September 30, 2008

Missing Wine Writer Found in Sleepy Florida Town

My apologies for going AWOL these past few weeks. I left town rather suddenly due to a death in my family and though I have been out of touch, and trapped in the cocoon that surrounds a grieving family, wine was on my mind quite a bit during this hiatus. So before we resume our Back-to-Wine-School lesson plan, I would like to share with you why.

You see, the person I lost was the first to introduce me (at the tender age of 12) to the world of wine and its unlimited fascinations. By all accounts he was rather snobbish and old fashioned with regard to wine, and until very recently maintained the opinion that a decent bottle could not be had for under $20. He relished the idea of wine as a luxury item and thinking of it as such increased his enjoyment. This was only one of many of our differing philosophies.

So I was surprised--no, shocked--to learn that earlier this year, he decided to make his own wine. And not at some hoity-toity wine estate, but at local place, a store-front, no less, where he made wine with a group of strangers over the course of a few months. And I was honored to have been asked to bottle and label his wine.


And that is how I came to find Vines to Wines, one of many micro-wineries cropping up in cities and towns across the country. This one is smaller than I imagined, but I think just the right size for the Village of Wellington, Florida. I only participated in the bottling part of the process, but I'll try to give you a brief run down of what you get for your money.

The first step, of course, is to choose your wine. They have an interesting list of regional varietals--Washington pinot gris, Stag's Leap merlot, Argentine malbec, South African pinotage, to name a few. The juice arrives, already pressed, in bags. Some of the reds, such as the malbec and pinotage, are bagged with the skins, which in theory adds more depth and interest to the finished wine.

After you choose your varietal, you are partnered with someone who chose the same. You collaborate through the fermentation stage and, depending on the varietal, you share a barrique for several weeks. In the meantime, you choose your desired bottle shape--or you bring your own recycled bottles if you're feeling green--and you decide on a label. They have pre-designed versions that you can customize, or if you prefer, you may create your own original art.

Much to my surprise and delight, I handled the malbec. After fermentation and a little time in the barrique, I arrived to work the bottling machine. The bottling process was pretty basic. You place six bottles on a machine (two at a time) that is pre-calibrated for your bottle type and the bottles are filled automatically. Once your wine is bottled, you are instructed on the finer points of the corking contraption.

A little elbow grease and a steady hand will see you through corking and then you choose a capsule color and style for your wine. After that, you affix your label and are sent home with 30 bottles and strict guidelines on how to store them and when to enjoy them.

Though my experience was limited, I can tell you that Vines to Wines does quite a bit of repeat business. They have a lot of corporate customers who brand the bottles and distribute them as gifts, as well as wine-loving families who keep coming back to try new varietals. Many of them say you just can't find anything better in the $8-$12/bottle range.

If you live in the West Palm Beach/Wellington area, you should check it out. Ask for Molly or Danny.

12020 Southshore Blvd
Suite #400
Wellington, FL 33414
561.792.6922 (p)

Tues, Wed, Thurs Noon - 7pm
Fridays 3pm - 9pm
Sat. 11am - 6pm

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Posted by Noël Wallace at September 30, 2008 5:22 PM
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