Archive for August 16th, 2007

Winemaking for fun … and profit?

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

I made my first batch of homemade wine while living in Edmonton in 1986, when my former U of A forestry classmate and then workmate Don Edwards mentored me in the art and science of oenology (OK, that term is pretentious, so call me a winemaker, not an oenologist). Our Chokecherry 1986 wine was quite nice, enough to encourage me to stay with the hobby. Since then I have made various fruit wines, kit wines (from the cheap 4-week concentrates to the premium mostly-juice kits), and wine from pure fresh refrigerated grape juice, while never progressing to the pressing of my own grapes (or getting my kids to stomp them).

Although my tastes do lean toward the red wines made from pure juice, I still enjoy the challenge of making a fruit wine, despite the highly variable results. One of the wines that I am most proud of was a raspberry wine that I made several years ago.

Well last year my friend Will, who with his wife Genevieve recently started up a U-Pick operation, asked if I’d be interested in making a couple of batches of wine on a shared basis, i.e. he provides the fruit, I make the wine, and we split the product. I started his Raspberry 2006 late last summer, and bottled it late this spring. I also have a batch of a fruit I’d never heard of, a Japanese edible honeysuckle that he calls Hascap, aging in the carboy. The Raspberry 2006 must have passed inspection, because he’s asked me to make a couple more batches from this year’s fruit.

Now here’s the twist. Will has also floated the idea that he’d eventually like to get a licence to sell homemade wine from his U-Pick, but not having the time or interest for making wine, he’s interested in some form of partnership with me as his winemaker. I enjoy winemaking as a hobby, but the thought of making wine for sale has never crossed my mind. Besides having a full time job, I have a busy family, not to speak of a blog, so I’m going to have to think long and hard about this. Probably the biggest question for me is whether winemaking would be less enjoyable if it were no longer just a hobby. Another is the fact that although I’ve probably done more reading on the craft than most hobby winemakers do, I don’t have any formal training, and I don’t consider myself an expert.

Meanwhile, for this year I’ll enjoy making a couple of batches of raspberry (red and golden) wine on a shared basis with Will, and there’s lots of time to consider taking it to another level.