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.
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.
Visitors to Westfall Winery descend into the building's secret barrel room to taste fruit-packed potables from Westfall's extensive wine list, all crafted with Old World wine-making techniques amid the picturesque greenery of Sussex County. Inside French oak barrels, fermented grapes age into velvety cabernet sauvignon, local blueberries age into slightly tart blueberry wine, and young castaways age into colorful, barrel-dwelling philosophers. Sated oenophiles can step outside to Westfall Winery’s picnic area to relish a grilled hot dog and homemade chili, and tour the winery’s sparkling pond and white picket fences. At the end of the event, guests can take home a bottle or a case ($12.50+), then use the empty bottles to build a glass-bottomed lifeboat.
More than thirty years ago, Patricia and Jack Baldwin plunged the stakes of their first vineyard into the fertile soil of their newly purchased parcel of land. By 1985, the couple was hard at work building the foundation for what was becoming a successful microwinery and began to create a many different varietals, from their velvety chardonnay to their tart black-raspberry wine. Today, the vineyard produces more than 15 wines, including its beloved strawberry wine, which has won Best Fruit Wine at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition several times. Baldwin Vineyards also sponsors a Strawberry, Chocolate & Wine Festival, which showcases the pairing of its wines with desserts during tastings, tutorials, and big-budget reenactments.
The smile on Yancey's face as she holds her double gold-winning riesling up to the camera is infectious. It perfectly captures the love, dedication, and immense pride she and her husband Michael take in crafting their well-received bottles of wine at Whitecliff Vineyard.
Their artisanal labors of love started more than 30 years ago when Michael decided to transform an empty field into a winery. Following the traditions of his winemaking grandfathers and armed with a master's degree in organic chemistry, he started experimenting with grape growing. Determined to produce wines that would rival European classics, he eventually expanded his vineyard to contain more than 20 varieties of grapes, each with an uncanny resemblance to the American flag.
Today, he and Yancey sell their wines in farmers' markets and stores from Albany to New York City. They also invite visitors to stop by their scenic winery for wine and cheese pairings or events that include art openings.
Inspired by his grandfather’s legacy of superior wine crafting, Harry Robibero took the first step in rebooting the family tradition by buying 42 acres of property in the Hudson River Valley with his wife Carole in 2003. He couldn't start harvesting any grapes just yet, however—there was already an operational winery on the premises. He bided his time, waiting for the opportunity to fill his home's glasses and well-concealed flasks with his own cask-aged creations. In 2007, the original winery announced that it was vacating the acreage, opening the door for Harry to finally cut the ribbon on his family's very own vino haven.
After years of revamping the property, the family now welcomes visitors to savor red and white artisan wines by the bottle or glass while playing board games, watching sports on the 52-inch TV, warming up by the indoor fireplace, or listening to music during one of the winery's weekly events. The Robiberos also helm tasting sessions, in which oenophiles can sample a lineup of their expertly handcrafted libations. During the warmer months, they open the outdoor patio so that their guests can sip on sangria or wine while overlooking the lush vineyards speckled across the fertile valley.