Potential home viticulturists could be in for a treat as Delicato Vineyards will once again be hosting its Home Wine Making Workshop on successive Saturdays, Aug. 27 and Sept. 3 for those just beginning or those wanting to hone their skills.
According to journeyman home winemaker and Delicato Vineyard Tasting Manager Richard Foote, home winemaking is a fascinating, creative and enjoyable hobby — and one that has very few limits.
“I call the course, ‘Winemaking 101A,’” said Foote, who has been at the craft for about 23 years. “The class is designed for those who want to start winemaking as a hobby or (those) who have tried in the past and failed.”
People who have been in the activity for a while also enjoy attending to pick up new ideas and discuss the craft with others that are interested, said Foote.
The class at Delicato, in neighboring Manteca, lasts about two hours and will cover the methods, equipment, fermentation process, and bottling of a home vintage suitable for consumption.
Foote got started in the home wine making process after working at the winery and selling the winemaking equipment at Delicato.
“I’ve worked under some master winemakers and been a hands-on type of guy,” said Foote.
He also took some local college courses on viticulture — the science, production and study of grapes dealing with the series of events that occur in a vineyard and the developing of wine.
“I’ve tasted some very good wines by students who bring theirs in to the winery,” Foote said. “Actually, if you got a product and the end result is drinkable, you did a good job.”
Though most home winemakers buy the “juice” from various wineries, Foote said the course does go into the actual de-stemming and crushing process for the grapes.
The crushed grapes create the juice, or what is in the industry known as “the must,” which is actually a blending of grape juice, pulp, skins, and seeds.
“I guess it’s called ‘must’ because it ‘must’ turn into wine,” joked Foote.
The class ventures into the fermenting and “racking,” or the siphoning of the juice after the solids have naturally, through gravity, fallen to the bottom of the storage container.
Additives such as oak are also discussed.
Foote suggests that the beginning winemaker use glass containers known as “carboys” rather than barrels for the fermenting and storage of the wine.
“If you’re unsuccessful and the wine turns into vinegar, your expensive barrel is then only good for two things,” said Foote. “Getting cut in half for two flower pots. Barrels should be saved for someone more experienced.”
After the fermenting, comes the bottling, which includes corking and labeling of one’s home varietal or blend.
“Have fun making your own label,” suggested Foote. “Even with a basic labeling computer program and office supply labels, you can be very creative.”
Foote said the average investment in equipment for homemade wine is roughly $50. With basic equipment one can produce about five gallons of wine.
“When you’re making small amounts, you don’t need the advanced equipment and automation,” said Foote.
The home winemaking enthusiast can purchase Delicato grape juice for home wine production from the Manteca tasting room from Oct. 1 to Oct. 9 this year.
“Keep in mind that in a two-hour class we can’t go into too much depth,” said Foote. “But those attending will leave with a good understanding of how to make their own product that can match some commercial wines.”
According to Foote, the law allows each “head of a household” to produce 200 gallons of wine per year.
Delicato sells a large variety of home winemaking equipment at its Manteca tasting room at 12001 S. Highway 99 Frontage Road.
Delicato Vineyards is one of the largest family-owned and operated winemakers in California. Three generations of the Indelicato family have overseen vineyard operations and winemaking at their California properties.
The Home Winemaking Workshops will be offered from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 27 and Sept. 3 at the Delicato Tasting Room in Manteca. There is no cost but class size is limited. To reserve a slot for the class, contact Jane Schwartz at Delicato Winery at (209) 824-3401 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The class fills up quickly so those interested in attending either of the Saturday workshops should reserve their spot as soon as possible.