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.
After traveling to vineyards throughout the United States and Canada during wine-tasting trips, Michele and Paul Crecca realized they could show others how to make their own wine. They founded Your Own Winery to share their passion and know-how with newcomers to the world of wine.
Today, they help hobbyists produce and bottle more than 200 varietals of wine, including cabernets, pinot noirs, chardonnays, and pinot grigios. The staff will provide free samples to help students decide what kind of wine to make. It can be a tough decision, because winemaking is a six-to-eight week process that spans from primary fermentation to bottling. Each batch makes 28 bottles, and Michele and Paul even help their clients create custom labels, which have ranged from family photos and beloved pets to cherished pictures.
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.
The attentive and knowledgeable staff members at Maratene's help each customer find the beverage of his or her dreams, an infinitely preferable experience to discovering the sulfurous, steaming goblets of their nightmares. Give a moderate nod while excessively enjoying a medium-bodied Castle Rock Pinot Noir ($10), or recite a philosophical treatise to an indifferent partygoer over a rich and complex Truchard Cabernet ($25). The chronically indecisive can sip samples at one of the shop's free Saturday wine tastings or visit owner and trained sommelier Gregg Burke's wine blog for more tips.
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 Anthony Riccio traced his American roots to Italy and discovered his family name on a bottle of Italian wine it sparked his interest in opening his own vineyard. Anthony named Cava Winery after the Italian word for mine, which calls forth his Mediterranean pride while also reflecting the mining history of his home New Jersey turf. Behind the winery entrance's old, weathered, wooden door, this mining theme carries throughout the tasting room where yellow walls bear artifacts such as old axes, lanterns, and black-and-white photographs depicting miners. A stone angel sculpture stands guard over freestanding wood barrels in this same tasting hall, and in the barrel room, oak vessels sit snugly between rough-hewn-stone walls.
Inside the atmospheric confines, guests sip libations while nibbling on specialty pizzas, seasonal Italian-style tapas, and bountiful meat and cheese platters harvested from nearby meat and cheese fields. A calendar of events excites palates year-round with dinners, wine-and-food pairings, and festivals, which invite guests to mingle inside or spread out over the winery's rolling fields.
Experienced oenologist Deneah Bledsoe employs UC Davis training to fashion wines from the vineyards' varied varietals of grapes, all grown in high-mineral-content soil. The roster of reds and whites, as well as fruit wines, ferment and bide their time, penning memoirs as they age in oak and stainless-steel barrels. Each wine can also achieve its own identity through Cava's custom labels, which patrons design with their own artwork and heading fonts.