I’m Italian. Well, Sicilian to be exact. I’ve also got a bit of Irish and Welsh from my mom’s side of the family, but my dad is 100% full-blooded Sicilian, and I’ve always related more to that side of my ethnic make up. Summers growing up, we spent time on the East coast at my Grandma Philomena’s hanging out with grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents…. In my opinion, no one knows how to celebrate better than Italians. We laugh, we cry, we eat. We talk – LOUD – and usually all at once! I laugh every time I think of the first time I took The Dude out East to meet my parents and family. Everyone was around the dining room table laughing, sharing stories, talking at once. Their emotions (and opinions) were honest and right there for everyone to see. The next morning as we were leaving at 5 AM to return to Indiana, he turned to me and said, “You are really Italian!” In that moment I was so proud of who I am and where I come from. I still smile when I think of it.
Growing up, we always heard stories about my great grandparents making homemade wine in the cellar of their house. It didn’t really mean much to me until my first trip to Italy when I was in my late 20’s. I had bought a ticket to Rome, got on a plane, and spent a month tooling around Italy by myself. Scary and exciting, and an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I met so many warm and wonderful people, and most of the time there was a glass of wine bringing everyone together.
There was a little trattoria in Rome that had maybe 15 tables for the diners all crammed together. The place was packed. When I finally got a table which I shared with total strangers – well, we started as strangers but by the end of the night we were friends – the owner’s wife approached and set a carafe of wine in front of me. It was red, juicy, and full of the flavors of sun, earth, and Italy. To say I was hooked was an understatement. When I told her the wine was molto buono, she dragged her husband over to see me. He then took me towards the back of the trattoria to show me a huge wine cask. Next to it was a framed black and white photo on the wall showing a much younger version of himself next to his vines. This was homemade wine that was made with love and lots of tradition. I was so touched that I gave him a hug and he absolutely beamed with pride.
Flash forward many years. The Dude loves to make beer, and I started to toy with the idea of making wine. I finally did make a pinot noir from a kit using a juice extract kit. It turned out great, but I wanted to make wine with real grapes – not just a bag of juice. However, wine presses are an investment so I kept putting it off. For my birthday The Dude bought me several books. One on making cheeses, and two that are all about wine. After reading about the wine making process I was sold on getting a wine press. So, with The Dude’s blessing, I ordered this little beauty.
She’s a #25 Italian made ratchet wine press. I’m thinking of calling her Luccia. She’ll hold up to 50 pounds of fruit in one pressing. I can’t wait for her to arrive! (Is it weird that I’ve personalized an inanimate object?) I can’t wait for fall when I can get wine grapes! I can’t wait to start our own wine tradition. Hopefully, my Sicilian ancestors will be smiling down on us.