Stomping good time in Wolcott
WOLCOTT, Colorado – The good folks at Churchill Wine Cellars want you to jump into your work.
At Churchill Wine Cellars you make the wine, you drink the wine. Thus has it been for two decades.
They’re stomping grapes Oct. 8-9. The week after that they’re pressing grapes. C’mon, you’ve always wanted to try it.
“Where else do you get to do that?” asked Patrick Chirichillo (pronounced Churchill, like the local winery he owns with Willem Johnson).
Churchill Wine Cellars is a co-op and they’re looking for members to become winemakers. You make your own wine, with Chirichillo and company showing you how.
“I’ve been helping people make wine for their own consumption for 19 years,” Chirichillo said.
They really are good at this. They just won 11 medals at the Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade. Of those, four were gold.
If you’re a stomping sissy and just want to see what it’s about before you get your feet wet, you can.
Your friends will be crushing grapes on Oct. 8-9, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., either day.
It’ll ferment for a week after that, then you come back and press, also 9 a.m.-3 p.m. either day.
You really should sign up before you go stomping around in their vats, but if you’re a professional procrastinator you can sign up the day of the event.
They’re located at 4-Eagle Ranch. Make a left at the white barn and keep strolling closer to the sound of happy people giggling and having fun.
You buy a portion of a barrel, or an entire barrel. A barrel holds about 60 gallons, or 24 cases. Feel free to split it up with other people. It’s like buying a cow. A quarter barrel is 72 bottles, a full barrel is 288 bottles.
A bottle of wine into which you’ve jumped with both feet costs about half what it would in a liquor store, Johnson said. It breaks down to about $15 a bottle for a wine that would cost between $45 and $50 in a liquor store.
Churchill Wine Cellars has been around for 19 years. Mostly they recruit members by more word of mouth. You have to be invited by someone. Today you’re being invited by Chirichillo and his partner Johnson Johnson.
They bring in California grapes from the Lodi/Stockton area of California’s Central Valley.
“I’ve been buying my grapes from Michael Calavetti for 35 years,” Chirichillo said.
Grapes this year will have 24 or 25 bricks of sugar after the wine is fermented, he said. That’s more than most years and that’s good. The more sugar, the better the wine.
Because this year’s growing season was cool, the grapes hung longer and have a higher sugar content. They’ll make better wine, Chirichillo said, which you will learn if you stomp and press and drink.
“Grapes are an agricultural product and they change from harvest to harvest,” Johnson said.
You stomp your grapes in October and drink your wine by April. Go ahead and drink some of it right away, but leave at least half for three or four years. It’s an exercise in delayed gratification.
Like Candice Bergen, it gets better with age.
More than 150 people do it most years. Some have been stomping with Churchill for 19 years. They’ve had more than 2,000 people over their two decades.
Johnson and Wales culinary school sent out an entire class so they could learn the craft.
“No one knows how the wine gets into the bottle,” Chirichillo said.
Chirichillo does. So does Johnson, a professional chef who learned wine making in France.
Chirichillo learned the craft from his grandfather growing up in New York state.
“He used to bring in all the grandchildren for Sunday dinner and we’d all help,” he said. “He taught us to make wine and now we’re keeping the tradition alive by teaching our children.”
In Chirichillo’s case that’s three beloved offspring: Anthony, Alex and Chelsea. Wife Danita has also become a world class grape stomper.
Chirichillo started making his own wine when he was 18. He and his brother made some that September, tapped it in December and took it back to college in Florida, where they became extremely popular.
This wine contains no sulfites. The federal government require big commercial winemakers to put sulfites in their wins as a preservative. Sulfites tend to cause headaches when you ingest too much.
So, along with myriad other idiocy, you can now blame the federal government for your hangover.
Which is why you need to make your own, following the wisdom of the ancient Italian proverb, which must be true because it’s written on the Chuchill Wine cellars wall: “A barrel of wine will create more miracles than a church full of saints.”