Wine making is like following a very large, very slow recipe, with strange and fascinating moments along the way. Sunset
’s Managing Editor, Alan Phinney, especially remembers the punching-down phase, which is when the pressed grapes—juice, skins, and seeds—ferment together in a big vat for a couple of weeks; the skins and seeds float to the top, and have to be punched down regularly to distribute flavor and oxygen. “It smelled fantastic,” says Alan. “And it was foaming and gurgling, very organic. You could definitely tell a process was underway.” At the end of the process, with luck (as Team Wine
seems to have had), you’ll have pretty decent stuff to proudly call your own.
If you can, pick your own grapes. We considered quitting our day jobs after our experience of harvesting dusty, juicy Syrah grapes in Thomas Fogarty Winery’s remote and gorgeous Fat Buck Ridge Vineyard in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains.
The home wine-making journey we detail in The One-Block Feast will get under your skin and give you a huge appreciation for the quality in the bottles you buy. Just remember to keep a record of everything you do to your wine and to sanitize everything every step of the way. Then celebrate the chance to use that high-school chemistry.