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Home winemaking success at the county fair

Congratulations to everyone who entered their home-made wines in this year’s fair. I never know from one year to the next what each year will bring. This year we had 66 entries, which more than doubled last year’s 32 entries.

This year’s Best Of Show winner was a 2009 Sangiovese Rose produced by Dan and Elaine Carrick from their grapes grown in Penn Valley. It was the first time in 28 years of running the competition that a rose took top honors.

Actually, it is a little unusual to have any roses entered at all. Typically we will have one, or none. This year we had four. It’s the same with fruit wines. Last year there were none. In recent years there have seldom been more than one, perhaps two. This year there were five.



So, more wines in total and more fruit and rose wines specifically. Is this an actual shift or just an incidental burp? When we first started the competition in the early 1980s fruit wines were common. There weren’t as many vineyards back then and grapes were harder to come by. As grapes became more bountiful fruit wine production, or at least those entered in the Fair, became scarcer.

I wondered if Mickey and Virginia Andreason, owners of Sierra Moonshine, a store that caters to home brewers and winemakers were seeing any patterns? “Absolutely,” Virginia replied. “More people are making fruit wines, especially with mead, with honey.” She thought it had to do with the ‘locavore’ food movement. “People are using what they have available and feeling good about it.” It’s not necessarily all alcoholic, some of it is for juice production but she is seeing an increase in apple and pear cider. “In 10 years of business every year has been better than the previous year.”




What about Dan Carrick, this year’s rose winner? “I have always enjoyed European roses (crisp and dry) and decided to give it a try. As it turns out my Sangiovese grapes produce a light wine even if I’m trying for darker so I figured why not?” He also echoed Andreason’s comments. “My neighbor has a plum tree hanging with fruit. My Viognier got trashed in those late frosts this year and right now those plums might be my “summer wine” for next year.”

Gary Deardorff, a previous Best Of Show winner for his red wines won Best Fruit wine with a delicious blueberry wine. “Last year there were no fruit wines so I thought I’d try. I like fruit wine and it’s less trouble to make. There’s no picking, no big crush, just buy fruit, make the wine. I also like the idea that you can make fruit wine any time of the year.”

Whether it’s part of a bigger trend or not, I know winemakers like to experiment, both with what they make and consume, the more variations of wines, the better. I still remember the year we had a potato-onion wine in the Fair. Vegetable wines anyone?

Rod Byers is a certified wine educator and wine writer, teaches wine classes at Sierra College, and is a California State Certified Wine Judge. Go to http://www.pinehillwineworks.com to see the Kaleidoscope wine classes offered locally this fall, or by phone at (530) 913-3703.


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