“What made you want to make wine?”
Its funny, I get asked the question of how I knew I wanted to become a wine maker and I don’t usually have a concrete answer. I am drawn to a memory of when I was a teenager and somehow, some way, I heard about the fermentation process. I just thought it was so cool that you could make wine from fruit. So I ran into the kitchen grabbed a bottle of Welches grape juice and a packet of yeast out of my mother’s fridge. I sneaked a 5-gallon bucket from the garage and headed to the basement. I dumped the juice, stirred in the yeast and that was that. Within a few days the bucket just started bubbling like crazy. Standing there, looking as my 5-gallon bucket bubbling away, it became obvious how very small my container was and just how cool this could be! My father came down the stairs and quickly inquired about what I was up to. His first question being “that’s not going to explode is it?!” After assuring him that his basement’s integrity was safe, his second question followed “what are you doing?!” I told him I was making wine and he looked at me very puzzled and said, “You are not old enough to make wine.” With no pause I responded, “No Dad, I am not old enough to drink wine, but I am old enough to make it!” My father with a bewildered look on his face, shook his head, turned away and with no more questions walked back upstairs. From that day on he was my Guinea pig and I new it was time to study and experiment more.
So, I moved on to making fruit wines. I bought strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Anything that I could turn into wine. I read every book on wine making I could find. After being grounded for purloining Mom’s yeast I started using real wine yeast and returned to the basement. My father had a lot of very eventful, unsanitary, basement wines, for many years, of which he wasn’t shy of telling me the truth on their flavor profiles. I heard him say many times, “This is terrible”. None-the-less he never stopped tasting as I kept on trying to perfect my craft. It wasn’t until my 30s that I got gutsy enough to purchase some vinifera grapes. Its funny, I upgraded from the 5-gallon bucket (slightly) to a large trashcan and had the right grapes, but my father’s palette was still not convinced.
It has taken a lot of years, grapes, yeast, studying, equipment upgrades and a lot of bad wine to get to where we are today. I am proud to say that today we make very good wines. If my Dad was around he would say,” Nice job”.
Each time I get asked how did you know you wanted to be a winemaker I am proud and happy to share my history. Thanks Dad!!!
As told by Darren Horn, Winemaker and Owner of The Summit Winery