btaste | wine


JOIN THE RANKS OF WINE MAKERS...

MAKE YOUR OWN
VINTAGE

By GINO L. FILIPPI

GROWING, producing or bottling your own vintage can be an educational hobby, family tradition, subculture obsession or search for perfection. Whatever your perspective, there are opportunities galore for wannabe vintners. Here's the juice:

The Wine Tailor, Rancho Cucamonga
"I've been interested in wine since the day I turned 21, and I got serious about it eight years ago," said Ken Lineberger, who opened a small boutique winery in October 2004 with his wife, Angela. "We are part of a franchise that's been around since 1993, so my knowledge of enology started with their intensive training program."

The Wine Tailor has produced more than 10,000 cases (that's 120,000 bottles) since opening.

Grapes are the fruit of choice because they naturally contain sugar, moisture, tannin and the nutrients required for fermentation and preservation. All wines are produced and sold on site in Rancho Cucamonga.

Patrons select the type of wine they'd like to create using grapes from California, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Chile or Argentina.

"Once you decide to make your ‘personal vintage,' we provide the crushed grapes (known as must) and a yeast package.

Fermentation takes about 14 days," Lineberger said. "We will then rack and filter, which can take five to seven weeks depending upon the type of wine. Some guests like to age red wines in our small Hungarian oak barrels for another four to six weeks.

"Many of our customers are starting their holiday vintages now so they can enjoy them in the fall," he added.

When it's time to bottle the wine, customers can bring family and friends. Children as young as 10 can participate in the bottling process, which takes about 90 minutes.

"It's truly an unforgettable experience," Lineberger said. "We have several customers who have made more than 20 batches since we opened." The price for full personal vintages ranges from $145 to $300 and more, depending on the variety.

New releases include Tre Grande Tuscan, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese, now available for $16 a bottle, and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which will be available to the store's club members in May, and then to the public in June for $20.

TWT has complimentary wine tasting, a gift shop and outdoor patio area. The operation is clean and organized, and Lineberger assures the process is enjoyable for all customers.

"My wife and I began this venture because we appreciate wine, but more importantly, we enjoy the people who visit our winery," he said.

Another location is expected to open this fall in Chino Hills.

Information: www.thewinetailor.com; (909) 481-5050

Brandt Family Winery, San Antonio Heights
Brian and Camille Brandt grow and produce premium, handcrafted wines while raising their five daughters and 4-month-old son.

A true vintner at heart, Brandt contracted the wine bug about 10 years ago. He is keen, focused and possesses great passion for the grape.

"My first taste of the wine business began in 1998, when my father-in-law Fred Paciocco and I started Pacific Wine Merchants in downtown Upland," said a smiling Brandt. "In 1999, Camille and I planted approximately 400 vines on one acre at our home. I started growing grapes as an experiment." About the same time the vines went in, the young Uplander enrolled in home winemaking and small vineyard management courses at UC Riverside. He read every book he could find about winemaking and wine technology, and filled binders with his notes on vinification techniques.

An attorney by profession, Brandt fermented his first juice from Zinfandel grapes grown in the Cucamonga Valley. All of the wines from that first harvest went on to win wine competitions.

Brandt Family Winery started producing its first commercial wines in 2002.

"We made five different wines in our garage that year, including two Rancho Cucamonga grown Zinfandels," Brandt recalled. "We also produced a Sangiovese, a Grenache from the Hofer Ranch in Ontario, as well as importing Petite Sirah grapes from the Lodi area." The wines are produced, aged and bottled on site in a beautiful new cellar building adjacent to the family's home.

That's where many new oak wine barrels and modern winemaking equipment are proudly on display. Annual production is 500 cases (6,000 bottles).

Brandt understands that fine winemaking begins in the vineyard. Over the past five years BFW has released several varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon from Temecula Valley vines, Syrah from Paso Robles, and Syrah from Fess Parker's A bottle sealing and corking machine helps customers bottle their own wine at The Wine Tailor.

Rodney's and Camp Four vineyards in Santa Barbara.

"I am constantly on the lookout for the highest quality grapes possible, especially from up-and-coming regions," he said.

Visit www.brandtwine.com or call Pacific Wine Merchants at (909) 946-6782 for new releases.

Ask about Brandt's 2007 Grenache Noir.

Wild Cat Cellars, Upland
Friend of the vine Dana Chandler has been producing garage wines for 13 years. The vice president of U.S. sales and distribution for Russian Standard Vodka, Chandler is a skilled home vintner and certified oenophile (lover of wine) who began his fermentation fetish in one of the world's finest winegrowing regions, Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley/Russian River Valley. That's where Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel vines excel.

"In 1994, my wife Sally and I were living in Dry Creek Valley. Our house was surrounded by 5 acres of old Zinfandel vines," Chandler said. "It was a case of beginner's luck. We entered our first wine in the Los Angeles County Fair's homemade wine competition and it won a gold medal. That's pretty good, isn't it?" Red varietals are Chandler's favorite.

CALLING HOME WINEMAKERS
Entry details for the 21st annual Los Angeles County Fair home winemaking competition are available at www.lacountyfair.com or by calling Jill Roman at (909) 865-4238. Forms are due by July 15.

There are more than a half-million home winemakers in the U.S., according to Brad Ring, publisher of WineMaker magazine.

For more information, visit www.winemakermag.com.

— Gino L. Filippi

"My preference is the Syrah grape because of its thicker skin and the amazing deep purple color it imparts to its juice. Not to mention the nectar is absolutely delicious," he said.

After Chandler moved to Upland, I helped him locate local Zinfandel grapes. That year, he purchased about a half ton, which yielded approximately 60 gallons (300 cork-finished bottles) — with the "Wild Cat" label, of course. "Our wine-thirsty friends arrived, and we all went to work crushing," Chandler said. "A couple of years later, our Dry Creek Zinfandel brought home a gold medal. We also earned silvers for the Cucamonga Zinfandel and a couple of fruit wines." One of Chandler's favorite bottles is from Brandt Family Winery. "Brian's Syrah is a fantastic blend of two vineyards owned by Fess Parker.

This wine will rock your world," Chandler said.

"Due to the glassy-winged sharpshooter insect and its devastating effect on my small vineyard, I have become discouraged," he continued.

"Today, I prefer to help my neighbor Brian crush, press and bottle his Syrah.

It's much easier."

Gino L. Filippi is a fourth-generation vintner and previous vice president of J. Filippi Winery.

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