Trend: Home Winemaking
Category: seattlepi.com teaser headlines
Washington is home to some 650 wineries, so perhaps it’s not surprising that more and more locals are joining the crush of home winemaking
The Cellar Homebrew
14320 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.365.7660
Northwest Wine Academy
South Seattle Community College
6000 16th Ave. SW; 206.674.7942
The symptoms start in the fall—rapid breathing; inability to focus on job, friends, family; frenzied babbling about sugar, acidity, phenolic compounds; and finally, the telltale sign: dark purple thumbs.
The diagnosis is clear. Grape fever has claimed yet another victim. I know. I catch it every fall. Sometime in early October, I never know exactly when, I’ll get a call: “The grapes are in.” I stop what I’m doing, load plastic containers into the van and head to the sunny eastern side of the state where the best vineyards are located—Tapteil, Klipsun, Ciel du Cheval.
When I return to Seattle, the members of my wine group assemble in a driveway at one of our homes, ready to crush this year’s crop of grapes. We shed our identities as executives, teachers, writers and engineers and don jeans and T-shirts to become winemakers, drawn to a process that goes back thousands of years. After a ritual grape stomp, we lift the 100-pound buckets of grapes into the maw of our gleaming stainless steel stemmer-crusher. Bright purple juice spills into the fermenting tote. We taste the juice and toast the harvest.
Grape fever is contagious. Cellar rats like me have been making wine for years, but newcomers are multiplying like fruit flies. Home wineries are sprouting up in garages and basements all around the Puget Sound area. And enrollment has jumped in South Seattle Community College’s winemaking program, says Regina Daigneault, wine technology coordinator and faculty member of Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle Community College. “We started in 2004. It’s doubled every year. We have room for 20 people a year and have 40 people who want in.”
Retail sales of home winemaking supplies also have spiked. “We saw an increase of 48 percent in sales last year,” says Brian Knobf, owner of The Cellar Homebrew in north Seattle, who has been making his own wine for six years. The sour economy may explain some of the increase, but Knobf attributes most of it to the buzz surrounding Washington wine. “Washington is becoming one of the best places in the world to grow wine grapes....As long as you know what you’re doing, it’s hard to screw it up.”
Knobf offers a free winemaking class at his store, teaching newcomers how to test for sugar, acidity and pH; stem and crush the grapes; and introduce yeast to ferment the juice. “You don’t have to know anything at the start and you’ll have a very good bottle of wine at the end,” says Knobf.