How my love of wine all started for me.
Although I'm half Italian (mom) and half Scotch-Irish (dad), the Italian side of my genealogy has dominated my life's adventures. My dad even adopted the lifestyle of my mom's Italian family. They just had so much more fun than his own side of the family who all grew up on a farm rural in West Virginia.
My maternal grandparents immigrated from Calabria and lived in Fairmont, WV in a predominately Italian section of the town back then. We're talking the 19-teens onward. Grandpa was a doughboy in WWI for the short time we were involved in that war then worked in the coal mines until he retired. He only worked the mines for a short time and spent decades working in the metal shop/foundry on the mine site fixing broken equipment. During slow times he would make stuff for himself.
He made a hand cranked grape crusher and wine press out of old barrels and broken metal parts. He used that wine press to make thousands of gallons of wine in his lifetime. Heck, during Prohibition he even made sacramental wine for the Catholic Church, an allowed exception to the Volstead Act. Of course he kept plenty for himself in storage for the church! My parents had that old wine press for a while but termites basically reduced it to nothing.
Grandpa had a basement under the house that extended into the side of the hill behind the house. That was where he made and stored the wine. I used to love to go down there to play as a kid in the hot summer when we visited because it was the coolest place around (no AC) and smelled incredible. I actually wasn't allowed down there but that didn't stop me.
On the hill behind the house was a small flat area of grass where grandma hung laundry to dry. The rest of the hill was a garden that included veggies, some fruit trees, and rows of red wine grapes. I have no idea what type of grapes they were. He'd use them to make wine along with grapes he bought at a little Italian store down the hill from the house. He always bottled his wine in gallon glass jugs, never the 750 ml wine bottles. Some had screw-on tops, some corks. There was ALWAYS an open bottle on top of the refrigerator that got used until it was gone or started to turn to vinegar. Then he'd grab another jug.
The wine was usually "green" tasting because he bottled it right from the last racking stage once all the fermentation stopped. He didn't bother to let it age in barrels. Still, for some jugs that got stuck in the back of the basement and stuck around a while, it was pretty good table wine.
To this day, dry red table wine is my absolute favorite red wine. I've only ever had one bottle of $50 wine in my life, a Merlot shared with a friend, and yes, it was fantastic, but I never buy expensive wine, preferring the familiar taste of a simple red wine. $20 is about the max I'll spend on a bottle and that's usually at a winery after a tasting.
That's how my love of wine started for me. But I have are so many more stories of Italian family and friend get-togethers that always included red wine, my dad's adventures into wine making, a visit from the "revenuers" when we lived in Tennessee, and the mysterious loud bangs that emanated from our garage one summer that took weeks to figure out. I can share those if anyone is interested.
Feel free to share your own family wine stories. After all, this is a "community." Thanks for reading!