Posted by: cvancil | August 17, 2009

Want to make your own wine?

Janis Switzer of the San Luis Obispo Tribune has the answer!  She wrote a fabulous article about Becky and Lowell Zelinski of The First Crush Winemaking Experience, a fantastic idea!  You can read the artcile here, or see below.  I just might have to try this out sometime, especially after all the wine I’ve tasted in SLO County!

Drink On!

(The following text and photograph are courtesy of the San Luis Obispo Tribune.)

Wine notes: First Crush Wine Making Experience
Time to make your own wine

So you’ve spent days touring wineries and tasting wines, dreaming about the romantic lifestyle of a winemaker, and you’ve wondered what it would be like to be a winemaker yourself.

Unfortunately you don’t have a million-dollar trust fund, a chateau, or even a backyard big enough to plant grapes. So what are you to do?

Now there is a way to experience wine country from a totally new perspective: that of a small lot winemaker. First Crush was started in January, and owner Becky Zelinski is offering wine novices and wine aficionados alike the chance to pick their own grapes, crush their fruit and make their own wine, all in the span of a weekend.

The Tribune - Wine Notes. Becky and Lowell Zelinski of The First Crush Wine Making Experience. Photo by Joe Johnston 7-31-09

“This is really a way to get people to understand the hands-on aspects of making wine and get to be part of it,” explains Zelinski’s business partner, winemaker Dan Kleck. “It’s a good way to get people understanding what a small winemaker would be involved in.”

Zelinski first got the idea two years ago after she and her husband, Lowell, decided to make wine themselves. As owners of Precision Ag, a Paso Robles vineyard management and irrigation products distribution company, they had strong relationships with many of the area’s vineyards and winemakers.

A year later, they invited a dozen of their friends to join them in the vineyard, spending an afternoon picking and crushing grapes, and hiring local winemaker Signe Zoller to help them make their own wines.

“The more I thought about it,” Zelinski explains, “the more I realized I could do this as a business.” She then approached Kleck, who in addition to having his own label — Silver Stone — has consulted with and helped launch many of the newest Paso wineries, including Cass, Donati, Whalebone and Sharp’s Hill.

“He’s one of the best winemakers in the area,” Zelinski says of Kleck, “so I’m just thrilled that he said ‘yes.’”

She and Kleck put together three packages, each aimed at a different grape varietal. Participants can choose to register for either the syrah, cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel group, and can choose to have it as part of an all-inclusive package, or on an à la carte basis. They partnered with the Paso Robles Inn and La Bellasera Inn to provide lodging, and are planning winemaker dinners at various local wineries and restaurants as part of the package.

Over the course of a weekend, participants can live the life of a small-lot winemaker. They will spend Saturday in the vineyard, picking and crushing grapes, and learning about viticultural practices; and then spend Sunday at a local custom-crush facility, learning the art and science of making wine.

“I’ve always liked to teach people about the craft of winemaking,” Kleck says. “It feels good to bring it down to the everyman’s level because that’s what it’s like for me.”

Zelinski is hoping First Crush will appeal to both individuals and couples who want to take their wine education to the next level, as well as groups of friends looking for a fun adventure — even corporate groups looking for a team-building exercise. “People don’t have to give up their vacations for this — it’s a weekend thing,” Zelinski says.

At the end of the program, each participant ends up with two cases of their own privately labeled wine, with their grapes in the bottle and their name on the label. “People can even bottle their own wine if they want,” Kleck says, “or we can bottle it for them.”

One outcome for participants, Zelinski and Kleck predict, will be a realistic understanding of what it really takes to make a bottle of wine. “I think most people will realize how expensive it is to make a small lot of wine,” she says. When she and her husband made their first barrel, they figured it cost them over $100 a bottle by the time they were finished.

First Crush Wine Making Experience
3850 Ramada Drive, B-1
Paso Robles

805-434-2772

Owner: Becky Zelinski

Winemaker: Dan Kleck

Founded: January 2009

www.firstcrushwinemaking.com

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