My grandfather making his special wine for the select few

My grandfather was born and raised in Pozzalo, Sicily and immigrated to the United States in 1951. He had been exposed to wine all of his life and had even worked on a field harvesting grapes at a young age. After immigrating to the United States and starting a family he decided to start a hobby of his own that would bring him comfort and make him feel at home in this new foreign.

First he would order the wine grapes from the Clinton-Bailey Market in Buffalo, New York and they would deliver 10-15 40 lb. boxes of California Muscat grapes (white) and about 7-10 boxes of Zinfandel (red) grapes.

Later he wanted to integrate his own grapes into the mix. He had a small cottage where there was about a couple acres of land where he had his mini-vineyard that only had Niagara Muscat grapes.

In the beginning of the process he would crush the grapes using a type of grinding machine, which was operated by hand.  The crushed grapes were then placed into oak barrels for the process of fermentation.  The two varieties of grapes were combined; the result being a Rose’ type of wine. He would let both the skins of the whites and the reds stay in contact with the  must and juice.  This is a very unconventional technique because whenever a producer uses white grapes they remove the skins. He believed in keeping them in contact. After the fermentation period, which was about 10 to 14 days, the juice was collected.  Then separated into halves where one was then boiled with sugar and later added to other un-boiled juice. Then the entire juice mixture was put into another set of oak barrels.  More juice was extracted from the “must” by putting it into a homemade wine press. He made the wine press all by himself. He had worked on a vineyard in Pozzalo, Sicily so he had gained some knowledge about grapes, wine production, and wine machinery. The juice collected from the must would then be added back to the oak barrels and one the fermentation bubble stopped he would cork the barrels.

The juice would ferment for about 7-10 days.  Fermentation could continue in the oak barrels for another week and he expressed to me that the barrels were always kept on their sides not on their ends. The grapes juice was enhanced again by the addition of boiling some juice with sugar, which would help in the fermentation.  This result would be about 3-4 barrels of homemade wine every September during the l960’s-70’s My grandfather also told me that he never used bottles back then because times were tough and he never made his own labels either. He would put his wine in used glass gallon wine containers. Later he would used Damigiane instead of the glass gallon containers.

His sister also immigrated to United States with him so he would always share his wine with her. He also would share his wine with some of his close neighborhood friends. In western New York at the time and even still till this day, there is a huge Italian population. So as he describes it, many of them would share their wine, bread, and homemade recipes with each other. Anything that would remind them of the old country was a blessing.

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