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Step Into the World of Winemaking with Vintners Cellar

02/01/2007 01:21PM ● By Brandi Barnett

Your First Crush

February 2007
By D. James O'Brien

Situated in downtown of Redding, you are met with soft sounds over clear speakers and an immaculately designed interior. Vintner’s Cellar: Custom Winery immediately exceeds expectations.On a sunny Wednesday, I walked through their clear doors and was immersed in the world of custom wine making.

Greeted by co-owner Jana Leard, I was escorted through a series of taste tests, all of which were unique and most of which were exquisite. Without any real pressure, I felt compelled to create my own wine, to experience the service first hand. From beneath the counter, like a deft magician, a wine list appeared and a series of varietals and types of wine that I could create.

Leard quickly walked me through the process, explaining from the grape concentrate to the mixing process and all of the ingredients necessary to begin the cultivation of the wine.

I watched the others in the store that day. Two women were knee deep in the very same process that I would soon undertake. Smiles and laughter rolled from them as they relished each moment of the wine making process.

Donning an apron, I took my place before the white bucket, dumping first the staining purple liquid, the base of which would eventually become my Merlot. I felt as those that mash grape beneath their feet or reach out and grasp a young grape from the vine feel; connected to the wine, as it was my hands that were beginning the inevitable journey towards the sweet elixir that would arrive on the end.

Deftly maneuvering through the motions, the wine was soon completed; the yeast implemented and ultimately the fermentation had begun.

For one month I would wait, the end of which I receive 25 bottles of wine, all marked in my unique label. I thought to drop by the establishment one cold Friday evening and found it to be quite the happening place.

At the bar that carved out a small island, behind which were the sinks and stalls for wine making, were several customers sipping and chatting away. Two couches that sat across from each were filled with laughing couples, each drinking a wine unique from one another and sampling from a tray adorned with an array of cheeses, crackers and various fruits.

Alan Leard, co-owner, recognized me and offered me a glass of wine. I, of course, obliged and sampled their Gewurztraminer.He asked if I wanted to bottle my wine as the fermenting process had ended and it was time for the hands-on portion of bottling and labeling. I felt it might be an inappropriate time given the hour as well as the full nature and accelerated pace about it that night.Making an appointment for the following afternoon, I finished my wine and was out the door.

The following day, I and some friends (people I had tricked into helping me with promise of free wine) began the bottling and labeling process, which was both simple and fun.Washing out each individual bottle with sulfites and then filling each to an appropriate level, I watched as the process was carried out quickly and easily; a veritable assembly line created by we four.

Warm labels affixed and corks in place, I packed my bottles into their respective boxes and waved goodbye to Alan and Jana, ideas for another wine already brewing. I knew that since they were young wines, it would be sometime before they peaked.However, I could not simply
pack all of them away without tasting what I had made. Though Merlot is not my penchant, I found it to be pleasant tasting and wonderfully rounded as a wine.Needless to say, six months from now and perhaps even a year, those bottles will be opened as the tastes blossom and the wine matures.�

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