations, courses, and private parties held within the facility.