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.
Brooklyn Winery's team crafts small-batch, artisanal wines in Williamsburg—and if winemaking in an urban environment sounds odd to customers, they can always find out how it works during Tuesday winery tours. The tour guides walk groups through their entire process, from the moment the grapes arrive at the facility to when the cork goes in the final wine bottle, trapping the wine genie inside for good. Of course, the process varies from wine to wine. The team ages some vintages in stainless-steel containers, while the barrel-fermented riesling is aged, predictably, in oak barrels, an old-school technique that originated in prerefrigeration Germany. The result? A quirky riesling with hints of soapstone, mushroom, and honey.
The team doesn't just reclaim old German traditions, though. For their unpretentious 1,200-square-foot wine bar, they also reclaimed most of the building materials. In the cozy, unpretentious bar, visitors sip vintages pulled from wine racks that were once World War II ammo boxes; the walls, meanwhile, were barn wood in a past life, and the bar itself is made from old church pews, completing the aura of modernity rooted in history.
At Staten Island Winery, wine enthusiasts transform into bona fide winemakers. They do so under the guidance of Bob Rando, who holds rank as the winery's owner and as an accredited winemaster. Bob and his team walk aspiring vintners through the process, starting with the crushing of grapes and ending with the bottling of finished products. Participants can even choose what kind of wine they make, either by selecting from the facility's list or coming up with their own blend.
Tolani Wine Restaurant marries fine wines and an eclectic menu in an upscale lounge and dining room. Candlelight filters through crimson glasses and bottles in the upstairs lounge, where pours pair with charcuterie and cheese. A crystal chandelier hangs above a flight of stairs that leads to the stone-wrought dining room, its walls lined with a bottle-filled cellar and brick walls. The restaurant's menu of small and medium plates features upscale interpretations of a wide variety of dishes from around the globe, served indoors or on the outdoor patio, guarded on all sides by stone and several for-hire sorcerers.
As a lifelong resident and explorer of New Jersey, Vaughn Tiedeman possesses an intimate familiarity with the region’s natural beauty and hidden entertainment gems. He started Living Adventure Tours to get folks out of the city and exploring the natural majesty of the northeast. He and his guides lead an endless array of seasonal activities such as hiking, kayaking, and hot air balloon tours during the warmer months. As winter sets in, they lead snowshoeing journeys and wine- and beer-tasting tours of the vineyards and breweries nestled throughout the scenic countryside.
Jaye, the Dallas-born connoisseur behind Proud Wineaux, can determine whether a wine originated on the right bank or left bank of the city of Bordeaux. This isn't just a party trick or a way to navigate France while blindfolded; it's evidence of a decade spent up front and behind the scenes experience at world renowned restaurants such as Jean Georges, Tom Colicchio's Craft, and various New York City hot spots, where she shares her gifts as a wine and beverage consultant.
During individual, group events, or private tastings she helps students explore the world of wine in a friendly environment free of pretension. "The moment you begin to release the fear of not knowing, the learning begins," she says on her website. She expresses techniques to pair wines with cheeses according to the grape nuances and cheese distinctions.