Friday, March 27, 2009

Winemaking finding itself in more homes

If more people are inquiring about what it takes to start a winery, as was discussed at the Pennsylvania Wine Association conference in Penn State on Tuesday, then is the same increase in interest being shown in home-winemaking?

Or, is there any juice to the feeling that this passion for winemaking is getting legs? The answer, apparently, is yes. At least that's what John Kramb has seen at Adams County Winery in Orrtanna, Pa., since they began selling the equipment and kits and offering classes a year ago.

"We did the home winemaking classes to get people over the fear of flying sort of thing," he said by phone on Thursday. "We've had anywhere from 10 to 20 people in a class." The next one is scheduled for May 10. The cost is $25. "I take them step by step with our kit wines; here's how you do this, here's how you do this, here's how you do this, and there's a little bit of hands-on to that. And then they say, 'This isn't so scary after all.'"

The response has been high enough to convince Kramb to find a supplier who can help the winery expand its collection of equipment and kits. That equipment, Kramb said, is hardware that only needs to be purchased once as long as people take care of it. In the kits are the grape concentrate and other additive needed to make wine, generally around 5 gallons. Together they equipment and kits cost around $200.

Kramb said he sells higher-end kits, but generally steers newcomers away from those until they complete a class and try some of the basic ones. Students, he said, are attentive in these classes, which last more than an hour and less than two. "They ask good questions," Kramb said. "I change my instruction a little based on if i start seeing the same questions repeated. Our goal is to get people to where they're comfortable making their own wine."

It should be noted that this is the final weekend for Tour de Tanks, and by all indications this fourth annual event that allows passport holders to visit nine wineries has been by far the most successful.

"It has been incredible," Kramb said, then switching to his typical dry humor, "I attribute that to two things. Evidently there's some sort of economic downtown going on. We are not participating personally, but people are more motivated to do things locally. The other reason for us is that [before this year] we were the only winery this far west. Now there are three, and people are more inclined to take the trip out here."

Kramb couldn't provide specific numbers, only an anecdote. "I can tell you this, and this is just coming from memory. The second Saturday of the Tour de Tanks is usually the busiest day of the whole thing, and we had 100 more people than we did the previous year, and that's significant. And the other days have reflected that."

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